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Putting a loved one into care is an incredibly emotional and stressful experience; I know, we had to do make the decision on behalf of my mum when dad was suffering with Parkinsons and dementia.
In mum’s case we were lucky, she could still afford to stay in their home even when paying for dad to be in a special care home. As mum’s home was big enough to create a bedroom downstairs and we had a loo on the same level, eventually as dad’s illness progressed, we were able to bring him home for the last few months.
However, not everyone is as lucky as we were so I’ve written a quick guide to different circumstances you may find yourself in so you know what options are available to you and you can try to work out what the best thing to do is.
Lone parent goes into a residential/nursing home or hospital temporarily
Firstly, despite some horror stories, if your loved one is in a home or nursing home for however long, no one can force you (or them) to sell the property. However, what will happen is if your parent is getting financial support to help for care at home, that money is likely to be stopped after four weeks of being in hospital.
It is important to remember if you have a loved one in temporary care and they are feeling poorly and frail, what happens to their home while they are away could be quite stressful. As a result, it is a good idea to put their mind at rest and either discuss a plan of action or let them know what you are going to do.
Sadly another fact of life is that if your parent hasn’t been very well, and especially if they are suffering with any dementia related illnesses, that they have managed to keep up to speed with all their bills such as phone/gas and electricity/TV licence etc. Check with each service what you can do to keep the power/line active while keeping the bills as low as possible.
Whatever you decide, the first thing to check is your parent’s home insurance. If the property is going to be unoccupied for more than 30 days and you do not advise your insurance company, the insurance may be invalid. Speak to the insurance company to see what you can do or go to specialist companies such as Towergate who will insure the property cost effectively.
Once you’ve sorted the insurance, then it’s important to decide whether you are going to leave the property empty or whether another family member might stay there (who your parent will trust) or you can consider renting the property out.
Leaving a Property Empty Long Term
If you leave the property empty, then follow our ’empty property checklist’ to make sure that you keep it as safe as possible for when your parent returns:-
Empty Property Checklist
1. Make sure the property is insured for being empty for more than 30 days (or whatever the current home insurance covers).
2. Turn off the gas, water and all plugs so the property is kept safe.
3. Cancel or redirect as many deliveries as you can, such as milk, newspapers or other mail.
4. Ensure you have an alarm or something that would alert YOU or neighbours if they are around, that the property was being broken into.
5. Either ask a neighbour/friend to visit the property a couple of times a week or do it yourself and ensure all post is read and throw away (or cancel) anything that is no longer needed.
6. Make sure that the curtains or blinds are closed/opened regularly.
7. Enhance security by having lights/radio etc coming on at different times of the day.
8. Ensure that the garden is kept in as good an order as possible. Contact ‘Help the Aged’ as they may be able to suggest a good value gardener that’s been checked by them.
9. In summer months, be on the lookout for unwanted visitors such as ants.
10. In the winter, check that the boiler still works.
Finally, when your mum or dad does come home, check the place over thoroughly a few weeks or so beforehand, especially if your parent may need some help or changes to the property post nursing/hospital care.
Renting an Owned Property
If you want to rent a property out, you are likely to have to do this for six months or more. You will also need to incur costs to let the property legally such as:-
Energy Performance Certificate Gas Safety Certificate Electrical Safety Certificate OR self certifying that the electrics are safe
You also need to bear in mind that if you take a tenant on, you will need:-
1. An up to date tenancy agreement.
2. To protect deposits in a tenancy deposit scheme.
3. To carry out credit checks on the tenant.
You can legally do all this yourself, but if it’s your first time, it’s wise to use a recognised service as otherwise you may fall foul of the law or end up with a tenant that causes more hassle than it’s worth.
When the tenant moves in, you’ll need to:-
1. Make sure all furniture and appliances are checked independently to meet fire safety legislation.
2. Have an inventory, ideally from a member of the The AIIC.
3. Secure specialist buy to let insurance to protect the property from rogue tenants and any damage.
Finally, remember that any excess rental income versus allowable costs your parent receives could be taxable, so you’ll need to check this out too!
What to do if a lone parent is moved into a residential/nursing home permanently
This is such a tough time for everyone. Sometimes it’s a relief all round, other times it can be very tense. Depending on your circumstances, you have two courses of action: to sell the property or rent it out.
Whether you decide to rent out the property or sell it often depends on three factors:-
1. Is your parent ‘happy’ to let go of the property or do they still think they will come home at some stage? This can be the case especially if people have dementia.
2. The state of the market. If the market isn’t particularly buoyant, for example at the moment, then it might not be the ideal time to sell.
3. Whether you and your parent want to sell the ‘family’ home.
Essentially, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to deal with issues such as ‘Power of Attorney’ to allow you to take over your parent’s affairs. The Alzheimer’s Society explains this quite well, although your parent doesn’t need to have dementia to have a Power of Attorney, but you will need their consent.
It is important to speak to your parent on a ‘good day’ and ask them what they would like to do, explaining all the different options and the pros and cons of each of them.
Pros and Cons of Different Options
Buying your Parent’s Home
You might decide to rent out your own home (or sell) and buy your parent’s home instead as it might be bigger, and just what you are after. Before you do this, you need to talk to a legal expert and an inheritance tax expert to find the best way for you to do this, for your circumstances.
Sometimes this option can be a real bonus to a parent as when they come to visit they are still coming back to their own home. However, it’s more complicated if there is more than one sibling.
Your parent can come back for visits to their own ‘home’.
May mean you secure the property you want for your family.
Difficult option if you have brothers/sisters as you might not be able to agree on a fair settlement.
Need to seek tax and legal advice which will cost several hundred pounds.
If you don’t want to sell your parent’s home now and renting it out won’t cover care fees, then you could consider releasing some equity until you decide what you want to do longer term.
For more information about equity release, read our Equity Release guide. Make sure that any company you contact about equity release is a member of SHIP.
Relatively easy and quick to secure funds
Can help if money is tight during a stressful time
Can be more costly than selling up or renting
It’s not an instant solution, so will take some weeks to set up
Selling your Parent’s Home
In some cases you may have little choice but to sell the home to help fund your parent’s costs of being in residential/nursing care. There have been some media reports of people having to sell their homes to fund their hospital care.
Makes a clean break with the home so your parent can move on.
The money can help support your parent while in care, helping to choose which home they go into.
May be too stressful for your parent to let go of the property.
If selling in a poor market, it may mean that it takes a while to sell the property and you have to sell at a discount to find a buyer.
Renting out your Parent’s Home
This might be a good option if your parent hasn’t yet accepted that they need to sell their home, or it’s the right thing for them. It may also be helpful if the market isn’t very good and it’s taking some time to sell a property.
Leaves your options open so you have some time to decide what to do with the property.
Can help fund care costs if required.
Renting a home requires checks and changes to the property and will incur costs prior to renting.
Tenants could cause problems or damage the property.
What are your options if you have one poorly parent and one well parent?
On the one hand this can make things easier, as often, the parent who is well will be able to help make the decisions and they will often want to either stay in the home or move, so it takes renting out of the equation.
Ideally you’ll need to discuss with both parents what they want to do, but it’s important not to rush into anything. Many people making decisions at times like this when stress levels are high, end up making the wrong decision and then incurring more cost later on as they ‘change their mind’.
As a result, it’s important to consider lots of questions and then decide on some options which, ideally, can be trialled.
For example, when you have two parents, one of whom is ill either temporarily or long term, it’s important to think through not only the next few months and the next year, but also what happens when only one parent is left. A hard thought I know, but it’s often what people don’t think through and the consequences of not working this out can incur further unnecessary costs later on. I know this is hard to do, but some may be better off staying in their own home, others may be better off downsizing and some may be better off moving close to a family member.
Top 10 Things to Consider when one parent is poorly or needs care
1. How ‘attached’ to the area are your parents? Are all their friends there? Do they have hobbies such as bowling/theatre nearby that they would miss if moved?
2. How adaptable is the home they are in? Does a downstairs bedroom/bathroom facility exist or can it be created?
3. Is it possible or practical to have care at home in the short or long term? How much would this cost?
4. Are there people nearby that can help in an emergency?
5. If one of your parent’s is a carer of the other, how would you manage if they became ill?
6. If your parents do trade down, what equity would be left over after the sale to buy another home?
7. Would an ordinary property be OK or would your parents benefit from retirement living in specially built properties or warden aided facilities? What would be the additional costs of this type of property?
8. What facilities would the new property need to have? What is it likely to cost?
9. If a parent needs regular hospital/residential care, what transport facilities would be required long term? A car may be fine now, but can your parents get their easily by public transport/taxi?
10. How much can you as a family help with the care, what’s practical, what other help and support can you secure?
There are lots of organisations that can help you with these decisions, for example ‘Help the Aged’. Alternatively, your local social worker should be able to help and you should be allocated one during your loved ones stay in hospital or care. It’s important to liaise with social workers as they understand the rules and regulations of funding short and long term care, and what other financial or home support help you are entitled to.
I am one of the UK’s top property experts being regularly quoted in the press including the Telegraph, Independent, Times, Daily Mail and Express and have appeared on BBC2, featured on BBC Radio 4, Channel 4 and a number of local BBC Radio stations.
I have been a consultant to the property sector for a number of years and renovating properties for over 20 years. I have also written a number of books, including four for Which? – Buy, Sell, Move House, Renting and Letting, Develop your Property and the Property Investment Handbook.
For answers to all your property questions, contact me at Designs on Property on 0845 838 1763 or visit our website and blog using the links below:-
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