What to check
Staying on top of things and getting repairs done early can save you money later on. It will also maximise the value of your property in case you need to sell later.
Some of the areas you should check regularly include:
- central heating – get your boiler serviced every year and bleed radiators when necessary (uSwitch has more information on this)
- gas appliances – get gas appliances, such as gas fires and gas cookers, serviced every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer
- electrics – you should get your wiring checked by a registered electrician every ten years. If you rent your home, your landlord is responsible for keeping the electrical wiring in proper working order
- damp and mould growth – check the cause before treating, as it may be a problem with ventilation and condensation
- plumbing – check for dripping and leaking; even a minor leak in a water or waste pipe can cause significant damage. A sudden lack of water pressure could also indicate a problem
- guttering – get your gutters cleared once a year, at the beginning of winter
- roof – get your roof inspected in the spring, or if you notice missing tiles or damp patches on your ceiling
- chimneys – your chimney should be swept at least once a year, depending on the type of fuel you use.
It’s also good to think about any changes you might want to make to help you stay independent in the future. For example:
- if you’re getting your home rewired, consider raising your sockets so you won’t have to bend down to reach them
- increase the number of sockets so you don’t have trailing wires
- increase the lighting, especially in hallways and around staircases
- make your home more energy efficient – for example, have individual radiator thermostats so you only heat the rooms you use, and install timers
- consider insulating your roof and loft and draught-proofing windows and doors. If you have cavity walls that have not been insulated, also consider getting these insulated
- if you’re replacing doors and windows, consider using UPVC frames, which are easier to maintain.
You may also want to think about home adaptations.
If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit or you’re on a low income or receive certain other benefits, you may qualify for a discount on your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Your energy supplier will have to be part of the scheme. If you qualify, £140 will be credited to your electricity account, key or meter by the end of March.
If you’re having problems paying your energy bills, some energy companies have grants or trusts that can help. You don’t always have to be with that energy company to apply but contact your own supplier first to find out if they have grants available. Charis Grants can direct you to organisations that can help with energy debts and Gov.uk has an energy grant finder.
The British Gas Energy Trust helps anyone with gas or electricity debts. You should get debt advice before you apply as you are more likely to be successful. They also provide grants for boiler replacement or repairs and energy-efficient white goods.
Npower has a Health Through Warmth scheme that helps people with long-term illnesses and low incomes and savings to heat and insulate their homes.
You can also get advice and information on energy-saving measures from Simple Energy Advice.
Handyperson services for odd jobs
Handyperson services carry out small tasks and repairs, such as:
- changing light bulbs
- fitting smoke alarms
- hanging curtains and blinds
- unblocking sinks or toilets
- assessing and fixing potential hazards, eg trailing wires, loose rugs with curled edges, or overloaded sockets.
If you’re finding it difficult to do small jobs around the home, your local council may have a list of approved handyperson services that can help you. Contact the council’s housing department. Your local Age UK or another local charity may offer a handyperson service but make sure the provider is approved, for example by Trustmark or your local council.
Home Improvement Agencies
A Home Improvement Agency (HIA) is a not-for-profit organisation that can provide help and advice on home maintenance and repairs, including:
- advice on the scale and cost of work
- energy efficiency measures
- handyperson services
- help applying for grants
- getting estimates and quotes
- overseeing work.
Not all HIAs provide all these services. You will need to contact your local HIA, which you can find on the Foundations website. Most HIAs offer free initial advice, but will probably charge a fee if you decide to go ahead with work with their assistance.
Finding a builder
Before you employ a builder:
- check if the work needs planning permission on the Planning Portal website
- if you’re a leaseholder, check your lease to see if you need permission from the freeholder before carrying out work.
When choosing a builder:
- ask for recommendations and/or use a Trustmark approved builder
- ask for references
- get a written quote – which is a promise to do work at a fixed price - rather than an estimate. Check that the quote includes the costs of material and labour
- compare at least three quotes before choosing a builder
- don’t pay the full price of the work upfront but agree a schedule of payment as well as start and completion dates
- check that the builder has public liability insurance.
Beware of builders who knock on your door and advise you that you need to have some work done. This could be a scam. Always check the credentials of any contractors and don’t employ anyone who puts you under pressure to make a quick decision.
If you own your home, you'll need buildings and contents insurance for your home. If you’re a leaseholder, your freeholder will probably arrange and manage the buildings insurance policy. If you rent, your landlord is responsible for the buildings insurance, but you should consider taking out contents cover.
Compare a number of quotes. If you’re buying buildings and contents insurance, it’s often cheaper to get a joint policy.
You should tell your insurance provider if you have work done on your home. This applies to tenants as well as home owners, especially if there is anything that may affect the security of your home, such as scaffolding. The cost of your policy may also be affected if the building work increases the value of your property.
Help with costs
If you‘re on a low income or receiving certain benefits you may be eligible for financial help from your local council or the Social Fund, usually in the form of an interest-free loan, to help with repairs and improvements. For more information, see our factsheet Extra help with essential costs if you’re on a low income.
Some charities may also be able to provide financial help. Search for a charity at turn2us.
You could consider taking out a personal loan from your bank or building society to help with home improvements or repairs. The interest rate and repayments are usually fixed, making it easier to budget, but get advice first. You can find an adviser through unbiased. The Money Advice Service has an online calculator to help you see how much a loan will cost and how quickly you can pay it off.
If you’ve taken out a loan to pay for repairs or home improvements and you’re receiving Guarantee Pension Credit or certain other benefits, you may be able to get help with the interest payments. Gov.uk has more information.