Henry Smith, Senior Programme Manager for the Centre for Ageing Better on our ageing population – and the changes that could make your rental more desirable.
Due to the current coronavirus pandemic all of us are spending a lot more time in our homes and for older people especially, this doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.
This extended period spent housebound can bring to light the elements of our homes that aren’t suitable for our needs.
Simple adaptations to make a property more accessible can make a huge difference to tenants’ quality of life and, with a growing proportion of older renters, it is vital landlords understand how to cater to this sector.
It’s well-established that we have an ageing population.
Figures show that households headed by someone aged 65 and over will account for 88% of total growth in households over the next 25 years.
Older private renters specifically are a growing category – the number of people aged 55-64 living in the rented sector, increased from 7% in 2008-09 to 10% in 2018-19.
Home adaptations can be needed at any age, for a variety of reasons.
But as we get older, the likelihood of needing adaptations increases.
Mobility or visual impairment issues may increase the need for adaptations such grab rails, stairlifts and ramps.
Cognitive conditions such as dementia may need something as simple as signs or instructions to help someone navigate their home.
The benefits for tenants are obvious, but what are the incentives for landlords?
Well, generally speaking, older renters tend to be reliable, looking for long-term tenancies and have a steady income so pay their rent on time.
If approving adaptations means retaining a model tenant, it’s definitely something to consider.
Reluctance to install adaptations comes from the misconception that they look institutional so will affect the desirability of the property.
But adaptations can be contemporary and stylish – it’s important to view these adaptations as adding value to the property that can be used as a selling point.
With a growing number of older renters, marketing your property as accessible will put you ahead of your competitors.
Home adaptations may sound like a daunting prospect for landlords, but the process is relatively simple and can be just a case of signing off on adaptations.
Tenants or landlords can apply for funding from the social care budget if they are classified as minor (grab rails, ramps and lever taps), while major adaptations (installing a level access shower or wet room, widening doorframes, or putting in a stairlift can often be funded by the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
The DFG is means-tested and can cover cost of works up to a maximum of £30,000 in England, or £36,000 in Wales.
It’s important to note that it is the tenant who is means-tested and not the landlord.
Landlords must provide a statement of intent confirming that they intend for the property to continue to be occupied by the disabled tenant for up to five years after the grant-funded work has been completed – as does the tenant.
The statement does not override the tenancy agreement but indicates that the landlord is willing for the tenancy to continue for up to five years.
Landlords will also need to confirm they are the owner of the property, and the local council will want confirmation that permission has been given for the necessary work to be carried out.
Prior agreement also needs to be made about what happens to adaptations at the end of the tenancy.
In some areas the local council may offer a separate discretionary grant to meet the cost of reinstatement works following the ending of a tenancy.
As a landlord, your role would be to support the tenant’s funding application and agreeing to the adaptations.
During this uncertain time, we want to spend time in a house that is safe, comfortable and suits our needs.
For private renters, landlords are essential to providing us with that.
Adaptations may not be something you are aware of, but they could drastically improve someone’s quality of life with minimal effort.
Once the restrictions have relaxed enough to allow adaptions, landlords should listen to their tenant’s needs and adapt accordingly.
At the Centre for Ageing Better we want everyone to enjoy their later life.
Our goal is for more people approaching later life to live in safe and accessible homes which support them to live independently for as long as possible.
We work to ensure new homes are future proofed and that there is a diversity of suitable homes, that current homes are adapted, and better information is available for people approaching later life. “