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The number of older tenants who are renting from private landlords is set to increase dramatically in the next few years, for a variety of reasons, including the ageing population, divorce, death of a partner or downsizing. Households aged 65 or more account for less than 10 per cent of private rentals, but this is set to grow. A National Landlords Association survey shows the number of retired people in the UK moving into rental properties has gone up by 200,000 in the past four years, with forecasts suggesting that by 2040, 30 per cent of those over 60 could be living in rented accommodation.

However, an Age UK report shows many are living in poor conditions, with the charity receiving frequent calls about problems in rental properties. Problems have included failure to repair faults, as well as damp or mould, which can either cause or worsen illnesses in vulnerable older people. They have also reported that landlords are refusing to give permission for the installation of ramps, handrails or stair lifts, which older people may need. Other tenants have felt harassed into leaving, because their landlord has decided to sell the property. Age UK is hoping to work with the government and private landlords to implement changes to improve conditions for older people. It wants additional resources for environmental health services to allow the law to be properly enforced, better housing advice so tenants know their rights, and better access to independent living aids or modifications for older tenants.

Age UK London has launched its private sector older tenants’ programme, to raise awareness of older tenants in the London boroughs. The 2011 census showed there were 145,502 households aged 50-plus in London, a figure which is set to go up in the next 10 years. The results of this survey will be of interest to landlords and buy-to-let investors, as it will give a clearer idea of the needs of this expanding sector.

As this is a growing sector, investing or adapting properties to be suitable for older tenants is an area worth exploring. They may want sheltered accommodation with landlords or health care on site, room for a stairlift, tighter security so they feel safe, and ramps or wider doorways for wheelchair use. The government recently published its national strategy for housing for an ageing society, which sets out the need to build housing to meet this sector’s needs. This report would be a good guide for any landlord thinking of adapting or building properties to rent to older people.