Older people in the private rented sector

29 November 2023

New NHF research finds that as our population ages, two in five older private renters struggle to afford food, heating or clothes.

Renting in the private sector is the least secure housing tenure available. However, as house prices remain out of reach for many and the shortage of social housing continues, it is often the only available route for many people to find somewhere to live. 

While there has rightly been a lot of focus on the increasing number of families with children in the private rented sector since the turn of the century, this issue is also affecting older people. Bringing together figures from the English Housing Survey (EHS) and new polling carried out by YouGov for the National Housing Federation, this report examines the scale of the problem and the impact on older renters.

As the demographic shape of our society continues to skew towards older people, and inequalities become more entrenched, these trends provide a worrying glimpse of what the future might hold for an ageing population.

Summary of findings

  • Nearly 867,000 households headed by people aged 55 or over are living in the private rented sector.
  • Since 2010/11 the number of 55+ households in the private rented sector has grown by 70%, compared with a 20% growth in households in this age group overall.
  • Nearly half (48%) of private rented sector tenants aged 65 or over are in the bottom 20% of all household incomes.
  • Two in five older private rented sector tenants (42%) struggle to meet the cost of either bills or essentials or both.
  • Almost half (48%) of older private renters worry about getting into debt due to their housing and other living costs being too high.
  • Of those private renters who are retired, around half (49%) believe their quality of life in retirement is significantly impacted by their housing costs. A similar proportion of retirees (48%) cite that they cannot do the activities they hoped to do in retirement due to housing costs (e.g. travelling, social events etc.).
  • Of those older private renters who are currently working, a majority (78%) worry that their future pension will not be able to meet increasing rent prices.

Who to speak to

Tristan Carlyon, Head of Research and Analysis