Housing Options Guide 3b

3b. Home improvements for occupied private housing

Most people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible but may need help if there are problems with an old or unsuitable home. Although the responsibility for maintaining a privately owned property should lie with the owner, we have a Scheme of Assistance that aims to improve the condition of housing in Moray.  We can give free advice to home owners and private tenants, and in some cases may be able to offer grant assistance and practical help.   

New Fire Safety Standard
The Fire safety standard in Scotland has changed. Every home in Scotland must now meet the "Tolerable Standard", by having interlinked smoke and heat detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors will also be required if you have carbon-fuelled appliances in the property.

Information on the new standard is detailed in the Scottish Government Fire and smoke alarms: changes to the law factsheet.

All homeowners are responsible for ensuring that their property meets this requirement.

Moray Council’s Care & Repair service has secured funding from Scottish Government to help qualifying homeowners meet this Fire Standard by providing interlinked heat and smoke alarms as well as carbon monoxide alarms. The Scheme will be in line with the Scottish Government qualifying criteria.  To be eligible for support from Care & Repair you must live and own your home that has a Council Tax banding of A-C.  You must also either be of state pension age and in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit, or
have a disability and be in a support group for Employment and Support Allowance.

If you have not installed heat and smoke detection to meet this standard, you feel you meet the above criteria and would like to be considered for assistance (resources permitting), please email us at: privatesectorhousing@moray.gov.uk or call us on 07875 034212.

Scheme of Assistance

Our Scheme of Assistance offers free advice and help to home owners and private tenants who wish to carry out home alterations, repairs, adaptations and improvements.  This allows them to live comfortably and independently for as long as possible in their own home.  Organising and financing building and repair work can be a complicated and stressful experience but we can help to ease the burden.  

We can offer a Care and Repair service to home owners and private tenants who are over the age of sixty or who have a disability.  This service can help them to have their homes improved, repaired or adapted.  Housing grant assistance may be available for specific works for those who are on low incomes or have a disability.  Under the Care and Repair service we can:

  • Offer help by discussing what improvements, repairs or adaptations are needed;
  • Help to get estimates from reputable contractors, and arrange for plans to be produced if needed;
  • Make sure the work is finished to an acceptable standard; and
  • Help with paperwork, including filling in a housing grant application.

Housing grant assistance is only available to people who receive the Care and Repair service.  Most grants are discretionary and are usually subject to a test of financial resources (also called means testing).  However, under certain conditions, some grants for adapting a property to suit the needs of a disabled person are mandatory, and we must approve these.  Section 5 of our housing options guide has more information on housing options for people with disabilities.

Works that are eligible for a grant (Care and Repair clients only):

  • Work to bring the house up to the statutory Tolerable Standard by the provision of standard amenities. This could be works to address structural instability or eradication of severe dampness.  Standard amenities are a sink, a fixed bath or shower, a wash hand basin and a toilet;
  • Alterations and enlargement where this is necessary to provide adequate kitchen or bathroom facilities where none currently exists. It may also be required to meet the needs of a disabled person;
  • Replacement of unsafe electrical wiring;
  • Installation of mains powered smoke and heat detectors;
  • Provision of adequate thermal loft insulation if other works are being carried out;
  • Work needed to make the property suitable for the everyday living, welfare or employment of a disabled person. This includes purpose built extensions to accommodate a ground floor bathroom or bedroom;
  • Works to repair both the internal and external fabric of a house to maintain the property.  For example, repairs to walls, roofs and the eradication of rot which could be affecting the structure;
  • The replacement of water supply pipes which are made of lead;
  • Work intended to reduce exposure to radon gas;
  • The provision of a fire retardant entrance door and a main door entry-phone system for buildings in common ownership.

Grants will not be awarded to cover works that:

  • Improve an already satisfactory house (for example, by enlarging a property);
  • Support the commercial activity of a landlord;
  • Are equivalent to building a new home (for example, where essentially a new home is built on little more than the foundations, or part of the walls of a derelict building).

Click here to see a table showing home improvements grant criteria.  Expenditure limits and eligibility are set by law and cannot usually be changed.  In very exceptional circumstances we can apply to the Scottish Government for an increase in the allowed limits.  The decision to do this is at our discretion.

Housing grants

Housing grants currently available include improvement grants for disabled adaptations, and repair grants.  You must be a Care and Repair client to receive housing grant assistance.  

Improvement grants for disabled adaptations

Both discretionary and mandatory improvement grants are available to adapt houses and make them suitable for occupants with disabilities.  This could include work such as installing level access showers, ramps, stairlifts or purpose built extensions to accommodate a ground floor bedroom or bathroom.

A mandatory improvement grant is also available if a property already has a standard amenity, but needs a second one more suitably located for a disabled person.  For instance, a home may have an upstairs toilet but the occupant may have a disability that requires them to have access to a downstairs toilet. 

Repair grants

Discretionary repair grants may be awarded for work to both the internal and external fabric of a house which is needed to maintain a property, and make it more comfortable for someone to remain in their home.  Such works could include replacement windows, eradication of dampness or renewal of electrical wiring.  Please call us to discuss any specific enquiries or concerns you may have about repair grants on 0300 1234 566.

Discretionary repair grants may also be available for replacing lead piping or reducing exposure to radon gas.

If we think that a house is in a serious state of disrepair, or is likely to fall into serious disrepair, we can serve a works notice on the property to make the owner repair the faults.  

Grants may also be available to help with works specified in a notice served by us on a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) that needs a fire escape.

Grant application process

The owner(s) of the property will normally be the applicant.  However, if you are one of the following you are also eligible to apply:

  • Agricultural and crofting tenants;
  • Life renters, and;
  • Private tenants if you are responsible for planned works.  The responsibility must be by means of a formal repairing lease, and such an agreement must have been in existence for more than two years before the date of application.

To apply for a grant you will need to fill in an application form. A member of our team will normally visit you at home to fill in the application form with you.  They will need to see evidence of your income and expenditure and proof of ownership.

We need:

  • At least two competitive tenders from contractors for all proposed works;
  • Detailed priced specifications with the various trades broken down into individually priced items (lump sum estimates are unacceptable).  If we think that the proposed works do not justify the preparation of such detailed estimates, a simpler form of priced specification may be accepted.  For example, where the application relates solely to one item or to certain repairs. Professional fees may form part of the cost on which the grant is based. Our team can arrange for plans to be produced, help you to identify suitable contractors, and help you obtain quotes.

If the work proposed  involves a damp-proof course and/or dry rot eradication, your estimates must be obtained from firms who are prepared to guarantee the work for a period of 30 years from the completion of the project.

We may inspect the work at any time during the course of the improvements or repair work being carried out.

Approving a grant

Discretionary grant applications will only be approved if there are sufficient funds available.  There is no time limit as to when an application will be approved.  Our budget is limited and the approval of any grant depends on the availability of funds at the time of application.

Approved grants will be based on either the lowest single contractor, or separate trade estimates submitted.  A grant will only be paid if one of the contractors who tendered for the works is employed, unless you have our specific prior agreement.  If you want to appoint a more expensive contractor you will be responsible for the additional cost.

Grant payments

Invoices for the grant can be submitted to us and can be paid in up to four instalments.  The final payment will be made after we are satisfied that the planned works have been completed properly.

Applications for payment by instalments will only be considered on the basis that:

a) At least 25% of the grant earning works are completed to our satisfaction before payment of the first instalment; and

b) The remainder of the works are fully completed within 12 months of the date of the first instalment, provided the first instalment is claimed within six months of the date of approval.

Further information

Read our leaflet on the Scheme of Assistance for more information.

You can also contact our Home Improvement Team:

Phone:  0300 1234 566

Email:  homeimprovementteam@moray.gov.uk 

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