A recent study found that tenants over the age of 35 - considered to be 'older' renters - face several unique challenges which do not impact younger tenants.
The Beyond Generation Reportby the University of Stirling found that many tenants over the age of 35 felt a 'sense of hopelessness' at their living situation and were having to confront issues such as a lack of suitable properties for age-related health and mobility impairments as well as the instability of short-term contracts.
But there are several advantages to letting to older renters for landlords and attracting tenants in their late thirties and beyond - and keeping them happy - could be a great way of protecting your investment at the same time as ensuring older tenants feel secure and comfortable in their rented property.
Why let to older renters?
Tenants over 35 tend to be more settled in their jobs and life - or at least looking to be. As a result, they are often after more security in their home life and would prefer to sign a tenancy agreement that assured them they would not have to pack their bags again six months after moving in.
Landlords are increasingly seeing the benefits of long-term tenancies and it’s easy to see why; they ensure a regular income, reduce the risk of void periods and often deliver better rental yields over time. They also avoid all the expense and admin associated with finding tenants such as letting agents’ fees and references.
Why do older tenants feel less ‘hopeless’
Older renters - particularly retirees - are more vulnerable than younger people. They don’t often have the flexibility or security net of friends’ sofas or a family home that many twenty-somethings have. Their perilous situation could make them feel stressed or anxious.
Their future, certainly in terms of housing, is therefore, very much in your hands and it is a responsibility landlords should not take lightly.
One in three older renters live in poverty according to Age UK and many will miss meals or switch off the heating to ensure they can pay next month’s rent. The charity also says two-fifths of older renters live in bad health which can be exacerbated by poor living conditions such as damp or vermin.
How you can help as a landlord
There is never an excuse for allowing tenants to live in substandard conditions but it’s particularly imperative that you act in your tenant’s best interests when they are elderly or vulnerable. And looking after a vulnerable tenant is not only your moral duty, it is often your legal one.
- If there are any risks to the health and safety of a tenant, an Environmental Health Officer can force a landlord to take action through improvement notices and prohibition orders
- From April 2016, tenants have had the right to request energy efficient improvements. Your property must meet Minimum Efficiency Standards, so an EPC of rating F and G is not sufficient. You face a fine of up to £5,000 for not complying to the regulations
- You can not evict a tenant who has raised complaints about the condition of your property. This includes making a legitimate complaint about the energy efficiency of their home
- If you have not provided your tenant with an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), you risk losing the right to issue an eviction 21 notice - which is set to be scrapped under new government plans
- Gas safety checks must be safety checked annually by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer
Beyond legislation, there are simple measures you can take to ensure your older tenant is happy in your property.
- Offer them longer term tenancies
- Let them decorate and put up pictures. Allowing a tenant to put their own stamp on a property can help them settle in and encourage them to stay. Any decorating should be done in consultation with you and you must include decorating terms and conditions in the tenancy agreement, including whether you would like your property returned to its original state when the current tenant leaves
- If there is a garden with the property, ask your tenant when they move in whether they would like to tend to this themselves or whether they would need help looking after it. Even if they would like to take on the responsibility of looking after the garden themselves, bear in mind they may not be able to take on tasks such as mowing the lawn or cutting hedges
- Ensure the heating and boiler is in good condition and is economical to use. There is help available to private sector landlords looking to improve the energy efficiency of their rental properties
- Check the property regularly, especially before winter, and act quickly if a boiler breaks, or there are issues with the heating and hot water. Most utility companies will fast track vulnerable customers
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