Finance and grants
The best way to finance work on your home is to plan ahead - have a good preventive maintenance programme and a maintenance fund. However, there will be times when even the best planning or the hardest saving cannot cover the work that needs doing. There will also be times when things are beyond maintenance, and need replacing or improving.
Some emergency repairs may be covered by insurance. Boiler servicing contracts, for example, frequently include things like replacement of faulty water tanks, etc. Household insurances will usually cover accidental water damage, floods, falling trees, etc. There may also be provision to repair or replace water mains or collapsed drains.
However, insurance will generally not cover losses caused by your failure to maintain something that is your responsibility – yet another reason for having a regular maintenance programme.
Grants and renewals
Many homeowners may remember that local councils used to offer a lot of grant money to help repair or improve their homes. However, the money available for this has reduced significantly over the last few years and the general thrust of government policy now is that homeowners should be responsible for funding work to their homes themselves, although there are very few exceptions for the poorest and most vulnerable. The only other area where substantial help may be available is work to bring empty property back into use or to improve energy efficiency and security.
The primary resource for financial assistance for most property owners is their mortgage lender or bank, depending on the cost and extent of the proposed work. If you have sufficient equity in the property, and the work would increase its value, most mortgage lenders will be happy to discuss the different types of loans available.
Older owner-occupiers who have a lot of equity but not much income might like to consider equity release schemes. Some of these used to have a very poor reputation, but things have changed considerably in recent years. One of the best sources of financial advice for older home owners is Age Concern.
Means tested loans are available from the council to owner-occupiers to assist with major works. Decent Homes Assistance is an interest free loan repayable when the property is sold. A maximum of £50,000 can be available where it is required to bring the property up to the Decent Homes standard, or where major building works are needed in order for a property to be adapted using a disabled facilities grant. Decent Home Loans up to £20,000 run by Parity Trust.
Non-repayable small grants may also be available for owner-occupiers on low incomes. These are particularly related to repair of the property - doing repairs to prevent a property becoming non-decent within a few years, to improving insulation or heating or, in some circumstances, to carrying out smaller adaptations for disabled people.
Landlords Minor Heating Grants up to a maximum of £3,500 may also be available to landlords who are licensed by the council or on the Accreditation Scheme.
Empty properties assistance
As well as being a waste of invaluable resources in an area of acute housing need, empty properties can be an invitation for anti-social behaviour. For these reasons, the council employs Empty Properties Officers who aim to facilitate the re-occupation of empty buildings.
Grants may be available to owners for major works to make a property non-hazardous where it has been empty for at least one year. In exchange for the grant, the owners must let the property to council nominees for five years at agreed rent levels. This works well for individual houses and for accommodation over shops and we have consistently exceeded our targets for bringing empty properties back into use.
For further information, visit our empty properties web page.
Other sources of help
Loans may be available from the Social Fund for people who have been on Income Support or income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance for at least 26 weeks. Loans are between £30 and £1,000, depending on need and the ability to repay. It might also be an idea to check your benefit entitlement to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to.
Specific charities may also be able to help – for example ex-service charities, trade unions, ex-employees associations, etc.