What is sheltered housing?

Sheltered housing usually consists of a group of self-contained one- or two-bedroom flats or bungalows. It might be a good option if you want to live in a smaller home that is easier to manage.

Sheltered housing usually has a scheme manager or warden and there may be an emergency alarm system providing 24-hour help as necessary.

Features of sheltered housing

Facilities will vary, but sheltered housing usually has:

  • self-contained properties grouped together into a small complex
  • scheme managers or wardens, responsible for looking after the buildings and making sure the residents are safe and well. They may not be full time or based on site
  • a community alarm system
  • communal areas, such as a lounge, laundry room, guest flat and garden
  • adaptations to make getting around easier and safer.

Sheltered housing schemes often arrange social activities, such as coffee mornings, film nights or a gardening club.


  • you’ll have neighbours around you, but keep your privacy and independence
  • help is available in an emergency
  • may be more secure than private accommodation
  • a more manageable property
  • you’ll often have access to communal facilities and opportunities to socialise


  • there may be a waiting list
  • some areas have a limited choice
  • service charges can be high – these cover things like building repairs and the emergency alarm system
  • if you buy, it could be difficult to sell the property later, and you might have to pay an exit fee
  • there may be rules about pets or visitors

Sheltered housing may not be suitable for people with higher care needs.

How to find sheltered housing

Sheltered housing is available to rent or buy. It can be provided by a local council, a housing association, a charity or a private company.

If you want to rent:

Most sheltered housing for rent is let through local councils or housing associations. There is a small amount of private rental accommodation. There will probably be fewer eligibility criteria to meet if you rent privately, but the rent will probably be higher.

Each council has its own housing allocation policy. To find out how to apply, contact your local council housing department.

Housing associations usually have to follow the council’s allocation policy and will offer housing to people on the council housing waiting list. However, some may accept direct applications.

If you’re already a council or housing association tenant, ask your landlord for information about how to apply.

If you want to buy:

Sheltered housing to buy is usually available from private providers, rather than councils or housing associations. It is usually sold on a leasehold basis. Before you buy, you should get independent advice on your rights and responsibilities from a solicitor. The Leasehold Advisory Service (020 7832 2500, lease-advice.org) also provides information on things to consider before buying a leasehold property.


Making your choice

If you’re considering moving into sheltered housing, it’s a good idea to contact your local council for a free care needs assessment. This looks at what care you need and what might help you, including how suitable your accommodation is.

When you’re approaching sheltered housing schemes, make sure you ask plenty of questions and be sure to pay a visit. Make a list of what you want to ask – for example:

  • costs – what is included and what costs extra?
  • is there parking space, and what are the transport links like?
  • how much support can you expect? – eg, is there an emergency alarm system
  • any rules – eg about pets
  • is there a scheme manager or warden, and what are their responsibilities?
  • what communal facilities and opportunities for socialising are there?

Contact your local council to find out about sheltered housing in your area.

For more information about how to get sheltered housing, see our factsheet Sheltered housing and extra care housing.


Help with accommodation costs

If you’re living on a low income, you may be eligible for Council Tax Support and Housing Benefit to help pay your rent.

Next steps

Read our guide Choosing where to live for more information about different housing options

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