For a third of Londoners, home is a flat, house or room that they rent from a private landlord. Although the media likes to portray people in their 20s and 30s as ‘generation rent’, we know the reality is that all generations rent and the number of older renters is growing rapidly.
Today there are around 146,000 households in London's private rented sector with at least one person over the age of 50 and the next two decades will see the number of renters over-65 double! Meanwhile in Westminster alone, it is estimated that one in four older people will live in a privately rented home by 2039.
The private rented sector has the worst living conditions
No matter how old you are, renting in London can be tough. However, some of the challenges faced by all renters have an even bigger impact on older private renters. These challenges were laid bare in our recent report based on the experiences of older private renters, titled Living in Fear. The report shone a light on the poor and unsafe property conditions that negatively impact physical and mental health. Sadly this is a daily reality for thousands of older private renters in London.
The private rented sector has the worst conditions of any tenure and older private renters, compared to social tenants or owner occupiers, are three times more likely to live in a property in a state of serious disrepair. With such conditions it is sadly no surprise that older people in the private rented sector are six times more likely to face a health issue related to cold at home such as respiratory illness or arthritis
Urgent action is needed to protect older private renters
Although existing regulations covering energy efficiency, gas and electrical safety as well as other hazards are designed to protect renters, the reality is that regulations are rarely enforced. Tenants are often too afraid to complain to their landlord for fear of being seen as a ‘problem tenant’.
Property licensing in local Boroughs
Although the Mayor of London is in charge of house building policy, it is the Local Authorities such as Camden Council who oversee their local private rented sector. Currently, 13 of London's 33 Local Authorities implement ‘selective licensing schemes’ to ensure private rented properties in designated areas are inspected and that action is taken if poor conditions are uncovered.
Research this year by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health looked at the impact of licensing schemes and found that licensing inspections led to high numbers of serious hazards and defects being identified and addressed. Their research found that licence schemes helped to uncover the prevalence of disrepair in the private rented sector, by revealing that over 70% of properties in license scheme areas required improvements to bring them up to a decent standard.
Whilst there is no single solution to improve conditions in the complicated and under-regulated private rented sector, we believe that selective licensing schemes are an effective tool that Boroughs can use to drive up standards and improve conditions.
The number of older private renters is set to double by 2039. Selective licensing schemes are a vital way to improve London's private rented sector, both in the present and the future.
Support for older renters during Covid-19
When lockdown began we were deeply concerned that older renters might be stuck at home with limited support and in some cases left to shield in unhealthy living conditions. Being less likely to know neighbours who can support you; not having a garden to exercise in, self-isolating in poor conditions and anxiety about when repairs can be made were just some of our concerns.
Take Action - Join the Movement
We know that there is an urgent need for action to protect older private renters in London but we can’t do it without you. Join the movement to protect older private renters.