When the news cycle discusses the needs of renters, it usually focuses on young people. The narrative is that the older generation managed to buy their houses at a time when prices were low and now, thanks to recent booms, prospective first time buyers are unable to gather together the deposits required to take that first step onto the property ladder. But, in fact, older tenants are a growing demographic.
More than 400,000 over 60s were privately renting in 2017 compared with around 250,000 in 2007. The Centre for Ageing Better even predicts that a third of all over 60's will privately rent their homes by 2040. There are a number of potential reasons for this. It could be that they want to free up their assets to help their younger relatives buy, they want to move to a more desirable location in which they couldn’t afford to buy or merely because it is more convenient for their lifestyle as they head into retirement.
Whatever the causes behind the increased numbers of over 60's hitting the rental market, it is certainly something that letting agents and landlords need to address. How do we ensure that the needs of the over 60's are met in the current rental housing stock, considering only 7% of UK homes currently meet standards for basic accessibility? Here are five tips for adapting rental properties for older tenants.
There are a number of simple additions you can make when adapting rental properties for older tenants. Ensuring the handrails on the stairs are sturdy and well maintained is a good start. Depending on the age of the renters and their physical condition, a stairlift or level access shower or bath would be welcome additions. These are not the usual features one expects with every rental property, but it would certainly make it desirable to an older person looking to spend a number of years in the house.
Other improvements include ramps up to the front and back doors and a level access from the driveway to the property. You could even widen doors so that they can be accessed more easily by wheelchairs.
This does sound expensive, of course, but the Disabled Facilities Grant is available through local councils and is intended for landlords with disabled tenants who intend to occupy the property for five years or more. It is possible to claim up to £30,000 for these adaptations, with the average award standing at around £7,000.
Check Communication Methods
On a totally different tack, a way of adapting rental properties for older tenants can be as simple as checking how they would like to receive admin, such as rent notices, notice of maintenance, visits and the like. It is no use sending them an email to an address they never check. Simply ask the tenant how they would like to be communicated with and take that into consideration in the future.
Texts, emails and WhatsApp messages are commonplace for younger renters and are perfectly fine for many older tenants too, but make sure you know their preferences before you send off important communications.
Become Dementia Friendly
With some older tenants, the early symptoms of dementia make life incredibly difficult. This can lead to trouble living independently. It is, however, possible to put in place helpful measures in a sensitive manner.
Tenants suffering bouts of memory loss can be helped with the simple addition of signage on the doors. Mark where the kitchen is, which doors lead to the bedrooms and which to the toilets and bathrooms. These are quick wins to make life more comfortable for your older tenant.
In addition, those with dementia also sometimes suffer sight problems or issues with perception. A simple solution here would be to make items such as light switches a clearly distinct colour from the wall so they stand out better and are easier to find.
Consider Allowing Pets
To help make an older tenant feel more at home, you might consider relaxing rules about keeping pets. Particularly if the tenant lives alone, the companionship of a dog or cat, for example, could be invaluable. It also makes it more likely that they will want to stay in the property long term.
As long as you establish rules, such as requiring regular carpet shampooing or similar, this can be beneficial to all parties concerned. It certainly makes the property more attractive for older tenants.
Unfortunately, older tenants are more likely to be targeted by burglars and scammers, so you need to take that into account when adapting rental properties for older tenants. You could install an alarm system, as well as a front door video security system, or at the very least a peep hole so that the tenant can gauge the visitor before they open the door to them.
Changing locks between tenancies is a sensible move to increase security for older tenants, as is ensuring that window locks are well maintained and secure at all times. Security lighting is also beneficial for warding off potential criminals.
Help Adapting Rental Properties for Older Tenants
If you want help adapting rental properties for older tenants, some of these tasks come under the maintenance remit of our outsourced property management packages. Talk to us today to find out how we can keep your tenancies running smoothly and your properties in tip top condition.