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Buying a home if you're a disabled person

If you are a disabled person, buying your own home can lead to greater independence. You can choose where and how you want to live, and adapt your home to suit your lifestyle. This page looks at the things you'll need to consider.

How do I find a suitable property?

It may take you a while to find a suitable property, especially if you have a lot of specific needs (for example, if you need a house or flat on the ground floor, accessible parking or to live in a certain area). Particulars supplied by estate agents and online home hunting services don't usually specify whether or not the properties are accessible or easily adaptable, so you may need to look at several unsuitable places before you find somewhere right for you.

Use our home buyer's checklist to help you think about the pros and cons of properties you view and our accessibility checklist (also available in large print) to see if a property is suitable for you. Remember, it may be possible to adapt the property to suit you (see 'getting adaptations done' below), or to improve access to the area, for example, by applying for a designated disabled parking space from the council.

The Accessible Property website lists accessible property for sale or rent in the UK, although it doesn't have many properties on offer in Scotland.

Check the home report 

Almost all properties marketed in Scotland must come with a home report, which provides more information about the home. Part of the home report is an accessibility audit, which looks at things such as width of doors, positioning of bathrooms and the number of steps to the property.

Find out more about home reports.

Using an estate agent or solicitors' property centre

Estate agents and solicitors' property centres have a duty to make their services accessible to disabled people. For example, they should:

  • make their offices as physically accessible as possible, for instance, by providing a ramp or lift
  • provide particulars of properties in Braille or easy read
  • helping disabled clients visit properties, if possible.

If you think that an agent you deal with is not making reasonable adjustments to help you or is treating you less favourably than other, non-disabled clients, this is discrimination. The page on dealing with disability discrimination has more information on action you can take if you're in this situation.

How do I go about getting a mortgage?

Unless you can afford to buy a property without borrowing any money, you will need to get a mortgage from a bank or building society to help you pay for your new home.

Many people have to rely on benefits to make up their income. However, this needn't prevent you getting a mortgage.

What additional costs will I need to consider when buying a home?

As well as the cost of taking on a mortgage, when you buy your own home you also need to pay other expenses such as solicitors' fees, stamp duty and insurance.

In addition, you may also need to take into account:

  • possible higher insurance premiums
  • the cost of getting any adaptations made to the property.

Getting adaptations done

If you can't find a suitable property, you could consider buying a property that you can adapt to meet your needs.

How do I decide on the adaptations I need?

Once you have found a property you like, your social worker, occupational therapist or an adviser from a disability centre may be able to view the property with you and help you decide what work would need to be carried out. This might include:

  • putting up handrails
  • widening the doors for wheelchair access
  • lowering kitchen surfaces
  • installing a new bathroom.

Depending on your circumstances and the adaptations you require, you may be eligible for a grant from the council to help you pay for these adaptations. This can be complicated, and you should get the help of an occupational therapist to help you decide what adaptations you need to make your home suitable.

If you are ineligible for grant funding, you should then get a quote from a joiner and/or builder to make sure you can afford to get the work done. You can find a builder at the Federation of Master Builders' Find A Builder website.

Will I need planning permission and/or a building warrant?

If the adaptations are substantial, you may need to get planning permission and/or a building warrant from the council. It's important to find out whether or not you will be able to get the necessary permission before you buy the property - get in touch with your local planning office to find out. You can find contact details on your council's website.

Can social work help?

Once you have moved into the property, you can ask social work to carry out an assessment and recommend any additional changes that could be made to help you live independently more easily. You can find contact details for your local social work department on your council's website or using the Advice Services Directory.

New build homes

New build homes must now be designed to be 'barrier free'. This means they are more accessible and more easily and economically adapted to suit the needs of disabled people.

For example, new build homes must:

  • be easily accessible from the road or parking area
  • have adequate space, wide enough corridors and suitable doors for wheelchair users to move around easily
  • allow access to essential rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen
  • have a toilet or bathroom on the ground floor
  • allow easy access to all fittings and controls, such as light switches, plug sockets and controls for the heating
  • leave room for a stairlift to be installed, if the home has stairs.

If you are buying a property that isn't yet complete, you may be offered a choice of kitchen and bathroom fittings for the home, in which case you may be able to arrange for accessible fittings to be installed.

Find out more about buying a new build home.

Self-build homes

If you have very specific needs and are unable to find a suitable property to buy, you could consider building your own home. Contact Ownership Options in Scotland for advice on how to go about this. You can also find information from the National House-Building Council (NHBC) and Gov.uk (bear in mind that Gov.uk is mainly aimed at people living in England, so not all the information will apply to you if you live in Scotland).

Shared ownership

Shared ownership schemes allow you to purchase part of your home (for example, a quarter or a half of the value) and continue to pay rent on the rest. This means you will not need to take out such a large mortgage because you will not be paying for the value of the whole house. Your monthly payments for mortgage and rent together will be lower than the monthly payments for a full mortgage. If you have capital you may be able to buy your share outright. If you have a low income it may be possible to claim Housing Benefit for the rent part of the payment.

Access Ownership is a new shared ownership scheme for disabled people set up by Ownership Options and Link Housing.

Find out more about Access Ownership.

Shared Equity schemes

The Shared Equity schemes were set up by the Scottish Government to give financial help to people who cannot afford the full purchase price of a home. Like shared ownership, the scheme allows you to buy a stake in a property, which will normally be built by a housing association. However, you don't have to pay any form of rent for the part you don't own.

Ownership Options runs an advice service for disabled people interested in buying a home through the Shared Equity schemes.

What if a member of my family is a disabled person?

If a member of your family is a disabled person and you want to move to a new home that is more suitable for your needs, you should be able get help to pay your mortgage interest as part of your benefits.

If a disabled family member would like to live independently but isn't able to take on the legal responsibility of buying a home, Ownership Options can give you advice on how to go about buying a home for them, what benefits they can claim, how to set up a trust and what to do if you need to get power of attorney.

Where can I get help and advice?

Ownership Options in Scotland are specialists in the problems faced by disabled home buyers in Scotland, and offer advice and assistance to disabled people, carers and professionals. They can help with the financial, legal and design issues that disabled people and their families are likely to face when buying a house.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444*
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

*Our advice line is free to call from landlines and all six of the main UK mobile networks, Virgin, Orange, 3, T-mobile, Vodafone and O2, but charges may apply from any other network

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