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Think through the practicalities, costs and legal issues when helping your relative to choose accommodation in sheltered housing, using the checklists given below.

On this page you can find the following checklists for choosing sheltered housing:

1. Practicalities
2. Additional costs
3. Legal issues
4. Downloadable PDF checklist


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  • Location: where is the sheltered housing located? Is it in a familiar area? Will your relative be close to family and friends? Is it close to local transport links, shops, their GP?
  • Size: how big is the accommodation? If your relative is downsizing to a smaller property, they may not be able to take all their furniture and possessions with them.
  • Facilities: does the accommodation have all the facilities that they want and need? For example, laundry and a 24-hour alarm system?
  • Scheme manager: does the manager live on- or off-site, and is this important to you? Does the manager check up on residents daily? Are they full-time or part-time? What hours are they available to residents?
  • Is the scheme manger a member of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM)? All management organisations registered with the ARHM should follow its government-approved Code of Practice. This covers issues such as good practice in providing services (including the scheme manager service). It also states that a management organisation should consult residents on all significant issues, hold annual meetings, visit schemes at least quarterly and encourage the setting up of residents’ associations.
  • Emergencies: how is the alarm system managed, who answers the call, and where is the alarm call directed to? Local emergency services, elected family member or a scheme manager? How are emergencies dealt with?
  • Additional care: regular sheltered housing does not provide any form of personal or medical care, though ‘extra care sheltered housing’ offers some assistance with personal care. Consider your relative’s needs carefully.
  • Parking: if your relative has a car, is there an allocated parking space with the property? If there are charges, make sure you know what they are. If your relative owns a mobility scooter, are there storage facilities available?
  • Pets: if your relative has pets, will they be able to take them? Not all properties will allow pets and those that do often have a policy that they are not to be replaced.
  • Visitors: are there good transport links for family and friends to visit? If your relative wants to have guests, is this possible in their own apartment? Some schemes offer guest rooms that can be rented to visitors; what are the charges and booking procedures for this?
  • Communications: is there a phone line, internet/wi-fi, or satellite or cable TV if your relative wants it, and what are the costs?

Don’t let anyone rush you or your relative into making a decision. This is a big step and you and your family should be given the space you need to make the choice that’s right for you. On the other hand, do remember that someone else may make an offer on a popular leasehold property and that council/housing association offers usually have to be accepted within a specified time

Additional costs 

  • Utilities: what are the average monthly costs for the gas and/or electricity for individual properties?
  • Hidden charges: watch out for hidden charges, such as for making adaptations and home improvements to the property.
  • Additional costs: most leasehold properties make a ‘service charge’ for things such as external maintenance, repairs and building insurance. Ask if there is a written brochure, with a list of costs and a copy of the lease that you can take away with you. There will also be bills to pay. When working out your budget, remember to add these costs to any monthly rent or mortgage payments.
  • For more information about common charges and ground rent, see Additional costs of sheltered housing.

Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) has developed a ‘Quality of Information Mark’ to encourage scheme managers to provide detailed information about their facilities to potential residents and their families. For further details see this page on EAC’s housing website, HousingCare.org.

Legal issues of sheltered housing

  • Small print: make sure you read the terms and conditions of the lease or tenancy before signing anything or making any decisions.
  • The future: although none of us can see into the future, it’s a good idea to know your options and liabilities should circumstances change - for example, if your relative was to develop an illness or disability that required more specialist medical care and the extra cost this might incur. 
  • Check how much notice is required to leave before signing a tenancy agreement, and how easy it is to cancel/leave should your relative wish or need to make alternative housing arrangements. 
  • Check the lease for specific conditions about moving if your relative is planning to buy. Find out about resale values of similar properties and any fees that may be incurred if the property is sold or left vacant.

Downloadable checklist

Use the link below to download our checklist to use when choosing sheltered housing.

More information

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