This section discusses sheltered housing, which is available to buy and rent.
Sheltered housing usually consists of self-contained bungalows or flats. Historically, a warden usually lived on or near the premises, but the provision of warden services is now being reduced, and an emergency alarm system may instead be provided. There are often communal facilities such as a lounge or laundry. Sheltered housing is usually suitable for older people who need a low level of support. Local authorities, housing associations and private companies provide it. Sheltered housing can either be bought or rented.
Renting sheltered housing
Sheltered housing for rent is provided by local authorities, housing associations and private landlords. Occupiers will usually pay both rent and a service charge.
Some people will be eligible for Housing Benefit to help pay the rent. Housing Benefit can also cover some or all of the service charge, provided the person's income and capital is low enough, and as long as the payment of service charges is a condition of occupying the accommodation, rather than an optional extra, and the charges are not excessive.  Housing Benefit may be restricted where support or care is provided by a third party that is not acting on behalf of the relevant landlord. 
For most people who have some capital it will be important to take account of the capital rules for Housing Benefit. There is no capital limit for a person receiving the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit; for others, a set level of income is assumed on a tariff scale from any capital over a certain amount. For those with more than the maximum allowed capital, no Housing Benefit is available at all.
The capital limits change over time; see section on capital in the section on Benefit Rates for the current amounts. The income that is assumed for those with capital between the lower and maximum amount then counts in the Housing Benefit calculation, thus reducing benefit. While some items are disregarded when calculating the tariff income (for example, the person's home, property awaiting repairs, property up for sale etc), any income generated from capital (for example, interest on savings) will count as capital. For more information, please see the section on Housing Benefit.
Buying sheltered housing
Sheltered housing for sale typically consists of self-contained bungalows or flats with a resident warden, alarm system and communal facilities such as a residents' lounge or laundry services. In addition to the purchase price, there will be a service or management fee, which may be substantial, to cover the cost of the services provided. Renting may ultimately be a better option for older people with capital but on a limited budget because of ongoing service charges. Buyers should thoroughly check what services are included in the management fee as well as any other conditions that may be attached to purchase. The solicitor dealing with the conveyancing should be able to advise as to the implications of any conditions.
Last updated: 9 December 2019