How to rent in retirement
If life goes to plan, you spend your active years scaling the property ladder. Then, in retirement, you sell up, rent, and enjoy the proceeds.
Given the trend of house price increases - Halifax records a 30% rise in the past decade - and the fact property accounts for 40% of our individual wealth, more people are becoming renters in retirement.
It is not always through choice, however, according to Prudential, whose recent report into the matter finds one in seven people will retire with no pension. Of the one in four retirees who rents their home, almost half of them (42%) were previously property owners. Their main reasons for selling up were to pay off debts, finance divorces, boost retirement income or help their children.
However, for people choosing to rent in retirement, there are many benefits. Average rents tend to keep up with real incomes as opposed to inflation, so if history repeats itself, this can keep your housing costs down.
You can also avoid the burden of maintaining your property. Landlords are typically responsible for repairs and maintenance and over a 10-year period that can amount to anything between £10,000 and £20,000.
The other benefit of renting is flexibility. Typically, tenancy agreements in the private rental sector have a minimum six-month break clause. Some canny retirees stay in the UK for the summer months and then rent abroad during the winter, saving the hassle and risk of owning a property abroad.
There are, of course, certain downsides to renting, too – some of which will be particularly unwelcome in your advanced years. Landlords can decide to sell up or increase the rent unexpectedly, subject to the contract, and some fail to maintain the property adequately. Additionally, if you fall ill and end up in hospital, you will still need to pay your rent.
Financially, selling up may not always put you in the strongest position either, as research shows renting typically requires more funds than owning. Prudential suggest retirees pay an average rent of £423 a month, whereas – purely in terms of their home loans, not including maintenance costs – homeowners pay £257 a month.
That said, renting can be a way to boost your pension pot, acquire flexibility of tenure and remove the responsibility of maintaining a home. So if you're considering selling up and becoming a tenant, here's the lowdown on your options and issues you need to be aware of.
WAYS TO RENT IN RETIREMENT
There are three main ways you can rent. Firstly, there's the private rental sector, which means going through a letting agent or renting direct from a landlord.
The second is to rent in a purpose-built retirement development. Organisations such as Girlings or Anchor specialise in properties to rent for the over-55s. Tenancies can be offered on an assured basis, so you can stay in the property for long periods of time; or fixed, which are usually for two years as opposed to the standard six months in the private sector. They may also have leisure facilities, round-the-clock care and will offer good security and easier budgeting, as nearly all bills can be included in your rent.
The third option is to contact your local authority housing office about properties to rent locally. They may help you liaise with housing associations, charities and trusts that have a suitable property for you - especially if you have difficulties getting around your home.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
- Find out how much bills will set you back. At viewing stage, ask the landlord and/or lettings agent for a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate. This will indicate how much your heating and lighting bills will be. Ideally, you want a property that has a D rating or above.
- Ask which deposit scheme your money will be protected in. By law, landlords who take a deposit under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement must protect it through one of the government-approved schemes (go to gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection/overview for more information).
- Check everything is in good working order before you move in. Check there is a gas safety certificate signed off by a 'Gas Safe' Registered Engineer, which is a legal requirement if the property has gas appliances. You should also ask to see an electrical safety certificate, although this isn't a legal requirement. In addition, check stair carpets, which should be secure with no frayed edges, and check there is no mould around the property.
- Use a reputable letting agent. Unlike estate agents, anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent – and, worse still, if the letting agent goes bust or runs off with your rental income, it's unlikely to be insured, so you will be reliant on the landlord's goodwill to accept you paid your rent. To ensure you rent from a good agent, only visit properties to let from members of the National Approved Letting Scheme (Nals) and/or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla). They must have client money protection insurance too, so the rent you pay is protected.
- Passing the landlord's credit checks. If you don't have a regular income in retirement, then you might fail credit checks. Make sure your landlord/agent has rented to a retiree before and has a referencing process you can pass.
- Take care of your belongings. When you rent, your landlord is responsible for insuring the property from a building perspective but if the roof leaks or there is a break-in, your belongings won't be covered by their insurance. You need to make sure you have specialist tenant insurance, which you can either buy online, through a broker or via an Arla/Nals agent.
- Beware of any service charges. When renting privately, it is usually the landlord's responsibility to pay the service charge. If you are renting in a specialist retirement property, you may be charged an annual fee, which can rise without much warning, so check out these costs.
It's worth visiting propertychecklists.co.uk, which has free access to checklists on 'How to avoid a Rogue Landlord' and a 'Quick Guide to Renting a Property'.
THE COST OF RENTING
Apart from in Scotland, where it is illegal to charge tenants any fees to rent a property, you may have to pay:
- Application/referencing fees (up to several hundred pounds). These are sometimes called 'administration fees' and typically cover credit checks, tenancy agreement, check-in and periodic checks.
- Deposit (normally four to six weeks' rent). This protects the landlord from tenants who run off without paying all of the rent or people who cause damage to the property and refuse to pay up. Landlords can no longer arbitrate how much of your deposit they can withhold thanks to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. This also requires landlords/agents to pay back your deposit within the scheme's given time frame, provided there are no disputes.
- Inventory (from £50 to £150). This may or may not be included in the application fee. Some agents/landlords share the cost of the inventory with the tenant, so one pays the inventory check-in and one pays the inventory check-out. An inventory can protect you from rogue landlords/agents who try to find excuses to withhold your deposit monies. It records the condition of the property and any items the landlord leaves such as a washing machine. The inventory can be vital if there is a dispute.
- Renewal fees (from £25). Always check with a landlord/agent if and how much they will charge you if you want to renew renting the property at the end of the tenancy agreement. Some charge, others don't.
And a final word of advice: if you sell up and rent in order to help your children on to the property ladder, just because you do this early on in your retirement doesn't mean your children won't be liable for inheritance tax at a later date. Make sure you consult a property inheritance tax expert before you sell up.
The tax levied on the total value of your estate after you die. IHT has to be paid by the beneficiaries of your estate before they can receive any of the money from it. The money can’t be taken from the value of the estate _– it has to be paid before any money can be released. There is an IHT threshold – known as the “nil-rate band” – below which no tax is levied (£325,000 in 2011/12). Any amount above the nil-rate band is subject to tax at 40%. If your estate totals £600,000, there is no tax on the first £325,000; however your estate will pay 40% tax on the remaining £275,000, a total of £110,000. Prudent tax planning can reduce your IHT liability, so always consult a specialist solicitor.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).
Everything you own: all your assets (property, cars, investments, savings, insurance payouts, artwork, furniture etc) minus any liabilities (debts, current bills, payments still owed on assets like cars and houses, credit card balances and other outstanding loans). When you’re alive this is called your wealth; when you’re dead, it becomes your estate.