Age UK London urge landlords to look out for their older tenants

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 -

(c) AGE UK 2020

Age UK London have published a list of different ways that landlords can support older tenants during the COVID-19 crisis. They are urging landlords to get in touch with their older tenants to ensure they are safe and well and receiving all the support they require.

The number of older Londoners making phone calls to the 23 borough-level Age UKs in London has quadrupled since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown and anxiety among older tenants is a growing concern.

Age UK London have been listening to the views of London’s increasing number of older renters for several years. Most recently, they conducted a survey with older renters in April 2020. Whilst some older people reported positive conversations with landlords the overall picture is complicated. With older renters often staying at home for longer periods, there are a large number of emerging concerns.

Local Age UKs in London have been distributing thousands of emergency food parcels and picking up prescriptions for some of the most vulnerable older Londoners each week. There is a wider group of older Londoners relying on neighbours for shopping. However Age UK London say that older people in the private rented sector are less likely to know their neighbours (compared to those in other tenures) and many are feeling increasingly isolated as lockdown continues.

Age UK London is also concerned that delays to repairs and maintenance, often due to confusion around when such work can take place, is also causing increasing anxiety and exacerbating poor mental health among some older renters.

Research before the pandemic found that more than one in four private renters in England over the age of 60 lived in a non-decent home. Despite rising spring-time temperatures, inadequate heating as well as structural hazards (including flooring in disrepair increasing the risk of falls) are significant concerns. This is particularly concerning for older tenants who may have become frailer due to inactivity during lockdown, those self-isolating with COVID-19 symptoms or those who have underlying health conditions including arthritis.

Age UK London are hoping to work together with the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, London Property Licensing and others to raise awareness among landlords about the particular challenges facing some older tenants during the pandemic. They are aware that many landlords will be concerned about their older tenants and are highlighting different ways they can offer support.

Firstly, they are asking landlords to identify and contact older tenants to offer support. In Age UK London’s survey 91% of older renters said that they had not been contacted by their landlord.

Age UK London’s Campaign Officer John McGeachy commented:

We’re asking landlords to think about any older tenants that they may have and contact them by phone, text or email to check if they are ok. Even if a landlord contacted a tenant at the beginning of the lockdown we should remember that a lot can change in two months. It’s easy to make assumptions about who may or may not need support and it may be that an older tenant has a long-term health condition that a landlord is unaware of“.

Age UK London say that some older tenants may not be online and recommend landlords share details of the information and advice helpline at their local Age UK (here) as well as information about how to register with their local council for support (here).

Another recommendation is for landlords to ask their older tenants about any serious repairs and maintenance issues and make a safe and practical plan with them for the work to be undertaken.

John McGeachy explained:

Even if it is not possible to undertake some work during lockdown we ask landlords to keep tenants up to date about any plans. The knowledge that repairs and maintenance will still be done can be hugely reassuring and will reduce anxiety“.

Age UK London also highlight that many older Londoners continue working until later in life than in any other part of the country. They may well have lost their job or be furloughed with reduced income.

John McGeachy added:

Small changes like a change to the rent due date or a small discount for an agreed number of months can make a huge difference. Age UK analysis of the English Housing Survey 2017-18 found that just under a third of private renters aged 50 and over have no savings or investments for retirement and one in three older renters are left in poverty after the rent is paid“.

Age UK London’s ‘7 ways landlords can support older tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic’ can be read here.

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