Living & Lifestyle

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Home improvements: Benefits for over 65s


As the evenings draw in and more time is spent indoors as the cold weather returns, many British people’s minds turn to home improvements and refurbishment. In fact, one study from American Express showed that the average homeowner is planning to spend £678 on renovations, £433 on home repairs and £314 on soft furnishings this year alone.

However, it’s easy to overlook the number of grants and offers designed to help homeowners make particular improvements, especially retired homeowners or those in receipt of certain benefits.

So what help can you apply for if you want to boost your home’s value and energy efficiency, and where do you go to get it? After all, a surprisingly large number of grants and offers go unclaimed because people simply don’t know what they can qualify for.

Before you hit the DIY store or ring a builder, here’s our quick guide to grants and freebies.


1.       Home Improvement Renovation Grant

Some councils offer grants or low-cost loans to help residents with the cost of home improvements, but what’s on offer varies considerably. Different councils provide different levels of help or limit it to particular residents, but some will provide assistance for those in retirement.

However, it might limit the help available if you have savings or an income of a certain level. You can investigate what help your local authority provides by entering your postcode here.

Home improvements


 2.       Free insulation

Cavity wall and loft insulation can make a huge difference to your monthly fuel bills. Many energy suppliers offer them to certain people as part of their legally binding commitment to increase the efficiency of UK homes.

You may be able to get help fitting insulation, with some energy companies offering it to people once they reach a certain age, and others providing it to anyone who is receiving benefits, such as Pension Credit.

Remember, you don’t have to be a customer to qualify for help with an energy provider, so visit their websites and find out what each is offering and who qualifies.


3.       Boiler cashback scheme

Sadly, this is just for the Londoners, although it’s worth contacting your local authority to see if there’s anything similar running by you. Since February this year, the London Boiler Cashback Scheme has paid homeowners and landlords £400 cashback if they replace an inefficient boiler with a better, more modern model.

It will save London from a source of pollution and help households massively reduce their energy bills. You can get all the details you need via the dedicated website.


4.       Free boiler for Pension Credit recipients

Wherever you are in the UK, you may well qualify for a free brand new boiler courtesy of the energy providers, as long as you meet certain requirements, such as claiming Pension Credits. It’s worth checking out if you qualify because the payoff can be considerable; a new boiler can cost thousands of pounds and save hundreds of pounds a year.

These boilers are fitted by energy companies and you don’t even have to be a customer. Call the Energy Saving Trust to find out if you qualify, the number is below.


5.       Free water saving gadgets

Okay, this is hardly in the same sphere as a brand new boiler, but almost every water customer in the country will qualify for water-saving freebies from their provider. There’s a variety of easy-to-fit freebies ranging from highly efficient shower heads to bricks that reduce the water used to flush the loo.

You can find out what freebies you’re entitled to via this website.


Getting advice

If you’re not sure where to start looking for additional help then it’s worth asking a specialist what you could be entitled to. The Energy Saving Trust is a good place to start, with a helpline for anyone who needs advice. The number is 0300 123 1234 in England and Wales; 0800 1422 865 in Northern Ireland; or 0808 808 22 82 in Scotland.

You can also check out the Turn 2 Us website, which has a grant finding tool, to help you see what’s on offer in your area and for your circumstances.


What about insurance?

If you’re planning to upgrade your home then you’re likely to be thinking of calling builders, decorators, maybe even friends to come round and see your newly improved property.

However, it’s also important to give your home insurer a ring. If the improvements are substantial and increase the potential rebuild cost of your home, for example an extension, then you should inform your insurer so they can check you’re covered.  If you’re leaving your home for a time while any work is carried out then it’s especially important to tell your insurer, or you risk your cover being invalidated at the worst possible time.

If you’re improving the property and it’s going to affect the rebuild cost then it’s important to let your insurer know.

Remember, if you’re in any doubt about whether you should tell RIAS about a change in your property then just give our friendly call centre a ring on 0345 234 0117. Lines are open 8.30am - 8pm Monday - Friday and 8.30am - 4pm Saturdays.

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