Sheltered housing can be a great option, but check first that your relative knows what to expect and that the accommodation is suitable for his or her needs.

The benefits of sheltered housing

Sheltered housing offers many benefits to residents. These include:

  • Freedom: the freedom to live independently.
  • Reassurance: daily checks (although this isn’t always the case) and alarm system in case of emergency.
  • Support: help and advice available if needed.
  • Flexibility: there may be the option to rent or purchase through shared ownership.
  • Financial help: if you are on a low income, Housing Benefit may cover some or all of the rent. For those eligible for pension credit, some support with meeting the cost of service charges may also be available.
  • Living with partner: option to remain with your husband/wife/civil partner, which might not be possible with other care options.
  • Making friends: opportunities to socialise with other residents of a similar age.
  • Enjoyment of communal areas: with no responsibility to maintain gardens or facilities.
  • No hassles with repairs or maintenance: if you are renting, then your landlord is likely to be responsible for repairs to your property and the maintenance of communal areas. If you have purchased your property, your lease will specify what your maintenance and repair responsibilities are, although it is likely that the scheme manager will be responsible for repairs and maintenance to the exterior of your property and the communal areas.
  • Safety and security: may feel safer than living alone.
  • Legal protection: if renting, you usually have the protection of tenants rights, as you would with any rental property. Social tenants tend to be given an assured tenancy, which gives a reasonably good level of security, whereas private tenants are typically given assured shorthold tenancies.
  • Resale value: if you purchase a retirement property, then your home can be sold on later, inherited by family or, if necessary, used to pay for care.

The drawbacks of sheltered housing

Sheltered housing can vary and it’s important to be aware of its limitations and ongoing costs, too:

  • Service charges: if you’ve bought a property, you’ll have to pay service charges on top of usual ongoing housing costs. Service charges can be higher for sheltered housing than for other leasehold properties, to cover the cost of services such as the scheme manager and an alarm system.
  • No medical care: most schemes will not take people who require regular nursing care or who have demanding needs. They may also refuse to accept new residents who have existing personal care needs.
  • Limited choice: there may be a limited choice of schemes in your preferred area, particularly if you are on a social housing list.
  • Rules: residents have to live by the rules of the scheme, which may, for example, restrict noise or forbid pets.
  • Reduced space: if residents are downsizing from a larger property, there may not be space for all their possessions and furniture.
  • Bills: residents still have to pay the bills for their own properties (such as council tax, water, gas and electricity), which might make it more difficult to budget.
  • Variations in services: scheme managers (wardens) rarely live onsite. Some might only be there part-time. It’s important to check what is on offer.

More information

Page last reviewed: July 2016
Next review due: February 2018