Shared Accommodation to Prevent Loneliness and Isolation
3 minute read
Recent lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have increased loneliness, especially amongst older singles without close family and unable to continue their normal social lives with friends: meeting up in pubs and restaurants, playing/watching sport, visiting the theatre, having a meal in friends’ houses, sharing dog walks, and gossiping with colleagues over coffee in the office.
Reviving that essential wellbeing and community spirit will take time, so people are coming up with their own lifestyle solutions for the long term, to reduce future vulnerability as they age whilst retaining independence.
Sharing financial resources to develop community living with friends is an increasingly popular option; acquiring a large property to convert into self-contained flats, or with a range of outbuildings to create living/working accommodation.
It takes time to identify the right property in the right location, at the right price, so exploring property auction sites offers a good insight into what may be available. For example, with more homeworking, vacant office and commercial sites have potential at competitive prices, whilst redundant farm buildings and closed hospitality venues or even retail units, could be adapted. Seek advice from an architect, who will know what is possible through planning regulations, and at what cost, as well as the likely timescale to deliver what is required.
Such projects will need full engagement from all partners, with each writing down what they expect in terms of accommodation, as well as agreement on funding contributions, and how space will be allocated and managed on completion; development will have to be phased, so who has priority for occupation?
Creating a new community could mean each party owning the freehold of their own unit, or a share of the total, with joint responsibility for future maintenance and management of the whole site, so take legal advice from someone specialising in property. It may be appropriate to set up a Trust or ‘commonhold’; the Law Society website (www.lawsociety.org.uk) offers excellent guidance.
Key criteria for anyone buying into such a scheme include:
- Governance, with a maintenance plan for public areas, funded by annual contributions from all parties and their role in decision making at regular meetings to review accounts and approve contractors etc;
- Competitively priced energy and broadband contracts, as well as insurance for communal areas;
- Rules on sub-letting and use of any designated shared parking areas;
- Security, with external lighting/cameras where appropriate.
Fire safety is an absolute priority, including an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. Local Fire Services can provide advice.
Fire Risk Assessments should be undertaken, implemented and reviewed every two years for buildings up to 3 storeys; smoke alarms must be checked monthly and public areas kept free of obstructions. Fire hydrants must be available on each floor and checked/replaced according to the Assessment.
Consult our trained advisers at Just Mortgage Brokers for guidance and advice for any of your mortgage needs.