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Undiscovered tenant deaths – a growing problem that can easily be avoided

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Undiscovered tenant deaths are often in the national and regional press.  Some are very high profile, and some go largely unreported.  They are all the more shocking when someone has been dead for weeks, months or even years. The death of a friend or relative is a very difficult time, and knowing the person lay dead for some time only adds to the distress.   Despite this, avoiding undiscovered tenants deaths is very easily addressed. 

The causes of tenant deaths vary, and can be sudden due to a single incident, such as a heart attack, or in other cases it may be due to longer term health deterioration.  Increasing levels of social isolation, bills being paid automatically by direct debit,  more people living alone and our increasingly digital world can all contribute to someone not being seen and going unnoticed.  These societal changes all potentially signal a likely increase in undiscovered deaths.

In most cases the person who died is older.  This age group has the highest proportion of individuals living alone. Currently, almost half (45%) of over 65s live in single person households, representing over 4 million people.  This number is set to grow sharply in the future, increasing by over 50% in the next 15 years.         

As a social housing provider an undiscovered tenant death can bring very unwelcome publicity and accusations that the provider is not acting as a responsible landlord.  This risk is lessened in supported housing where regular checks, such as morning calls, are part of the support provided to older people and other higher needs residents.  However, as part of cost saving initiatives this contact is becoming less and less prevalent. (They also do not happen at weekends and bank holidays so a death can often go unnoticed for 2-3 days).  

Supported Housing as a sector of social housing was created with the specific intention of ensuring that additional services were provided to those tenants where traditional housing management was insufficient.  In the majority of cases these properties house older people.  However, due to demographic changes over the past 20 years there are now more older people living in what is termed General Needs housing than Supported Housing.  Older people in these properties, even though their needs are largely the same, receive no additional housing management.  Consequently, the risks of an undiscovered tenant death are much higher in this group.

How to eliminate undiscovered deaths

One possible option is the more widespread adoption of wearable alarms.  However, any successful solution needs the buy in of the individual.  The ‘elephant in the room’ with personal alarms, as is well known with housing, health and care providers, is the large proportion of people who either refuse to have one, or have one but invariably do not wear it.  Even those that do often do not activate their device when desirable as they feel they do not want to be ‘ a burden’.  Thus, the benefits are limited 

There is no substitute for ensuring there is regular contact with tenants so that issues can be identified.  This not only ensures that any tenant who dies is identified quickly, but it can also save lives.  Some deaths will be preventable if help can be provided before an individual’s condition worsens. Such contact can also more quickly identify if there are property modifications that may be required, due to the tenants changing needs.

The Alertacall OKEachDay service is a very easy solution with exceptionally high satisfaction ratings.  There is no need to wear any device – the tenant is provided with easy to install ‘plug and play’ devices; either an OKEachDay telephone or touchscreen.  It works 365 days a year with the tenant simply confirming they are OK by pressing the OKEachDay button on a daily basis, at a time of their choosing.

If the tenant does not press the OKEachDay button, the Alertacall contact centre team will call to confirm everything is OK. If we are unable to do that we notify the housing provider or a nominated contact.

Around 60 social housing providers use the OKEachDay service for the benefit of 20,000 tenants.  This eliminates not only the risk of an undiscovered tenant death, but also helps identify where urgent help may be required, resulting in many saved lives.

To find out more about how this can help your housing teams please contact us at or call 0808 208 1234. 


Read the headlines here :

ITV News

The Guardian

The Hunts Post

The Derby Telegraph

Inside Housing