While it’s well known that the NDIS supports participants with funding for a range of items and services, another aspect to the NDIS, which can be a little more complex, is home modifications. Home modifications are the changes in structure, layout and fittings to a participant’s home which allow them to safely access their home and live comfortably in areas of frequent use.
The process for gaining funding for home modifications must meet what the NDIS deems to be reasonable and necessary, so in this blog, we’re exploring all the ins and outs of NDIS funded home modifications, what they mean, the processes and how you can better understand NDIS funding.
What are the guidelines for NDIS home modifications?
There is a specific set of guidelines for those requiring home modifications. When it comes to using your NDIS funding, you can use it on what is available on your plan, so if you need home modifications, whether small or significant changes, they must be approved in your plan to be paid for by NDIS funding.
Home modifications may be included in your plan if:
You or your carers cannot access or use spaces in your primary home (not holiday home etc.);
Your home, in its current condition, doesn’t allow you to live comfortably or access efficient care; or
A qualified Occupational Therapist has assessed the home and suggests the need for modifications, even after considering all other options, including equipment
While you may qualify for home modifications, there are building laws and regulations that must be met when thinking about specific changes. This means that the NDIS couldn't fund home modifications for things that would go against these laws.
The different types of home modifications
There are three distinct types of home modifications identified by the NDIS. These include:
Adaptation home modifications are very minor changes to the home that don’t need any structural changes. They are usually low cost and easy for participants to access. Adaptation modifications can include things like grab rails, mounted shower chairs or cupboard inserts and storage.
Minor home modifications are also non-structural but may need the help of a professional to be installed. The type of work and associated costs are minimal. For example, non-structural door widening, small ramps or extra steps to access the home.
Complex home modifications (CHM) are modifications that involve structural changes, are usually higher in cost and require a greater level of certification that involves multiple people such as contractors, builders, project managers etc. CHM usually have a big impact on participants’ lives and can involve changes to many spaces in the home at once, like the bathrooms, bedrooms and living areas.
What are some things the NDIS won’t cover?
While there is a range of modifications covered by the NDIS, there are also specific upgrades to your home that won't be covered. These include:
Any fixture, fitting or material that is above the standard grade
Modifications to a house that was purchased after the participant was granted access to the NDIS unless the NDIS was involved in the purchase of the property, or another accessible property was not available
Swimming pools (including hydrotherapy) or spas
Any repairs or fixes to damage that was already there or discovered during the modification process
Any extra insurance premiums which may be needed to insure the property once the modifications are complete
Ongoing maintenance or repairs to non-specialised structures even if they are a part of the modification e.g. repainting a modified bathroom, maintaining plumbing etc.
Removal of modifications when a participant no longer needs it, except when there has been prior agreement in the case of a rental property
Modifications to group homes, residential facilities or other specialised accommodation, including boarding schools
The addition of rooms or stories in the participant’s home, however you may be eligible to have funding for lifts or elevators
For all home modifications funded by the NDIS, it is expected that the modifications will be used long term, meaning it is unlikely that the NDIS will fund a similar upgrade in the home, except when there are unforeseen and significant changes to the participant's needs.
For selling a property that has received significant home modifications via the NDIS, it is expected that:
1. The future premises selected will be as accessible as possible;
2. Money from the sale of the first property, equal to the value of the modifications funded by the NDIS will be used for modifying the new property; and
3. If there is more than one house that a participant needs to access, like shared parental arrangements or holiday homes, the modifications to the second property will only be for improved access to the home and basic hygiene requirements.
What is the approval process for CHM home modifications?
For the approval of home modifications, whether it’s a simple adaptation or CHM, the NDIA needs significant and sufficient evidence to decide whether the modification and supports are reasonable and necessary to include in a participant’s plan. All funding must be approved by the NDIA and more information can be found on the NDIS website.
1. Plan approval
The first step to being approved for home modifications is to have it budgeted into your plan. During your initial plan meeting or review, it’s important to come prepared with research and goals to explain why you are asking for funding for home modifications. Understanding what you or the participant needs, what isn’t working and suggesting reasonable and necessary modifications can help funding approval for home modifications in your plan.
The funding available for home modifications can be found in the Capital Supports Budget section of your plan. It’s important to note that funding for Capital Supports can only be used for this purpose as stated in your plan and cannot be used to pay for anything else.
Once approved, an assessment of the participant's primary house is required to understand what changes are required. An experienced OT will need to assess the home in person, making sure to gather all information, measurements and proposed designs to give to the NDIA. The OT will also need to be in contact with an experienced building professional, as they will need to give quality and reasonable recommendations to the changes needed.
The building professional will also need to provide a quote of the entire cost of the modifications, building certification, professional consulting and any project management fees that will need to be covered. Make sure that you communicate clearly what you feel you or the participant needs, whether that’s more space, independence while using the bathroom or a range of modifications, as the OT will be able to add this into their assessment.
Once the OT has completed their assessment and added the specific information – like quotes, costs, fees, measurements and proposed designs – they will send it to the NDIA to be approved. This may take some time, as the NDIA must consider several factors when approving the modifications, like value for money, if the upgrade is reasonable and necessary, etc.
3. Next steps
Once the NDIS has approved your home modification, the design and the type of modification, you will be able to start on the construction. Your plan type – whether that’s self-managed, plan managed or NDIS managed – will determine which builders you choose so make sure to do your research beforehand. If needed, you may also contribute your own funds to the upgrade. This can include things like a tile upgrade, an extra doorway widening, or underfloor heating in a bathroom. These additional upgrades will need to be discussed from the start.
NDIS home modifications can be tricky to understand as there is a lot to know about the process for applying and getting approved. With the information above, you can feel confident knowing what home modifications are, what can and can’t be approved, and the process for accessing funding to help you live independently with ease.
Make sure you explore the full selection of home modification devices available online from Averee now. Please note that all information provided is general information and may not relate to your circumstances. For more specific information, please contact the NDIS.