More middle-aged people are now living in private rental accommodation. According to data analysed for the BBC News, this age group is now twice as likely to be renting from private landlords than 10 years ago. Whilst rising property prices are the main factor, putting ownership out of reach for many workers, others turn to renting after splitting up from their partners. The analysis shows there is growing demand to meet the needs of these middle-aged tenants, many of whom may have children living with them full or part-time. Analysts say that focusing on first-time buyers means that the needs of these older tenants could be ignored. It also raises concerns about what social and economic impact these tenants could have in the future.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Family Resources Survey shows that there are now nearly twice as many 35 to 54-year-olds living in privately-rented accommodation than there were in 2006/07. The analysis for the BBC has revealed that the rise in the 45-50 age group is attributable to a significant extent to debt, divorce or a death. Single parents with children who live in rented properties are a major concern for debt charities. Across all age groups, they are likely to be renting from private landlords rather than local authorities or housing associations. Homeowners’ Alliance chief executive Paula Higgins said there is a danger of creating social inequality between the haves, which are those people who are homeowners, and the have-nots, who are the tenants.

The figures show that about half of 25 to 34-year-olds live in privately-rented accommodation. The biggest increase in the past 10 years has been among 35 to 44-year-olds which has risen from 13% renting their homes privately to 26%. During the same period, the proportion of tenants in the 45-54 age group rose from 8% to 14%.

Richard Donnell of Hometrack property market analysts, who analysed the data for the BBC, highlighted the potential effect this could have on the benefits system in around 20 years when these middle-aged renters retire. Some may need financial help to pay the rent once they receive their pension.

Obviously, this data is of interest to buy-to-let investors who could consider targeting middle-aged renters to make sure their needs are met. Renters with children, even if they have shared custody, will need rooms for them and, possibly, a garden. Also, in the long term, they will need accommodation suitable for older tenants which could mean downsizing.

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