“Ageing in Squalor and Distress” – A New Housing Report from Age UK

Last week Age UK released “Ageing in Squalor and Distress”, an in-depth report that investigates the experiences of older private renters.

The report collates information taken by Age UK between 2013 and 2016, with a view to asking how well the private rental sector works for older people and what needs to change to allow the sector to better fit the needs of older people in future.

It does not make for happy reading.

Unexpected rent increases, fear of eviction, damp problems, poor insulation, and the failure of landlords to carry out timely repairs are just some of the many problems faced by older private sector renters.

Whilst lots of these issues affect renters of all ages, the problems identified can have a greater impact upon vulnerable people, especially those who are older, many of whom may require assistance to manage these difficulties.

For example, issues of accessibility come to the fore for older renters, as does the importance of properly heated homes. As the report states, “cold, damp, and disrepair are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the health and wellbeing of older people.” After all, one older person dies every seven minutes from the cold weather each winter.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the report is the way in which older private renters struggle to voice their concerns. For many it can be hard to request help or find a new place to live without full knowledge of – and access to – the internet.

Furthermore, within many of the report’s case studies, older renters’ problems are ignored by their landlords or letting agents. This is especially dangerous as “delays in dealing with disrepair can cause or exacerbate poor health and create distress and anxiety.”

More disquieting still, is the fact that many older people stay silent to avoid the threat of eviction. Some landlords react badly to repeated requests for repairs, especially if the older tenant contacts an external body such as the local authority environmental health department.

The report even highlights one instance in which a neighbour faced eviction for aiding an older woman in his building by asking the landlord to make repairs on her behalf.

This inability to properly raise awareness of problems within the property increases the feeling of powerlessness for many older private renters – many of whom already feel trapped by the frequent rises in rent.

We have blogged about many of these issues before when discussing the early findings from our Older Private Sector Tenants Programme. However the “Ageing in Squalor and Distress” report from Age UK not only highlights the current situation, but makes very clear warnings for the future.

A recent report by PwC suggests that by 2025 a quarter of all households will rent privately. This means that the number of older private sector tenants is only set to increased further. Furthermore, the Centre for Housing Policy at York University estimates that a third of 60 year olds will be renting by 2040.

So, whilst “Ageing in Squalor and Distress” proves why projects like the Older Private Sector Tenants Programme are badly needed in the here and now, it also displays the importance of such research for the coming years.

To take part in our research please contact Gordon Deuchars at Age UK London – gdeuchars@ageuklondon.org.uk.

George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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