A pensioner who is working as a roofer to afford to pay rent is urging young people not to make the same “mistakes” he made.
Michael Bailey, 69, told i young people should prepare for the future, as he warned many older people don’t own their own homes and are struggling to make ends meet.
Mr Bailey previously spent time living in a van after being put at risk of homelessness. He then lived in a lock-up garage, and then with his mother, before eventually at a friend’s house for the last five years.
He was recently threatened with homelessness again when his friend asked him to move out, but he is relieved to have found a new flat.
Mr Bailey, who lives in Essex, said life is becoming increasingly difficult for older renters like him with soaring rents and discrimination due to being on pension credit.
The father of three and grandfather of five used to have his own roofing business before it went bust during the recession. He told i he doesn’t know how he could cope if he wasn’t working part-time as a roofer, picking up work whenever he can.
“I can’t actually think about retiring,” he said. “I need to pay £850 in rent and then my council tax and other bills. I am constantly trying to cut back on things and am living on a shoestring. It has been an uphill struggle.
“At the moment, I am lucky to be healthy enough at 69 to be able to work. If my health deteriorated and I couldn’t work, I honestly don’t know how I’d manage.”
Mr Bailey is not alone in his plight. Financial hardship charity Independent Age warns that older renters on a low income are living with constant worry, and are forced to make dangerous cuts to afford rent.
The organisation has published its new research report, Hidden Renters: The unseen faces of the rising older rental wave, which found that the cost of renting is increasing poverty in later life, with older private renters three times more likely to live in poverty than homeowners.
Based on in-depth interviews with over 40 older private renters on a low income, and polling of more than 1,800 private renters, the research shows older people are being forced to pay significant increases in rent just to be able to stay in often substandard and sometimes dangerous rented homes.
Almost half (45 per cent) of older private renters surveyed said they had seen a rent rise in the last year, and over half of these increases (57 per cent) were between £50 and £200. More than one in five older private renters in England said they cannot now comfortably afford their rent.
Mr Bailey told i he is facing paying more in rent at the age of 69 than he has ever had to pay – he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to afford to retire and stop working.
“Even though I am now 69, I still have to work to earn money to pay the rent and bills for the foreseeable future as I don’t have enough for that, my council tax and bills with what I get in pension credits,” he said.
“At my age, it would be great to have a house with the mortgage paid off, money in the bank and a nice pension. But the reality for me and lots of other older people who are still renting is very different.”
Mr Bailey formerly had a mortgage on a four-bedroom house which cost £72,500 and, due to the equity from the home he had before, he only had a £22,000 mortgage on it. Despite interest rates being high at the time and paying rates as high as 17.5 per cent, he remembers his mortgage on the property was a few hundred pounds a month.
He remortgaged for refurbishment and before his roofing business went bust in 1991, he kept taking equity out of it to keep the business going – but he ended up having his home repossessed.
“The beautiful house which took me 14 years to get ended up being sold at auction for £62,500 and I don’t think I ever got over losing it,” he said.
“Life is very difficult for older renters and I feel we face discrimination due to being on pension credit as a lot of landlords don’t want people on any kind of benefit.
“When you’re trying to rent somewhere, I think people look at you and put you to the back of the queue. I can’t blame the landlords as I suppose their main consideration is getting the rent paid.”
Mr Bailey said he wishes he had been “shrewder and wiser” and prepared better for the future.
“I am now cutting back and going without things to try and make sure I have enough money,” he added.
“I would urge younger people not to make the mistakes I did and prepare better for the future and focus on education, getting a better job and making provisions for yourself.”
John Palmer, director of influencing and engagement at Independent Age, said: “None of us expect to live our later years scraping by so we can afford our rent.
“But for many older private renters, this is their reality. It also means they are putting up with insecure, dangerous and unsuitable homes that are hazardous to their health so they can stay somewhere they can barely afford.
“Older private renters on a low income urgently need help with the housing emergency they find themselves facing.”