Housing Highlights Home Modification and Repair

WHAT IS HOME MODIFICATION AND REPAIR?

  • Modifications are adaptations to homes that can make it easier and safer to carry out activities such as bathing, cooking, and climbing stairs.
  • Repairs are 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
Difficutly getting in and out of the shower Install grab bars, showers seats or transfer benches.
Slipping in the tub or shower Place non-skid strips or decals in the tub or shower
Difficulty turning faucet handels or doorknobs Replace with lever handles
Access to home Install ramps
Inadequate heating or ventilation Install insulation, storm windows and air conditioning
Problems climbing stairs Install handrails for support



FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

While some home modification and repair programs charge for alterations, many programs provide services free of charge or a reduced rates for eligible older people. For more information about financial assistance, contact the following:

  • Farmers Home Administration: Various grants and loans are available for rural low-income elders.
  • 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 Office 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 their 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 modificaion 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 accessiblilty, reinforced walls to accomodate 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 department on aging
  • State housing finance agency
  • Department of public welfare
  • Department of community development
  • Senior center
  • Independent living center

 

If you need to use a contractor consider taking these steps:

  • Get recommendations from friends who have had similar projects completed.
  • Hire a licensed and bonded contractor. Be specific about changes you wish to make in advance.
  • Ask for a written agreement, with only a small down payment. Make the final payment only after the project is completed.
  • Check with your local Better Business Bureau 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 NW, Washington, D.C. 20005
For more information, call: (202)737-4650
Price: $12.50

Safety for Older Consumers
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C. 20207
For more information, call: 1-800-638-2772
Price: Free

The DoAble Renewable Home: Making Your Home Fit Your Needs (D12470)
AARP Fulfillment, Consumer Affairs
601 E Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20049
For more information, call: (202) 972-4700
Price: Free (single copies).

For more information, write to:
the National Resource and Policy Center on Housing and Long Term Care
USC, Andrus Gerontology Center
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191.

NATIONAL POLICY AND RESOURCE CENTER ON HOUSING AND LONG TERM CARE

A project supported by the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Grant No. 90AM0498/02. 8/92

 

 

A project of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification,
in affiliation with the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, funded by the Archstone Foundation.
Located at the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center, Los Angeles, California 90089-0191 (213) 740-1364.