Home improvement grants and loans
Local authorities throughout the UK offer a number of grants for homeowners and landlords to improve their property. In most cases, homeowners will need to be in receipt of state benefits, classed as ‘vulnerable’ homeowners or on low incomes. Those who are on low incomes will need to complete a ‘financial resources’ form which provides information about their personal income and this will have to be backed up with evidence. Grants for landlords tend not to be means-tested. Instead, a landlord may receive a percentage of the cost of the work, rather than the full amount that may be payable to means-tested homeowners.
Eligibility criteria vary between local authorities and will depend on the grant for which you are applying. However, for homeowner grants you will need to hold the freehold of the property, intend to live in the property for a specified number of years and have the property as your sole residence. Also, you will need to meet the financial criteria mentioned above. Landlords will need to demonstrate that they intend to let the property for a specified number of years after improvements have been made.
Application procedures vary, but in general you will need to check that you meet the eligibility criteria, fill in the appropriate forms, including a financial assessment and provide the required evidence. This could include bank statements, wage slips and benefit books. Your local authority will let you know whether your application has been successful and, if not, will tell you why. In most cases you have the right to appeal against the decision. In some local authorities, even if your application is successful, you will be placed on a waiting list until funds become available.
In some cases an Environmental Health Officer or Improvement Grants Officer will visit your property to assess your needs and help you to find out which grants are the most suitable. A schedule of works will be drawn up that itemises the work that needs doing.
Some local authorities have a list of approved contractors that must be used to carry out the work, whereas others will require you to obtain the relevant quotations from local contractors. If this is the case, the local authority will inspect the quotation to check that it is reasonable and will want contact details for the contractor, to check that they are legitimate and not a relation or friend of yours. Some will provide a list of builders to help you choose a reliable company/builder.
Local authority schemes vary from year to year, depending on the funds available. The types of schemes that might be available include the following:
- Home Energy Efficiency Grants;
- Energy Grants;
- Renovation Grants;
- Empty Property Grants;
- Loan Scheme for Housing Repairs;
- Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Grants.
Contact your local authority direct or visit their website for more information about home improvement grants and loans. You can obtain contact details by using the search facility available at http://mycouncil.direct.gov.uk/index.html.