Over the next 10 years the number of people renting in the private sector is expected to reach 9 million so what are the options for the population of people looking to rent beyond retirement and how can we make sure they remain happy and safe?
Home ownership has been an aspiration for most people since the 1950s and was an ambition to which Margaret Thatcher made one of her most direct appeals when she described her vision of a property-owning democracy and introduced her right-to-buy scheme.
For many people, owning their home was an integral part of their life’s plan. Buy with a mortgage loan, pay off the mortgage during the years of employment, enter retirement with the debt paid off so that for the rest of their lives accommodation was effectively free.
But home ownership peaked at around the turn of the century and has been in decline ever since.
Shortage of housing has continued to push prices up while average earnings have slipped far behind.
We’re very familiar with Generation Rent, consisting of younger people whose chances of getting a foot onto the property ladder look slim.
However, there is another less conspicuous group of people who are tenants, not owners, and their number is growing. We’re talking about Generation Retired.
The next 10 years the number of people renting in the private sector is expected to reach 9 million.
According to the most recent English Housing Survey, 371,000 older people currently live in privately rented housing while AgeUK reports that the number of people in the 45-64 age bracket who are renting has doubled since 2010.
The likelihood of the average person switching from tenant to homeowner at this stage in life seems low and, in fact, the Centre for Ageing Better believes that a third of over 60s may be renting from private landlords by 2040.
This is clear evidence that social change doesn’t mean in just one direction, and this shift could be seen as an indictment of the UK’s homeownership model.
However, it would be wrong to assume that renting for the older generation is a necessity rather than a choice.
Once retirement begins it brings with it the freedom to throw off some of the ties of responsibility, including property ownership.
Many retired people welcome the flexibility of renting as well as the security of knowing that someone else is responsible for maintenance. It is often welcomed with open arms.
Of course, an older generation of renters will have specific needs, mostly related to age and health. If private landlords are to provide an appropriate service for this growing market, they need to consider the requirements it will fall to them to meet.
Safety and Welfare
However fit and healthy retired tenants may be when they first enter into a tenancy, inevitably, it’s likely that many will become more vulnerable over time.
Extremes of temperature can have more serious consequences than for the general population so it’s important to make sure a property is well insulated against both heat and cold with an efficient heating system for the winter months.
Some tenants may have mobility issues and would benefit from adapted bathrooms, wheelchair ramps and stairlifts.
Repairs and Maintenance
According to AgeUK, homeowners over 60 are concerned about the cost of maintenance and doubt their ability to carry out routine repairs.
This is one of the attractions of renting and landlords should make it as easy as possible for their elderly tenants to report maintenance issues by whatever means they find most comfortable.
There are several options including texts, emails, online portals such as Fixflo that integrate with Inventory Base, or simply by picking up the phone to the agent or landlord.
This is an issue for tenants of all ages, but those who are older may feel more at risk from intruders. Landlords should make sure that all their locks and other security measures are up to date and fully tested.
It’s also a very good idea to install easily operated alarms for use in emergencies.
Alarms are a fairly simple measure that has been available for a long time. Advances in digital technology have now enabled the creation of a broader and much more sophisticated range of resources to monitor the safety of the elderly in their own homes.
As a landlord, you might find a certain resistance from older tenants who resent any implication that they can’t look after themselves. They might feel their independence is compromised by what they see as surveillance.
What you can do is install a variety of discrete devices and reassure your tenants that these are not intrusive. The sensors used to monitor them are entirely passive – there’s no CCTV and no one watching.
The devices simply respond to unusual movements and other indications that something might be wrong.
Cloud based devices are small, unintrusive yet provide a wealth of information including:
- CO2 – as the occupant moves around in the property they will expel CO2 so levels can be monitored to ensure they are active and any prolonged periods of inactivity will trigger alerts
- Temperature – as the weather continues to fluctuate, sensors can detect changes that could indicate the property is too hot or too cold for the occupant triggering a response from caregivers
- Humidity – sensors can detect and record levels to ensure the property is being ventilated, controlling condensation and potential for mould growth
The same sensors which are used to protect the tenant can also help to keep the property safe. They can feed information about malfunctioning devices and ambient issues.
Big Brother is definitely not watching
However, a support system is very much needed and should be quietly sat in the background waiting to take action if danger is detected or there is concern for the person’s wellbeing.
As the technology develops they will even be able to contribute to a routine property inspection, alerting the landlord, letting agent or inventory clerk to maintenance issues without unnecessarily disturbing the tenant.
At Inventory Base, we specialise in digital solutions for the private rental sector.
Technology is transforming the industry through the increasing versatility of property management software.
As the number of retirees in rented accommodation grows, it is technology which will enable landlords to meet many of the specific needs of this significant demographic and make sure that people feel comfortable, valued and safe in the Private Rental Sector.