Help with home improvements
A local authority can offer different types of help with home improvements. It will have its own rules about the types of help it will offer, and about the conditions you must meet in order to qualify for help.
By law, these rules must not discriminate against you because of your age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. In addition, a local authority may have policies which don't allow other types of discrimination such as discrimination against older people.
To find out if you can get help with home improvements and the help available in your area, contact your local authority. Your local authority can give you help to:-
- adapt, improve, or repair your home. This could be in the form of a grant or loan. It could be by providing labour, tools, or cheap materials to help you carry out the work. It could be by providing details of builders who can carry out the work, or by providing free or low cost surveys, or advice on carrying out repairs; or
- buy a new home if it decides that this would be a better way of improving your living conditions than carrying out work on your current home. The help could be in the form of a grant or loan; or
- buy a new home, if it has decided to buy your current home. The help could be in the form of a grant or loan; or
- demolish your home, or build a new home for you, if your previous home has been demolished. The help could be in the form of a grant or loan.
If you, or someone that you live with, are disabled, you may be able to get a disabled facilities grant for adaptations or providing facilities for the disabled person.
In Wales, the Welsh Government scheme, Houses into Homes can provide a loan to enable a property to be made fit to sell or to let. Applications are made through the local authority. More information about the scheme is available on the Welsh Government website at: new.wales.gov.uk.
Which properties can your local authority help improve
Your local authority can help improve a building, part of a building, a caravan, or a boat, as long as the property is your home, or it is available for you to live in as your home.
A local authority can have its own application forms for help, and its own rules about what you have to do to apply for help. Ask your local authority for more information about this.
If you're disabled, a local authority must provide application forms in a form you can use, for example, in large print.
Your rights when you apply for help with home improvements
Your local authority will have its own rules about the conditions you must meet in order to get help. For example, its rules might say you cannot get a grant if your savings are over a certain limit. Although your local authority can have its own rules, there are certain things that it must or must not do when it provides help with home improvements. Your local authority must have rules about help with home improvements, but it cannot have rules which are completely rigid or unreasonable. For example, it cannot say it will never give any grants, and it must take your individual circumstances into account if you apply for help. Also, the rules must not discriminate against you because of your age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
When you apply for help with home improvements your local authority must:-
- make sure that a copy of its rules, including the types of help it provides, are available for you to look at, free of charge, at its main office. It must also make sure that you can get a summary of the rules by post, although it may charge you for this; and
- make sure it follows its own rules when you ask for help; and
- give you written information about terms and conditions under which it will help you before it helps you; and
- make sure you have had the right advice and information about any responsibilities you will have if it helps you. For example, if you will have to pay for some of the repairs yourself, your local authority must make sure you have had advice and information about this; and
- take into account your ability to pay towards any help it offers you, before you have to pay anything. For example, it should not offer you a loan if you cannot afford to repay it, or if it offers you a grant but expects you to pay money towards it, it must take into account your ability to do so; and
- get your consent before carrying out any works on your home, if you are a home-owner; and
- get the consent of everyone who is likely to be affected, if it decides to change work it has agreed to help with. For example, it would need to do this if it agrees to install gas central heating, but then wants to change this to electric central heating instead; and
- get your consent before it changes any of the conditions you must meet in order to get help. For example, if it offers you a grant on the condition that you pay £500 towards the cost of repairs, but it wants to increase this amount to £1000, it has to get your consent first.
If you would like help with applying for home improvements, you can consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
If you rent your home
If you rent your home and apply to your local authority for help with home improvements, you will need to get your landlord's permission before the local authority will agree to help you. If you're disabled and the changes are to do with your disability, your landlord should not refuse permission unless he has a good reason. In some cases, your landlord may be responsible for making the changes.
For more information about a landlord's duty to make alterations for disabled people, see Discrimination in housing – duty to make reasonable adjustments.
If your home is in need of repair, your landlord may have to do the repairs you need.
For more information about your landlord's responsibility to do repairs, see Repairs in rented housing.
You can also get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Payment of grants and loans
Generally, a local authority does not have to pay a grant or loan within any particular time limit. However, if your local authority's own rules set a time limit, it must pay you within this time limit.
If you own your home
You might be able to get a government loan called ‘support for mortgage interest’ (SMI). It can help with interest payments if you get a loan to make some home improvements. It won’t help you pay off the rest of the loan (called the ‘capital’).
You might get SMI if you’re getting:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
You’ll also need to check the improvements you’re making are covered by SMI. They’ll be covered if you have to make the improvements so your home is fit to live in, and you’re:
- fixing your heating system - like replacing your boiler if it’s broken
- installing something so you can prepare and cook food - like a hob or oven
- installing a bath, shower, washbasin, sink or toilet
- installing electric lights or sockets
- installing a way to store fuel or rubbish
- installing drainage
- fixing an unsafe structure like your roof
- damp-proofing or insulating your home
- providing fresh air or natural light
- adapting your home for a disabled person
- providing separate bedrooms for a boy and girl aged 10-19 - if they live with you and you or your partner are responsible for them
You’ll have to pay the SMI loan back, but usually only when you sell your home or give it to someone else. You can find out more about SMI on GOV.UK.
There are special rules for getting a disabled facilities grant. These are different from the rules which apply to getting help with home improvements (see under heading Help with home improvements).
What is a disabled facilities grant
A disabled facilities grant is a grant that you can get from your local authority for work that is essential to help a disabled person live an independent life. You can, for example, get a disabled facilities grant for the following things:-
- making it easier to get in and out of your home, for example, by widening doors or providing ramps
- making it easier to get to a living room, bedroom, toilet, bathroom or kitchen, for example, by putting in a stairlift, or providing a downstairs bathroom
- making it easier or safer to get access to your garden
- providing suitable bathroom or kitchen facilities
- providing or improving a heating system
- ensuring your safety, for example, by providing a specially adapted room in which it would be safe to leave you unattended, or by providing improved lighting for better visibility
- helping you get around at home so you can care for someone who lives with you and needs care.
A local authority must give you a disabled facilities grant if you meet the conditions for getting one.
Applying for a disabled facilities grant
Owner-occupiers, landlords, tenants, licensees, and occupiers of some houseboats and park homes can apply for a disabled facilities grant, provided the work is for the benefit of a disabled person who lives or will live in the property.
To apply for a disabled facilities grant, you need to fill in a form which you can get from your local authority. They may ask for information and/or for tests to be carried out before you make a formal application. You may also need to get approval for building regulations, planning, listed building or conservation area purposes.
Your local authority may have a list of local architects, surveyors and builders who specialise in renovation work which you could ask to see when choosing a contractor for the work to your home. If you intend to carry out the work yourself, you will not be able to claim for the cost of your labour.
Once you have applied for a grant, your local authority must tell you about its decision in writing as soon as it can, and no later than six months after you applied.
Qualifying for a disabled facilities grant
You can only get a disabled facilities grant if the work you need done on your home is:-
- necessary and appropriate to meet your needs. Your local authority will normally ask an occupational therapist for their opinion on whether or not you need the work done; and
- reasonable and practical, given the age of your home and the condition it is in. For example, if your home is in a serious state of disrepair, it might not be practical to do the work you need.
If you live in rented accommodation and are applying for a disabled facilities grant for work to a communal area of the property in which you live, you should make sure that you are responsible for doing the work. If your landlord is responsible for doing the work, you will not be able to get a grant. Your landlord may be able to apply for a grant instead.
If you would like help with applying for a disabled facilities grant, you can consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
How much grant will you get
A disabled facilities grant will be no more than £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales. However, your local authority can top up this up, as it can give you other help with home improvements (see under the heading Help with home improvements). The amount of grant you get depends on your income and savings, unless the work is to meet the needs of a disabled person under 16, or in some cases, over 16 but under 19.
Getting a disabled facilities grant if you live in rented accommodation
If you rent your home and apply to your local authority for a disabled facilities grant, you will need to get your landlord's permission before your local authority will agree to help you. However, your landlord must not refuse permission without a very good reason. If you need to make changes to your home because of your disability, your landlord should agree to this unless they have a good reason for not doing so. If your landlord doesn't agree, this could be disability discrimination and they could be breaking the law. This rule doesn't apply in some cases where the landlord lives in the same property as you.
If you need to make certain changes to your home because of your disability, your landlord may be responsible for making them. This rule doesn't apply in some cases where the landlord lives in the same property as you.
For more information about a landlord's duty to make alterations for disabled people, see Discrimination in housing – duty to make reasonable adjustments.
If your home is in need of repair, your landlord may also be responsible for doing them.
For more information about a landlord's responsibility to do repairs, see Repairs in rented housing.
You can also get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
There are various energy efficiency schemes and grants available. The main scheme is a home energy efficiency scheme known as the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO). There is also the Nest programme in Wales. It is available to owner-occupiers and people renting accommodation. You may also be able to get other help with insulating your home - see under heading Help with home improvements.
If you live in Wales, and are physically disabled or aged 60 or over, you may be able to get help under the rapid response adaptations programme. You can get help with small-scale alterations to your home so that you can be discharged from hospital and return to live safely at home. You may also be able to get help if you are not in hospital. You can get up to £350 worth of help.
You can get various adaptations to your home under the programme, for example:-
- small ramps
- rails and hand-grips
- a covered way to a toilet
- levelling of paths
- community safety alarms
- safety measures in your home.
You must be referred to the programme by a health professional. You cannot apply directly yourself. To get help, you have to be a home-owner or a tenant. You must usually be aged 60 or over, and/or have a physical disability, and:-
- be in hospital; or
- have recently been discharged from hospital; or
- want to carry on living independently at home.
The work to your home should be finished within 15 days of the day you were referred to the programme.
The rapid response adaptation programme is run by Care and Repair Cymru. For contact details, see under heading Home improvement agencies.
Home improvement agencies (HIAs) are not-for-profit organisations run by housing associations, local authorities and charities. They can help people who own their own homes, or who live in privately rented accommodation, and who are elderly, disabled, or on a low income to repair, maintain or adapt their home.
For example, an HIA can:
- arrange for repairs to be carried out to your home
- help you to get funding for repairs to be carried out to your home
- give you advice about a range of issues which affect your living conditions
- organise the fitting of small aids and adaptations to help you live independently in your home
- install security measures to your home such as door and window locks, door chains and viewers
Foundations (in England) and Care and Repair Cymru (in Wales) can put you in touch with your local organisation, if one exists. The contact details are:-
The Old Co-op Building
11 Railway Street
Care and Repair Cymru
1st Floor, Mariners House
Unit A, Trident Court
East Moors Road