What is Sheltered Housing? | Age UK

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What is sheltered housing?

Sheltered housing (sometimes known as retirement housing) is a type of housing which you can buy or rent that has support such as staff, emergency alarms and social activities. Find out if it's the right housing option for you.

 

What is sheltered housing?

Sheltered housing, sometimes referred to as retirement housing, offers a bit of support if and when you need it. Unlike care homes, sheltered housing isn't inspected or given ratings.

You can usually or rent accommodation and there's usually a minimum age threshold, such as 55 or 60. Different sheltered housing schemes offer different levels of support, so it's important to be clear on what's available.

Sheltered housing usually includes:

  • a scheme manager (also known as a warden) who may live on-site or off-site
  • 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system
  • communal areas, such as gardens or lounges
  • social activities for residents.

Sheltered housing might appeal to you if you want to live independently but in a smaller home that’s easier to manage. It can also offer the added reassurance of having an emergency alarm or someone who can help if needed.

Meals, help around the home and personal care services such as help with bathing aren't usually provided. You can arrange a package of services from the local council or a private care agency.

If you're looking for accommodation with more support than sheltered housing, assisted living offers more care options but still allows you to live independently.

Find out more about assisted living


How much does sheltered housing cost?

The cost of sheltered housing depends on whether you rent or buy, the scheme you choose, and the services available. Make sure you’re clear about all the ongoing charges as well as the upfront costs before you make any decisions.

As well as rent 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's 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?

You can rent sheltered housing either privately or through the local council or housing association.

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 for who’s eligible for sheltered housing. For example, the minimum age threshold may vary – or in some areas you may be given additional priority on the waiting list if you’re considered to have particular need for housing with support.

You can ask for a copy of the council’s housing allocation policy, which sets out who gets priority for social housing in that area. Ask your local council how much priority you’d be given and how long you’d have to wait.

Renting privately

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.

Find out more about renting accommodation

Applying for accessible social housing

Visit Scope's website for more information on applying for accessible housing if you have a disability, long-term illness or health condition.


How do I buy sheltered housing?

Sheltered housing schemes have a management group in charge of the warden, services and maintenance, and you usually buy the property from a private developer. Unlike care homes, sheltered housing isn’t inspected or given ratings – but there are still some things you can check beforehand:

  • Is the developer 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.
  • Does the management group belong to a recognised trade body such as the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) which produces a code of practice for the management of leasehold retirement properties?

Things to think about before 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're 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 might 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's 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.

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Last updated: Jun 10 2024

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