Sheltered housing, sometimes known as sheltered accomodation, is a type of ‘housing with support’, which you can buy or rent. Find out if it's the right housing option for you.
What is sheltered housing?
Sheltered housing, or sheltered accommodation, could suit you if you want to live independently but need a bit more support, or if you want to live in a smaller and easier-to-manage home.
It is usually only available to those aged 55 and over.
Some common features of sheltered housing include:
- help from a scheme manager (warden), or support staff
- 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system
- communal areas, such as gardens or lounges
- social activities for residents.
Features vary from scheme to scheme. At some schemes you get more support than others. If you’re interested in a particular scheme, make sure you understand what services are available, how much they cost and whether you would be eligible for any help with these costs.
Meals, help around the home and personal care services such as help with bathing are not usually provided. You can arrange a package of services from the local authority or a private care agency.
How much will I pay for sheltered housing?
The cost of sheltered housing will vary depending on whether you rent or buy, the scheme that you choose, and the area you live in. Some schemes will be more expensive than others.
As well as rent and/or mortgage payments, you have to pay Council Tax, water rates and energy bills and you usually have to pay a regular service charge.
The price of the service charge and what it covers varies from scheme to scheme, but it typically includes contributions towards communal repairs and cleaning, grounds maintenance, servicing and maintaining any lifts and security systems, and building insurance. It may include charges for support services such as the scheme manager and emergency alarm.
At each scheme, check:
- how much the service charge is
- what is included in the service charge
- if there are any additional services to pay for and how much they cost
- whether certain service charges can be covered by Pension Credit or Housing Benefit
whether the local council can help with the cost of any care or support you receive.
How do I rent sheltered housing?
Renting from your local council or housing association
Most sheltered housing for rent is provided by councils and housing associations. In most areas, the local council runs a waiting list of people looking for sheltered housing. Many housing associations fill all their sheltered properties this way.
Different councils have different rules on who gets sheltered housing. You can check your council’s rules by asking for a copy of their housing allocation scheme, which sets out who gets priority for housing. Ask your local council how much priority you are likely to get and how long you might have to wait.
A small amount of sheltered housing is available to rent privately. There may still be a minimum age threshold, but you may not have to meet any other criteria. Waiting times are likely to be shorter. Rents may be higher and your tenancy is likely to be less secure than if you rented sheltered housing from the council or a housing association.
How do I buy sheltered housing?
Most sheltered housing for sale is from private developers. There will be a management group in charge of the warden, services and maintenance.
Unlike care homes, sheltered housing is not inspected or given ratings. However, there are some things you can check:
- Check that the developer is registered with an accredited body such as the National House Building Council (NHBC). Newer properties built by registered developers are covered by a Sheltered Housing Code.
- Check if the management group are members of a recognised trade body such as the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM). They have a code of practice.
Things to remember when buying sheltered housing
Services and charges vary from scheme to scheme. Make sure you understand exactly what services are provided, how much they cost, and how you are going to cover these costs before making a commitment. Ask for a full breakdown of charges, including optional services and any ‘one-off’ fees.
Most assisted living housing is sold on a leasehold basis. There may be restrictions in the lease on what happens if you want to sell the property or leave it to a relative in your will. Make sure you check these restrictions and other lease terms and conditions before you buy.
You may need to pay an ‘exit’ or ‘transfer’ fee if you sell the property or if there is a change of occupancy, for example, if a carer comes to live with you. Make sure you ask about any exit fees before you decide to buy.
What should I do next?
If you think sheltered accommodation could be right for you, you may want to consider these next steps:
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