Today's renters still count on paper

1st April 2015

At Keep Me Posted we have occasionally bristled at the claims of those determined to impose the digital revolution on everyone, come what may, that all will be well when today’s elderly generation die off, and those who have always known the internet take their turn as more-digitally-engaged pensioners.

We bristle because the idea that it is only the elderly affected by this is nonsense. Not being online is something that is widespread, across all ages, and a whole new category was brought to our attention recently by Generation Rent, an organisation campaigning for fair treatment of those in the rented housing sector.

Generation Rent’s director Alex Hilton has pointed out that, regardless of age, a paper bill or statement can be a great help for those in the private rented sector – a sector that has doubled in the course of the past decade and is now where a majority of under-35s live.

Because they are under 35, and so have been used to working with computers and the internet for most of their lives, Mr Hilton says politicians and media assume they “are more digitally savvy than others”. In fact renters are often “more dependent on traditional communications – not least the paper bank statement, he says, since many landlord and agents will only accept original documents – and remember printing at home does not count as an official document. Moreover, for many renters an internet connection remains an unaffordable luxury.

“Many fellow renters moved to paperless banking in a belief that it would save us time and money only to learn that, in today’s renting culture, it does neither,” he says.

I’m very pleased to say that Generation Rent this week became Keep Me Posted’s 73rd supporting organisation, recognising, as we do, that the playing field is not fair for many sectors of society, and forcing people to go online for bills and statements only adds to that unfairness. 

So it’s very complacent simply to focus on older people in the expectation that everything will change when they die.  For a myriad of reasons, young people will, for the foreseeable future, continue to need paper too. 

Judith Donovan