Complaints about freeholders
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
Flat owners and other leaseholders can make complaints about their freeholders, contact the environmental health officer or use their legal rights.
Your relationship with the freeholder
If you own a flat, the usual arrangement is that you own a long lease of your flat, and another person or company owns the freehold of the whole building. But sometimes the arrangements are more complicated. For example there may be one or more ‘intervening’ leaseholders between you and the true freeholder. In this case, the landlord in your lease is really a leaseholder, but for the purposes of this section, the ‘freeholder’ is the person or company that is responsible for structural repairs and that collects service charges.
If your freeholder is the council or another public authority, please see the section on complaints about councils.
If your freeholder is a housing association, please see the page on complaints about housing associations.
If your complaint is about the freeholder’s managing agent, remember that the freeholder is responsible for the managing agent, so you may need to complain about both the freeholder and the managing agent.
Complaining to your freeholder
Use your freeholder’s complaints procedure, if there is one. Ask at your freeholder’s office, or get information from their website.
If your freeholder does not appear to have a complaints procedure, or if you cannot get any information about it, complain by letter. The freeholder may investigate, ask questions, ask you to send copies of documents, and/or inspect your property. Then the freeholder should write to you to tell you the result of any investigations.
If at the end of the complaints procedure, you are not happy with the result, or if the freeholder has failed to reply to your complaint letter, you may be able to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or go to court.
Complaining to the environmental health department
Every council has an environmental health officer, or EHO. The EHO can help if there is a health and safety hazard in your home, and it is the freeholder’s fault. The EHO might investigate for example:
- dangerous electrical wiring or gas pipes
- dangerous structural disrepair
- rising damp or leaky roofs
- noisy machinery
- other hazards (eg asbestos).
The EHO will inspect your home and make a decision about what needs to be done to put it right. The EHO may then speak to the freeholder informally to request that work is done, or issue a formal order that will make the freeholder carry out the work.
If you are thinking of contacting the EHO, bear in mind that:
- if the freeholder carries out repairs, you will probably have to contribute to the cost of the work through your service charge.
- if the EHO finds a hazard that you are responsible for, you may be ordered to get the work done to make it safe.
You can find out about the EHO at a council office, or get information from the council website or from an advice agency. Use our directory to find advisers in your area.
Using your legal rights
You can rely on your legal rights as a leaseholder instead of complaining, or to help you when you are complaining. Your rights include:
- to be informed about service charges and buildings insurance
- to be consulted about repairs and service contracts
- to be given certain information about the freeholder
- to extend your lease.
If you work with other leaseholders, together you may have extra rights, such as the right to:
- buy the freehold
- take over management of the building
- form a recognised resident’s association.