Maintaining your home
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
- electrics – you should get your wiring checked by a registered electrician every ten years
- damp – check the cause before treating as it may be a problem with ventilation and condensation
- drains and guttering – you could ask your window cleaner for help with this.
It’s also good to think about the future and how you can stay independent. For example, if you’re getting your home rewired you could consider raising your sockets so you won’t have to bend down to reach them. You could also:
- 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 loft and draught-proofing windows and doors
- if you’re replacing doors and windows, consider using UPVC frames, which are easier to maintain.
You may also want to think about getting some home adaptations.
If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit or you’re on a low income or receive certain other benefits, you may be eligible for a discount on your electricity bill under the warm home discount scheme. Your energy supplier will also have to be part of the scheme. If you qualify, £140 will be credited to your electricity account, key or meter during the winter.
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.
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 to heat and insulate their homes. Go to npower.com/health_through_warmth for details.
You can also get advice and information on energy saving measures from the Energy Saving Advice Service.
Odd jobs and small repairs
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. You can also get information from your local Home Improvement Agency.
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.
Finding a builder
Before you employ a builder there are a number of things you should consider, for example:
- check if the work needs planning permission
- ask for recommendations and/or use a Trustmark approved builder
- ask for references
- get a quote – which is a promise to do work at a fixed price - rather than an estimate
- get at least three quotes before you decide
- 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 is likely to 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 will need buildings and contents insurance for your home. If you are a leaseholder, your freeholder will probably arrange and manage the buildings insurance policy. If you rent, your landlord is responsible for the buildings insurance.
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 and/or receiving certain benefits you may be eligible for financial help from your local council or the Social Fund, usually in the form of a loan, to help with repairs and improvements. For more information, see our factsheet: Local welfare assistance schemes and the Social Fund.
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 on unbiased.
If you’ve taken out a loan to pay for repairs or home improvements and you are receiving Guarantee Pension Credit or certain other benefits, you may be able to get help with the interest payments. For more information go to gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest/overview.
You can find contact details for your local council at gov.uk/find-your-local-council