Staying at Home

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In later life, the majority of us wish to remain in our own home rather than move into different accommodation or to a new area.

An older man preparing a meal.It is important for your home to be of a decent standard and for you to receive any help and support needed to live in your own home. Sometimes, though, you may struggle to make ends meet so we have prepared some options that may be open to you whether you own your home or rent it.

Raising money from your home

In order to stay in your own home, maintain the property and pay for adaptations or community care services, you may need to consider options that enable you to raise money from the house.

There are numerous ways to raise capital and finance your home in later life, depending on your financial circumstances. Each option has their own unique pros and cons so you will have to weigh up which would be best suited to your circumstances and needs.

Please seek expert advice

Before taking a particular course of action, speak to a trusted financial adviser as this is just a guide.

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Re-mortgage your property

Owner occupiers with a mortgage may consider switching to a different mortgage lender to get a better deal or renegotiating a deal with their existing lender. This may save money, and it may allow for temporary or long term changes. For example, you may wish to change your mortgage to a different interest rate, to a longer term (e.g. 25 to 35 years) or convert to a different mortgage type (e.g. interest only) to reduce monthly payments.

Some mortgage companies also allow you to take a mortgage holiday so you do not have to pay your mortgage for a few months. The bank will just add these payments to the loan. Therefore, if you are in a position where you cannot meet payments for a temporary period, for example due to illness or redundancy, this may be an option.

Be aware

Some of these changes may attract penalty or redemption fees depending on the agreement and what you intend to do. It is vital that you get independent financial advice or speak to your mortgage company before considering any of these as an option.

You may often face difficulties when trying to do any of these by virtue of your age, as you may be less attractive to a lender. Presently in the United Kingdom the law does not protect you from discrimination by a lender because of age. However, if you have reason to believe you were treated unfairly, you should still make a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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Buying your NIHE Property

You can buy your Housing Executive home if you have at least five years tenancy, either with the Housing Executive or a qualifying landlord.

Some tenants who have not had a tenancy for the full five years may still be able to buy their home - for example, if your partner or parent was previously the tenant.

For more Information

Full details on the rules about buying your Housing Executive home are in the NIHE Guide To house sales & equity sharing.

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Downsize your property

For many of us, selling our home to purchase a smaller, more manageable property is a good option not just for financial reasons but also because many older people find that they cannot physically manage larger houses anymore.

This option can allow you to remain in the area you have lived in or move closer to family. However, if you are adamant that you want to remain in your own home, then this is not an option.

Be aware

It is important to note that the sum of capital you have remaining after you downsize your property (that is, the difference between selling your old home and purchasing a smaller one) may impact upon your Social Security Benefit entitlements. You would have to be within the current capital limits or you could be left in just as vulnerable a position.

The rules for capital and its affect on certain benefits are available from the Age NI website.
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Equity Release

Equity Release is a means of using the value of your home to receive either a lump sum of cash or regular monthly instalments. In all instances, age is the primary factor in determining the percentage of the value of your home that can be released. There is no maximum age limit for equity release, although applications are not usually granted for anyone under the age of 55 or 60.

The "catch" is that you have to re-pay the income-provider at a later stage, usually on your death. Thus equity release is particularly useful for older people who do not wish to leave a large estate for their heirs when they die.

There are different kinds of products available but the most common two in the UK are Lifetime Mortgages and Home Reversion Plans.

Equity Release: Lifetime Mortgage

A loan (a mortgage) secured on your home is made to generate an income. Interest payments are added to the capital throughout the term of the loan, which is then repaid by selling the property when you die or move out (perhaps into a care home). You, the borrower, retain legal title to the home whilst living in it, as well as the responsibilities and costs of ownership.

Equity Release: Home Reversion

You, the borrower, sell all or part of your home to a third party, which is normally a reversion company or individual. This means all or part of your home belongs to somebody else. In return, you receive a regular income or cash lump sum (or both) and you continue to live in your home for as long as you wish. Again, be wary of the disadvantages of any equity release product:

  • The value of your estate will be reduced meaning you have less to leave for your loved ones
  • It may work out more expensive in the long term than downsizing to a smaller property
  • Lump sum capital may still affect entitlement to means-tested benefits and grants
  • You could have your home repossessed or you could be declared bankrupt if you cannot repay the interest rates on your home

Equity release may be unsuitable for many older people and independent, detailed financial advice should be sought on it beforehand.

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Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

You may get help with mortgage interest payments as part of your benefits if you are an owner occupier and receive:
  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income- based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

For further information on help to make your mortgage interest payments, visit the NI Direct website. To find out if you are eligible, contact your local Social Security Office or phone 0845 601 8821.

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Rates Relief

Eligibility to certain benefits such as Pension Credit Income Support or Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance mean that you should qualify automatically for Rate Relief.

Nevertheless, any owner occupier on a low income can be means-tested to see if they qualify for some help at least.

For further details on how to apply for housing benefit and rate relief visit NI Direct.

To claim, you should contact Land and Property Services, Rating Division to request a rate rebate form on 0300 200 7801 or download a form.

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Lone Pensioner Allowance (LPA)

Ratepayers aged 70 or over and living alone may be entitled to 20% reduction in their rates.

For further details on Lone Pensioner Allowance visit NI Direct.

To claim, you should contact Land and Property Services, Rating Division, to request a rate rebate form on 0300 200 7801 or download a form.  

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Disabled Person's Allowance (DPA)

If you have adapted your property to meet the needs of a person with a disability who lives in your home you may be entitled to 25% reduction in your rates.

For further details on Disabled Persons Allowance visit NI Direct.

To claim, you should contact Land and Property Services, Rating Division, to request a rate rebate form on 0300 200 7801 or download a form.

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Tenants- Help with Rent/Rates

If you are a tenant who rents a property from Housing Executive, a Housing Association or rent privately you may be eligible for Housing Benefit to help with your rent and rates.

Housing Benefit may also be able to help with some service charges but not for things such as meals, fuel charges or cleaning your home.

Eligibility to certain benefits such as Pension Credit Income Support or Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance mean that you should qualify automatically for Housing Benefit.

Any Tenant on a low income can be means-tested to see if they qualify for some help at least.

For further details on how to apply for housing benefit visit NI Direct.

For more details on Housing Benefit call NIHE on 03448 920 902, download a form or you can visit the NIHE Website.

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