A charity has warned that nearly 40% of older private tenants are living in poverty, with more than a tenth scared to ask their landlord for repairs.
More than a fifth of older people rent (22%) in Scotland, with 177,000 in the social rented sector and almost 50,000 in the private rented sector.
Some 75,448 older tenants live in poverty, according to research from charity Independent Age, which warned of an increase in homelessness in the past year and raised fears over the end of the current rent rise cap on March 31.
The charity called for greater protections in the upcoming Housing Bill, touted by First Minister Humza Yousaf as a bid to “introduce long-term rent controls and new tenant rights” when it was revealed in his first Programme for Government.
The charity’s report, Homing In: How To Improve The Lives Of Older Scottish Renters, warned older renters face a “catastrophe” if action is not taken, with record rent increases in recent years.
It said its research, using a sample of 373 people in Scotland, shows 39% of older private tenants live in poverty, while more than a quarter (28%) have less than £200 disposable income a month after rent.
In the last year, 81% said they have faced a rise in rent of up to £50 a month and there has been a 23% increase in older people experiencing homelessness – up from 891 in 2021/22 to 1,100 in 2022/23.
Some 17% of older tenants are afraid their landlord will evict them in the coming year, while 59% said finding a new home will be difficult due to rising rents and requirements such as a ground floor flat.
Polling found 12% of older private renters feel uncomfortable raising concerns with their landlord, for fear of negative treatment, although 65% of their homes are in a state of disrepair.
One man said: “I know if I complain to my landlord, it will get me nowhere but homeless.”
Another said: “There is a smell of damp in winter. There is a huge opening in the back wall where the boiler is located. The wind whistles into the flat.”
The charity urged the Scottish Government to introduce rent controls for low-income older private tenants, to create a housing ombudsman, and for advice to be provided on housing services when evictions are served.
It also called on the UK Government to commit to uprating the local housing allowance every year so housing benefit matches rises in local rents.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “For all of us, an affordable, safe and secure home is essential for our wellbeing and should be the norm. That’s why it is a catastrophe that for many Scottish older renters on a low income, this is far from the reality.
“The Scottish Government made positive moves in recent years to protect tenants. But with many of these protections from eviction and rent increases coming to an end soon, we’ve spoken to many people renting in later life who are absolutely terrified about what will happen over the coming months.
“The Housing Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Scottish Government to make sure everyone has a home that is affordable, kept to a decent standard and free from the threat of eviction and homelessness. We hope they take action to ensure that all Scottish renters can live with dignity, no matter their age.”
Tenants’ Rights Minister Patrick Harvie said: “Our emergency legislation, including the rent cap, has led the way at a time when rents have been rising across the UK, striking an important balance between protection for tenants and the rights of landlords.
“We have proposed that from April 1, all private tenants continue to have additional protection so that they do not face the very sudden rises that could apply if rents were to return to open-market rates in one step.
“We will accompany this with a campaign focusing on private tenants, aimed at increasing awareness of their rights and empowering them to assert these rights if required by accessing the available support.
“We welcome support from both landlord and tenant bodies in spreading those messages.”
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