5. Home modifications
Home modifications are changes to the structure, layout or fittings of the participant’s home that are required to enable the participant to safely access and move around frequently used areas in their home as a result of their disability.
It is expected that a home modification would only be considered where the home to be modified is the participant’s primary residence and the participant intends to remain living at the residence. If the property is a rental property, then the written agreement of the owner of the property will be required before any modifications take place.
There are a number of laws and regulatory frameworks, for example Building Codes and Australian Standards which regulate home modifications. The NDIA is unable to fund home modifications which, if provided, would be contrary to a law of the Commonwealth, state or territory (see which supports will not be funded or provided under the NDIS?).
Therefore, the NDIA must be satisfied that there are no laws, regulations or other planning restrictions which would prevent the home modifications being undertaken.
In addition, the NDIA must also be satisfied, amongst other matters, that the home modification being considered represents value for money in that the costs of the support are reasonable relative to both the benefits achieved and the cost of alternative support (section 34(1)(c)).
When determining whether home modifications represent value for money, the NDIA will specifically consider:
- whether the proposed home modification represents value for money when compared to the cost of other lower cost alternatives, for example less costly home modifications which reasonably achieve the same intended benefits or outcomes, or assistive technology;
- whether the proposed home modification is cost effective when compared to the cost of other supports such as assistance with the cost of moving to accessible premises; and
- the expected length of tenure for participants and whether this is commensurate to the cost of the home modifications.
The NDIA must also be satisfied that the provision of the support will be, or is likely to be, effective and beneficial for the participant, having regard to current good practice (section 34(1)(d)).
Therefore, before including home modifications in a participant’s plan, the NDIA will also consider whether the home is suitable to be modified, including having consideration to:
- any structural constraints such as size, surrounding terrain, or the condition of the building; and
- whether the home owner, and where applicable, any body-corporate, agrees and gives their permission for modifications to be made.
When complex and extensive home modifications are being considered, the NDIA may also fund oversight by a project manager or independent building certifier to ensure compliance of the modification and a qualified and experienced Occupational Therapist to certify the effectiveness of the modification to meet the participant’s goals and likely future needs.
Generally, the NDIA will fund reasonable and necessary home modifications:
- to the participant’s primary residence where, due to the impact of the participant’s disability, the participant or their carers are unable to reasonably access and use frequently used rooms and spaces using standard fixtures and fittings;
- when the participant’s primary residence, in its current condition, has a significant and adverse impact on the sustainability of current living and care arrangements; and
- where a suitably qualified Occupational Therapist has performed an assessment and recommended home modifications considering all possible alternatives, including the use of equipment.
Generally, the NDIA will also fund reasonable and necessary supports that are related or incidental to home modifications which may include:
- assistance with the cost of moving to accessible premises as an alternative to home modifications where this is cost effective to provide access. Generally, it would be expected that any new premises selected provide appropriate access and that any further modifications would be very basic and low cost. Potential costs that may be covered include:
i. costs associated with selling the participant’s current property, for example advertising, agents fees and legal costs;
ii. costs associated with the purchase of the alternate property, for example stamp duty and legal costs;
iii. removalist costs; and
iv. minor modifications to install special equipment if necessary.
- additional costs incurred if the NDIA recommends or requires the use of qualified builders, trades people, project managers, building certifiers, building assessors or occupational therapists;
- the costs of normal repairs and maintenance to specialised fittings and assistive technology that have been installed as part of a home modification; and
- costs related to council or other building approvals which are payable as a result of the required home modifications.
The NDIS will generally not fund:
- fixtures, fittings or materials which are above standard grade;
- modifications for a property purchased after a participant was granted access to the NDIS, unless the NDIA was involved in the decision to purchase the property, or the purchase of a more accessible property was not possible;
- the installation of swimming pools (including hydrotherapy) and spas;
- repairs or remediation of damage to the home that is pre-existing or discovered during the modification process;
- any additional insurance premiums which may be payable to insure the property once the required home modifications are completed;
- ongoing repairs and maintenance to non-specialised structures, fixtures or fittings of the home even when these form part of the modification work. For example, repainting a modified bathroom and maintaining plumbing;
- remediation of work that does not comply with the specifications of work or did not comply with the Building Code or relevant Australian Standards (this is the responsibility of the builder);
- for modifications to be removed when a person no longer requires them, except when there has been prior agreement in the case of a rental property;
- home modifications to group homes, residential facilities and other specialist accommodation, or other public buildings, including boarding schools; and
- capital building additions such as additions of rooms, stories or lifts or inclinators to allow access to multiple levels of a home or steep blocks of land. However, when considering whether the funding of items of this kind is reasonable and necessary the NDIA will also consider:
i. whether other parts of the house can be reasonably organised as an alternative;
ii. whether alternate accommodation which is more accessible or more easily modified is available and the cost;
iii. whether there are compelling factors related to the participant, their family, community or employment which makes moving premises unrealistic; and
iv. the long term costs and benefits of alternative funded supports against the costs and benefits of the modifications to the home.
See also is the support most appropriately funded or provided through the NDIS? In particular, housing and community infrastructure.
It is generally expected that home modifications will be suitable for the participant’s anticipated long term needs. Therefore, it is unlikely that further modifications will be funded for the same premises except where there are unforeseen and significant changes to the participant’s needs.
Where the NDIA has funded complex or extensive modifications and the participant or their family subsequently sells the property the NDIA expects:
- future premises selected will be as accessible as possible;
- money from the sale of the first property, commensurate with the value of the modifications funded by the NDIA will be directed towards modifying the participant’s new premises; and
- if there is more than one residence that a participant needs to access, for example, because of shared parenting arrangements or holiday homes, modifications to the second property will be restricted to access and basic hygiene requirements.n