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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Older people face rising poverty as private tenants


Many live in fear to ask landlords to make routine repairs

Nearly 40% of older private tenants are living in poverty, a charity has warned.

Of these, more than a tenth said they were 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 31 March.

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.

And 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 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 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.”



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