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New Age UK report reveals plight of vulnerable older people

27 October 2016

Experts predict that the numbers of older people renting in the private sector are set to soar in the coming years, but today some older private tenants are living in appalling conditions and not nearly enough is being done to help them, according to a new report published today by Age UK.


In its new ‘Behind the headlines’ report, ‘Ageing in squalor and distress’, which draws on calls from older people and their families to its telephone advice line, the Charity describes the problems facing vulnerable older people living in awful privately rented accommodation, overseen by landlords and letting agents who are disinterested, negligent or downright bullying towards them.


Currently households aged over 65 account for fewer than one in ten of all those living in the private rented sector, but their numbers are reportedly rising fast: a recent survey by the National Landlords Association (NLA) found that the numbers of retired people in the UK moving into the private rented sector has increased by 200,000 over the last four years and one estimate is that a third of over-60s could be living in private rented accommodation by 2040.


However, calls to Age UK’s Advice line between 2013 and 2016 uncovered the following experiences among older people who are renting at the bottom end of the market:


• Repeated failures to carry out timely repairs to essential services such as heating and cookers, with potentially serious implications for those already in poor health

• Damp, mould and cold going unchecked, causing or exacerbating chronic illnesses

• Over the top rent rises imposed following necessary improvements – the law allows this to happen within reason but there are concerns this provision is sometimes being unfairly exploited

• Insecure tenancies and an all too realistic fear of eviction acting as disincentives to challenge poor conditions and services

• Local environmental health services stripped to the bone and unable or unwilling to intervene to protect vulnerable older tenants

• Landlords refusing to allow the installation of aids and adaptations that older people need, like ramps or handrails.

• Older tenants feeling harassed and bullied into leaving because their landlord wants to sell.


Age UK says that problems like these show the need for urgent legal reform in the private rented sector, to strengthen the rights of older tenants and ensure they are treated fairly. They also call for more resources for local environmental health services, so the law is properly enforced; better access to aids and adaptations for older people wherever they live; and more comprehensive and more available local housing advice, so older people understand their options.  


Steve Chu, Chief Executive of Age UK Sheffield, said: "Last year our Information and Advice service dealt with over 500 housing-related pleas for help from older people in Sheffield. We are currently working with over-50s in the city who have been living in cold, damp, and draughty houses, who we have helped either to move house, or significantly improve the conditions in which they are living. Any older person who needs housing-related advice in Sheffield should call us on (0114) 250 2850.