Scheme of assistance
If you're repairing, improving or adapting your home, moving home or are building a home from scratch, you may be able to get help from the council. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 has introduced the 'scheme of assistance' in each council area, which replaced the system of home improvement grants.
What is the scheme of assistance?
The 'scheme of assistance' offers advice and help to people who need to carry out repair and improvement work to their homes. The scheme aims to help more people keep their homes in good condition than the current scheme, by offering a wider range of services.
It also aims to encourage home owners to take more responsibility for the condition of their homes, to ensure that private housing in Scotland is kept in a decent state of repair.
How can I find out what kind of help is available?
It is up to each council in Scotland to decide how it will deliver the scheme, and to draw up a 'statement of assistance' explaining how the scheme works in its area. For example, the statement should set out:
what kind of information and advice is available, and where you can access it
situations in which practical help is available, for example, through care and repair services
situations in which loans and grants may be awarded.
This statement must be made publicly available.
When can I go to the council for help?
The council can help you if you're carrying out any work for the following purposes:
buying or selling a home
converting a house or other premises into one or more homes
building a home
improving, repairing or maintaining a home
bringing a home into a reasonable state of repair
keeping a home in a reasonable state of repair
adapting a home for a disabled person or reinstating a property that's been adapted previously
building a fire escape or installing other fire precautions
replacing lead piping
preventing the build up of radon gas in your home.
However, unless you are adapting a home, the council doesn't have to help you just because you are carrying out work of this kind. You can find out more about the help the council has to give for adaptations here.
What kind of help can the council give?
Under the scheme, the council can provide assistance in many ways, including:
by producing leaflets and online information to help you identify and carry out repair work
by offering advice to help you manage repair and improvement work yourself, for example, advice on what repairs need to be carried out, how to contact architects, surveyors, builders and tradespeople and what to ask them, and how to arrange a loan with a bank, building society, credit union or other lender (although bear in mind that the council can't give financial advice)
by providing practical help, for example, through care and repair services, to carry out repair work (although the council may charge for these services if you don't meet the usual criteria for
by guaranteeing or jointly guaranteeing a loan you take out with another provider
by paying the expenses involved in setting up a maintenance account
by providing grants
by providing standard loans or subsidised loans, where part of the loan is interest free.
The council has to provide some form of help if:
you've been given a work notice, or
you're adapting a home for a disabled person, or
you need to reinstate a home that's been adapted previously.
If you've been given a work notice, the help provided doesn't need to be financial help.
You can find out more about the help the council has to give for adaptations.
Who can apply for a grant or loan?
You can apply for a grant or loan if you're a home owner, or own part of your home through a shared ownership or shared equity scheme.
You can also apply if you're a tenant and:
the work that needs to be done is your responsibility under your tenancy agreement, and has been for the last two years, or
you need to adapt your home for a disabled person who lives there, or reinstate a previously adapted house, or
the work must be done for the health, safety or security of the occupants. In particular, this includes repair work or work to provide a fire escape or other fire precautions.
If you're a tenant, you must get your landlord's permission before applying. If you want to adapt your rented accommodation, or change back a property that has been adapted previously, your landlord can't withhold their permission unreasonably. You can find out more about getting adaptations done in rented accommodation.
Agricultural and crofting tenants can also apply. However, the work must count as an improvement for which you would receive compensation once your tenancy ends. When you get this compensation, a deduction will be made to pay back the grant or loan.
Are there any situations where the council has to give me a grant?
If you are adapting your home for a disabled person, the council may have to give you a grant to help pay for the work. The page on help to pay for adaptations explains the circumstances in more detail.
The council may decide to give you a grant in other circumstances as well, for example, if no other financial options are available, or if grant assistance is necessary to get a common repair project off the ground. The statement of assistance will set out what these circumstances are.
What about loans?
The scheme of assistance introduces a new system of standard and subsidised loans. These may be provided directly by the council, or the council can arrange for another lender to provide them.
There are no situations in which the council has to give you loan. It is up to the council to decide whether or not to award you a loan, depending on your application, and how much funding is available. The council's statement of assistance will set out the circumstances in which the council is likely to give out loans.
How do I apply for a grant or loan?
You can pick up application forms from your local housing office or download them from your council's website. Before you fill in the form, you'll have to have a clear idea of what you want to do, as you'll need to include plans and estimated costs.
The council may ask you to provide further information, to back up the information on the form. If you don't supply this within a set time, the council won't consider your application.
Once you've handed in your application, you must let the council know if your circumstances change in a way which could affect your application before a decision has been made. For example, you should inform the council if the disrepair gets worse, or causes damage to your home.
Can I start the work before the council makes a decision about my application?
In general, you shouldn't start the work until the council has made a decision about your application. However, if you need to start as soon as possible, for example, because your home is currently unsafe, the council shouldn't turn your application down on this ground.
Even if the situation is an emergency, it's best to talk to the council before starting any work, just to be sure.
How will I know what the council decides?
If the council approves your application, it must let you (and the owner of the home, if you're a tenant) know:
what the approved expense is (see below)
how much you'll need to contribute
how much grant or loan you're getting and whether it's a minimum percentage grant or loan (see below)
the terms on which it's offered.
If the council turns down your application or awards you less money than you need, it has to let you know the reasons why.
What is the approved expense?
The approved expense is the amount the council considers reasonable for carrying out the work.
This may not cover the cost of all the work, either because the council does not consider your estimates to be reasonable, or because not all the work meets the council's criteria.
How much will I get?
If your grant or loan application is approved, the amount of money you get will depend on how much the council thinks you should contribute towards the approved expense.
For a grant you'll get the greater of:
the amount of the approved expense minus your contribution (if any), or
a portion of the approved expense, called the minimum percentage grant (see 'what is the minimum percentage grant' below).
For a subsidised loan you'll get the approved expense divided into two parts:
an interest free element, and
a repayment element.
The amount of the interest free element is the greater of:
the approved expense, minus your contribution (if any), or
a portion of the approved expense (the minimum percentage loan).
However, this is only the case if the council is providing the loan directly. If the council has arranged for another lender to provide the loan, the lender can set their own terms and conditions.
For a standard loan you'll receive the approved expense, unless you've already been given a grant for the same work. In this case, you'll receive the approved expense minus the amount of that grant.
Again, this is only the case if the council is providing the loan directly. If the council has arranged for another lender to provide the loan, the lender can set their own terms and conditions.
What is a minimum percentage?
The minimum percentage is a portion of the approved expense you are guaranteed to get. This will vary, depending on the kind of work you are doing. Some forms of work won't have a minimum percentage set at all, while other forms of work (such as certain adaptations for disabled people) will. The council's statement of assistance will set out which works have a minimum percentage attached.
How does the council work out my contribution?
In addition to setting the approved expense, the council will decide how much you need to contribute towards the cost of the work. This decision may be based on your financial circumstances – in this case, the council's statement of assistance must set out how they will assess your finances. For example, the amount of grant or loan you get may depend on your income, whether or not you are claiming certain benefits, whether you have any savings, or how much equity you have in your home.
This means you may need to provide information about your financial circumstances, and the financial circumstances other members of your household.
In some situations, the council may decide not to assess your income at all. In this case, you'll get 100% of the grant or loan.
Can I ask for a review of my contribution?
If you think you are being asked to contribute too much, you can ask the council to review its assessment of your contribution. If you decide to do this, you must ask for the review within 21 days of being told about your contribution. If you can't request a review within that time, the council may extend the deadline for you, but it doesn't have to. The review will be carried out by a senior member of staff who wasn't involved in the assessment process. You can't request a review of their decision.
What if the cost of the work goes up?
If the cost of the work goes up once it's started, you can apply for a bit more money, but the council has to be satisfied that:
the cost is definitely going to be more than you originally estimated, and
this increase is beyond your control.
For example, this could be the case if you start the work and then discover another problem that must be fixed before the work can be finished, such as damp or structural defects.
What are the terms of loans?
It's up to the council to set the terms for the loans, so check the statement of assistance for details of the exact terms and conditions in your area. In general, however, the terms will set out:
how much interest you'll need to pay
whether there are any other charges to pay
how you should repay your loan (for example, how much your repayments will be and how often you'll need to make them)
whether or not the loan is secured on your home.
When will I get the money?
The council will pay you the loan either:
within one month of the date on which the work has been completed and the home is now fit for you to live in, or
in instalments while the work is being done, with the final instalment within one month of the finishing date.
Receiving the money in instalments may be a better option if you need to put down deposits or pay for the work as it's done. However, the council will only pay you in instalments if it's happy that the work is being carried out. For example, you may have to finish specified bits of work by certain dates before the instalments will be paid. If an instalment is paid before the work is completed and the work is still not finished within the next 12 months, you may have to repay the money.
In the case of a loan, the standard security (the formal legal document that sets out the loan details) has to be registered in the relevant land register before you'll get the loan or the first instalment of the loan. The land registers are held by Registers of Scotland, and contain information about properties bought and sold in Scotland.
You'll be asked to pay for the fee for registering the notice, and for any other notices registered later on.
Are there any other conditions?
There are also conditions that apply once the work has been done, so the house must be:
Used as a private home (although some of it can be used for business purposes, for example, a shop or office).
Your only or main home (so, for example, you can't decide to move somewhere else and use it as a holiday home).
Kept in good repair.
If the council asks, you must certify that the conditions above are being fulfilled.
For how long must I stick to these conditions?
These conditions last from the date the work is completed until:
In the case of a grant, 10 years
In the case of a subsidised loan, 10 years, or when the repayment element of the loan and interest and other charges are paid off, whichever is longer
In the case of a standard loan, the date on which the loan, interest and other charges are paid off in full.
When the council pays the final instalment, it will register a notice in the relevant Land Register for Scotland , stating which of the above conditions apply, how long they apply for and what happens if you break them. This means if you want to sell your home, this will be on record.
What happens if I want to move house?
If you decide to sell your home before the conditions have expired, you may need to pay the council back any money you still owe them:
If you were given a grant, you probably won't have to pay the money back if you sell up and move house within the next 10 years. However, the conditions will remain attached to the property so will transfer to the new owner. This means they will need to keep to the conditions too, for example, by keeping the home in good repair.
If you were given a standard loan, you'll need to pay back the whole loan, plus any interest (unless the loan was provided by a third party lender, in which case their terms and conditions apply).
If you were given a subsidised loan, you'll need to pay back the repayment element and the interest free element of the loan, plus any outstanding interest. You'll also need to pay interest on the interest free element of the loan (which otherwise you would not need to pay). However, if the loan was provided by a third-party lender, their terms and conditions will apply.
The council will then register another notice in the Land Register, to show that the grant or loan has been paid off and the conditions no longer apply.
What if I break the conditions?
If you break any of the conditions, the council can ask you to pay back the grant or loan, plus any interest, as outlined above. However, the council may give you time to put things right first. For example, if you have let your home fall into disrepair, you may be given time to repair it. If it is not your fault that you have broken the conditions (for example, if you couldn't use the property as your only or main home because you have moved into a care home) the council can choose to overlook the breach.
What happens if my home is repossessed before the conditions have expired?
If your home has to be repossessed by your mortgage lender before the conditions have expired, the lender will pay off the grant or loan and interest, and will then add the amount to your mortgage debt.
If you're worried that your home may be repossessed, talk to an adviser at a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice or money advice centre as soon as possible. The repossession section has more information.
Can I apply for both a grant and a loan or another grant or loan?
If you're already had an application for a grant or subsidised loan approved, you can't then apply for another grant or subsidised loan for the same work. However, if you've had a grant application approved, you can apply for a standard loan to pay for the rest of the approved expense that isn't covered by the grant.
If you've had a grant or subsidised loan approved, the council can't approve another grant or loan for your home for the next 10 years, unless at least one of the following conditions applies:
When you made your first application, you couldn't predict that the work for which you now need a further grant or loan would need to be done.
You wouldn't have been able to carry out the new work when you were carrying out the original work.
The work wasn't considered to be eligible for a grant or loan when you originally applied.
The council has invited you to apply for a grant or loan to pay for:
replacing unsafe electrical wiring
installing mains-powered smoke detectors
installing a fire-resistant door
fitting a main door entry-phone system.
What if my application is turned down?
If the council turns your application down, they have to write to you to let you know why. If your application is refused, you can make a complaint to the council using their official complaints procedure. If you're not happy with the outcome, you can apply to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. You may also be able to ask for a judicial review.
Asking for a judicial review
You can go to court to review the decision of a council, housing association or other public body. This is called judicial review.
A judicial review asks the courts to look at:
how the decision was made
whether the decision was made lawfully
This is a complicated area of law and is a last resort to fix a problem. Before asking for a judicial review, you must make an official complaint. A solicitor can help you decide if judicial review is right for you and make an application.
There is a time limit for judicial reviews. You must apply within 3 months of the date the public body made their decision.
Last updated: 5 June 2023