Home adaptation help: Everything you need to know about adapting your home

Feeling comfortable at home is a must. That’s why living in a house that suits your needs is incredibly important. Not all houses may meet your requirements at first, but making adaptations to your home can greatly improve your quality of life, making it safer and easier to move around and complete everyday tasks.

Thomas Staines-Moore, head of accessible home renovation company Fine & Able, says that many people could continue living more safely and independently if they were able to make adjustments to their home. “A good illustration of this comes from a study which looked at people aged 75 and older who had been widowed but remained living in an adapted home,” he explains. “The study found that where adaptations were left in place, serious falls were reduced by nearly 40%.”

Fine & Able helps people across the UK to adapt their bathrooms in a style they love, offering planning and design alongside an extensive collection of accessible home products. “We’ve created hundreds of beautifully accessible bathrooms that our clients love,” Thomas explains. “One example is the bathroom we created for TV presenter, author, disability activist and wheelchair user Sophie Morgan. When Sophie first moved in, her bathroom looked clinical and was barely meeting minimum access requirements. As well as transforming her bathroom aesthetically, Fine & Able worked with Sophie to create a space that functioned better, too.”

If you’re unsure how to get started with adapting your home, here are the answers to some key questions.


How do I get started with adapting my home?

To start your home adaptation process, Scope advises going through either your local authority (council), your housing association or the NHS.

Usually, the first step is to get an assessment from your local authority. Local councils have teams that manage home adaptations, offering home assessments and recommendations that could make your life easier at home. Having a home assessment is free but, be warned, it can be a lengthy process. Apply for a home assessment on GOV.UK as soon as you can to get the process started.

Alternatively, your housing association might manage applications for adaptations instead. This means that the local authority has agreed to fund the housing association to do so. To find out who deals with home adaptations, you’ll need to contact your local authority.

NHS adaptations are usually provided if you need something urgently, for example if you’re about to be discharged from hospital or if certain equipment could help you avoid going to hospital. However, these will only be minor adaptations such as grab rails or temporary ramps; all larger adaptations would need to be done via your local council.


What happens during a home assessment?

A home assessment is used to fully identify what is needed at your home. An occupational therapist will visit you at your home to ask you questions, so it’s important that you tell them everything you find difficult – even if this seems like something small, like opening a cupboard. Together, you can work out what you need to make life easier at home.

These assessments usually take at least an hour, and you might also be referred for a needs assessment to see if you could benefit from extra help at home.

Find out more about home adaptations and occupational therapist assessments on Scope’s website, or on the NHS website

A bright, accessible bathroom renovation showing a larger shower


What home adaptations are available?

“Creating an accessible space for people with a range of disabilities means removing obstacles, designing clever layouts, and adding discreet support and innovative products at the right height, such as basins that accommodate a wheelchair underneath,” explains Thomas. “When designing for wheelchair users, the height of the basin and toilet, positioning of taps, flush plate and shower control are hugely important.”

If you know what adaptations you need or if these adaptations are urgent, some housing providers will make minor adaptations without an assessment. This includes grab rails, special taps or door handles – but you will still need an assessment for any larger adjustments.

Larger adaptations can include anything from fitting a stairlift, bath lift or walk-in shower, to widening doorways, lowering kitchen worktops or upgrading your home security, by installing outside lights and intercom systems.

“Wetrooms are the most accessible bathroom you can create,” continues Thomas. “A large open shower area with a light bi-fold door and digitally controlled shower valve is suitable for everyone, ensures the water is the right temperature and looks stunning. A place to perch in the shower is a popular choice, and a seat which neatly tucks out of the way when not in use is ideal for anyone who sits to wash. Statement tiles are the ideal finishing touch to ensure that accessible bathrooms look the opposite of clinical.”

Woman in a wheelchair making tea at a lowered kitchen counter, with a cat on her lap


Can I make adaptations to a rented home?

Home adaptations can be done to both owned and rented homes – but you will need to get permission from your housing provider or landlord to change any physical features.

If you qualify as disabled under the Equality Act, you do have the right to reasonable adjustments and ‘auxiliary aids’ – though these are limited to adjustments that do not make a physical or structural change to your home.

Any structural changes will require you to have formal permission confirming you can adapt the property. For example, if you’re applying for the Disabled Facilities Grant
, you’ll need to show you have permission from the owner. Be aware that if you make any changes without permission, you could get fined or your landlord could take legal action.

Depending on the type of support you need, temporary aids and adaptations are a great alternative to larger renovations. They can be moved with you if you relocate, and are also an ideal alternative if your landlord or housing provider can’t provide the adaptations you need. We’ve included some examples below:

If your current rental property doesn’t meet your needs – or if your landlord is unable to make larger changes required – relocating could be a simpler option.

If you’re open to moving home, you can find accessible homes using organisations such as Habinteg or Accessible PRS. Alternatively, you may need to ask your local authority to re-house you. Read more about this on Scope’s landlords, disabled tenants and adaptations resource. 


How do you fund home adaptations?

Your local authority may pay for your home adaptations if the total cost is under £1,000. However, this will depend on your local authority and their available budget. If they do cover the costs, this won’t be based on your income.

Some local authorities may also offer an interest free loan to help you cover the costs. It’s best to ask your housing provider for their policy on home adaptations to know what you’re entitled to.

Larger home adaptations – such as a wet room or the widening of doorways – might mean that you’ll need to apply for a grant. The
Disabled Facilities Grant, for example, is based on your income, and usually requires you to stay in the property for ‘the term of the grant’. Alternatively, Independence at Home is a charity that gives grants to disabled people or people with a long-term illness who need financial help.

Charities supporting people with specific conditions and impairments might also offer grants, so it’s worth looking about.

Further reading:

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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