Home Modification and Repair

Why Is Home Modification and Repair Important? | Financial Assistance | Good News for Renters | Where to Get Help | Using a Contractor | Additional Information

Home Modification and Repair includes adaptations to homes that can make it easier and safer to carry out activities such as bathing, cooking, and climbing stairs and alterations to the physical structure of the home to improve its overall safety and condition.

WHY IS HOME MODIFICATION AND REPAIR IMPORTANT?

  • Home modification and repair can help prevent accidents such as falls. Research suggests that one-third to one-half of home accidents can be prevented by modification and repair.
  • Home modification and repair can allow people to remain in their homes. Older people tend to live in older homes that often need repairs and modifications. Over 60% of older persons live in homes more than 20 years old. Home modification and repair can accommodate lifestyle changes and increase comfort.

How Can Home Modification and Repairs Promote Independence and Prevent Accidents?

TYPICAL PROBLEMS:

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

Difficulty getting in and out of the shower

Install grab bars, shower seals or transfer benches

Slipping in the tub or shower

Place non-skid strips or decals in the tub or shower

Difficulty turning faucet handles/doorknobs

Replace with lever handles

Access to home

Install ramps

Inadequate heating or ventilation

Install insulation, storm windows and air conditioning

Problems climbing staffs

Install handrails for support

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FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Some home modification and repair programs make loans or provide services free of charge or at reduced rates for eligible older people. For more information, contact:

USDA, Rural Development (formerly Farmers Home Administration): Offers 1% interest repair loans to very low and elderly home-owners and repair grants to the elderly that qualify. Call USDA the USDA Office of Communications at (202) 720-2791 to request the field office that covers the applicant's area.

Local Community Development Department: Many cities and towns use Community Development Block Grants to help citizens maintain and upgrade their homes.

Local Welfare or Energy Department: Two programs from the Low- income Home Energy Assistance. Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the U.S. Department of Energy, provide funds to weatherize the homes of lower income persons.

Physician or Health Care Provider: Funds from Medicare and Medicaid are available for durable medical equipment with a doctor's prescription.

Local Area Agency on Aging: Funds from the Older Americans Act Title III often can be used to modify and repair homes.

Local Lenders and Banks: Some lenders offer Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM's) that allow homeowners to turn the value of theft home into cash, without having to move or make regular loan payments.

GOOD NEWS FOR RENTERS

The Fair Housing Act of 1988 Section 6(a) makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to let tenants make reasonable modifications to their house or apartment if the tenant is willing to pay for the changes. The law also requires new construction of dwellings with four or more units to include features such as wheelchair accessibility, reinforced walls to accommodate later installation of grab bars in bathrooms, and accessible electrical outlets and thermostats.

WHERE TO GET HELP

There are several ways to modify and repair your home. You can: 1) do it yourself, or get a friend or relative to help; 2) hire a handyman or contractor; 3) contact a home modification and repair program. Programs can be located through your:

  • Local Area Agency On Aging
  • State Agency On Aging
  • State Housing Finance Agency
  • Department of Public Welfare
  • Department of Community Development
  • Senior Center Independent Living Center

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USING A CONTRACTOR

If you need to use a contractor, make certain that the contractor is reliable. Older people are prime target for con artists and fraud. Be especially wary of door-to-door repair salespersons. Consider taking these steps:

  • Get recommendations from friends who have had similar projects completed.
  • Hire a licensed and bonded contractor. Be specific about the work which you want. Try to get bids from several contractors.
  • Ask for references from previous customers -- CHECK OUT THE REFERENCES; try to see some of the contractor's completed projects.
  • Insist on a written agreement, with only a small down payment. Have a trusted family member or friend read the agreement. Consider having the agreement reviewed by your lawyer if it is very complicated. Make the final payment only after the project is completed.
  • Check with your local Better Business Bureau or your city/county Consumer Affairs Office regarding the contractor's reliability and performance record.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Home Safety Guide for Older People: Check It Out/Fix It Up by Jon Pynoos and Evelyn Cohen, Serif Press, Inc., 1331 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. For more information, call: (202) 737-4650. Price: $12.50.

Older Consumers Safety Publication, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207 -- For more information, call: 1- 800-638-2772 or email: [email protected] Price: Free.

The DoAble Renewable Home: Making Your Home Fit Your Needs (D12470). AARP Fulfillment, Consumer Affairs, 601 E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20049. Price: Free (single copies).

Eldercare Locator: For information about services to the elderly, call 1-800- 677-1116.

This document was adapted from material developed by the National Eldercare Institute on Housing and Supportive Services, Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California. Duplication of this document is encouraged with attribution of the source.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

Sources

Administration on Aging. "Home Modification and Repair." From Elder Action: Action Ideas for Older Persons and Their Families. (Online) Last modified June 15, 2001. Last reviewed 2001.

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