Rising property prices in the UK mean that occupiers are renting long past their forties. According to the government’s last English Housing Survey, around 371,000 people in later life are currently in private rented accommodation. AgeUK says the number of private-rented households for those aged 45-64 has more than doubled in the last ten years. And this will continue to rise; the Centre for Ageing Better (CfAB) predicts that one-third of people over 60 could be living in privately rented accommodation by 2040.
However, many also choose to rent later in life because of the flexibility it offers and, in special retirement developments, the amenities. Rented properties, especially those which are built to rent, are a particularly attractive option to older occupiers looking for secure, hassle-free accommodation. Different groups have different wants, needs and priorities. Here’s what you should be thinking about to attract (and keep) this type of renter.
Watch out for safety and welfare
Older renters are more vulnerable to accidents or changes in temperature. Ensure the property is warm enough in winter and cool enough in summer. Heating issues can affect older people more substantially than other groups. Features to help those with limited mobility could also prove attractive, like wheelchair ramps, stairlifts and handrails in bathrooms.
Repairs and maintenance should be efficient
AgeUK found that a fifth (21%) of homeowners aged 60 and over thought that the cost of maintenance was their biggest concern. Over a third (35%) indicated that they had significant worries about being able to carry out everyday jobs to keep their homes in order.
Repairs and maintenance issues should be easy to report in whichever way the occupier feels most comfortable. You could use an online platform, but it is good to keep a phone line as a backup option.
Support the entire customer journey
After moving in, occupiers will sometimes not see their property manager unless something has gone wrong, by which time whatever needs fixing has become a complaint. Yes, it’s important to quickly fix repairs and maintenance issues, but questions can often build up in the weeks after moving in. So, visit in person to see how your new occupier is doing and be on hand to answer any queries they may have.
Ensure your property management team has excellent social skills. Sometimes people will just want an excuse to chat, so be prepared to meet their needs, whether that’s face-to-face or over the phone. Whatever their preferences, they should feel comfortable reaching out to you with any issues or queries they might have.
Make costs and terms easy to understand
Those who work less or retire have to manage their budgets carefully. Help them to plan their spending by making sure all costs are included as one consistent payment. If you need to raise rent, give plenty of notice and ensure this is communicated clearly.
Lease terms should be written simply to ensure they are understood. Use basic, clear language, so your occupiers don’t have to read pages and pages with small text.
Offer assured tenancies
Assured tenancies offer peace of mind for older renters so they can settle down without fear of their tenancy ending without good reason. They cannot be removed from their home unless the landlord has a legal reason to do so.
Don’t forget pets
Older people can experience loneliness more than other groups because they may live alone, have small friend circles and limited ability to travel. Many will also have a furry friend they wish to take with them to their new property. Having an arrangement to allow pets will make your property far more attractive to this segment of the population. In England, landlords may charge slightly higher rents for pets, while in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can request an additional pet deposit.
Ensure your older renters can easily report repairs and maintenance issues using Fixflo’s Lettings solutions. The online repairs portal guides occupiers through a picture-based reporting process, allowing them to self-diagnose repairs and even carry out small fixes themselves where appropriate. Alternatively, those who would prefer to use the phone can take advantage of Fixflo’s IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and report their repair by answering a series of automated questions.
*Simon Bushell is the Head of Sales at Fixflo, the market-leading repairs and maintenance management software