Living in squalor: Older tenants who fall victim to slum landlords

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VULNERABLE OLDER people endure shocking conditions in the private rental sector, leaving them at risk of neglect, bullying and abuse, a charity has claimed.

Age UK warns that, with growing numbers of people renting into their old age, urgent reforms are needed to make sure older tenants are not living in “squalor”.

It says it has seen cases involving privately rented homes with only an outside toilet, homes with broken boilers and leaking taps, and others that have been left for months without cooking facilities.

Family members of some of those renting said they believed landlords were waiting for tenants to die before carrying out improvements.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK said: “Calls to our advice line show that some highly vulnerable older people are enduring grim living conditions in the private rented sector and this is truly shocking.

“No one should have to put up with such squalor at any age, but the idea that a chronically ill older person could be living on their own for weeks or even months with no proper heating, or cooking facilities or hot water is sickening.

“The law is far too feeble and the withering away of local environmental health services is making the problem worse. The upshot is that older tenants in the private sector are almost entirely reliant on the decency and professionalism of landlords and letting agents, and sadly this is leaving some at risk of neglect and in the worse cases of bullying and abuse.”

She said the poor practice was “an embarrassment to the many decent private sector landlords”.

In one case seen by Age UK, a woman with health problems who had lived in the same rental property for over 50 years had a broken boiler and a leaking tap that caused occasional flooding.

In another case, a housebound man was paying £590 a month to rent a home with an outside toilet and no bathroom, with running water only in the kitchen, and heating coming only an electric radiator.

The charity said it had also spoken to a man with terminal cancer, who paid for improvements to his rented home himself as he did not want to “rock the boat”.

Chris Norris of the National Landlords’ Association, admitted that “a small proportion of landlords” failed to meet their obligations towards tenants.

He added: “Unfortunately, many older households are much more likely to have tenancy agreements which pre-date increased protections for tenants that were introduced in the late 1980s.”

The findings come a day after another report revealed that only one in ten local authorities was paying enough towards the cost of caring for older people in their homes. The UK Home Care Association warned the underspend was “taking major risks with people’s wellbeing” and said “underfunded home care is an urgent situation”.