Poor conditions in council or housing association homes

What to do if poor conditions in a council or housing association home are harming your health.

Conditions that can affect health and safety

It's important to deal with problems in your home such as:

  • damp, condensation, and mould growth
  • rats, cockroaches and other infestations
  • broken glass, falling plaster, or dangerous or decaying stairs
  • faulty or dangerous gas or electrical installations
  • blocked drains or problems with rubbish or sewage
  • unacceptable noise levels
  • damaged asbestos
  • smoke fumes or gases

Report poor conditions to your landlord

If there are repair problems or poor conditions in your council or housing association home, your first step is to report them to your landlord. 

You can report poor conditions in the same way as you report repair problems.

Tell them how you are affected. 

You must allow your landlord, or their contractor, access to see what the problem is and what can be done about it.

Allow a reasonable time for the work to be done.

Baby in front of damp walls

Problems with a council home

If the council doesn't fix the problems, you can contact the environmental health department at your local council. They'll check if the problems are a risk to health and safety using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Environmental health can't take formal enforcement action against the council, but it can:

  •  serve an informal notice telling your housing office to do repair work
  • send them a report that sets out what needs to be done to make your home safe

Use your council's complaints procedure if the housing office won't do the work that's needed or doesn't pay attention to the environment health report. 

If that's not successful, consider complaining to the Ombudsman or taking court action for repairs.

If a court agrees that the problem affects your health or is causing a nuisance, it can make an order instructing your landlord to carry out repairs, fine the council or order it to pay you compensation.

Problems with a housing association home

 If you're a housing association tenant and your landlord won't tackle the poor conditions in your home, contact the council's environmental health department to report the problem.

An environmental health officer should inspect your home. They'll use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess if your home includes a serious hazard. 

Environmental health can take enforcement action against the housing association and may order them to do repairs.

If the environmental health department won't help, consider if you can complain about your landlord to the Ombudsman or take court action to get repairs done or claim compensation.

If problems affect neighbours

If the council's environmental health department inspects your home, they may decide that the conditions also cause a nuisance to your neighbours or the public.

It could be classed as a statutory nuisance for example if tiles are falling off your roof into the street or a toilet leaks into the flat downstairs.

Cost of complaints or court action 

Action taken by the council's environmental health department against your landlord is free of charge. Some councils might charge for some pest control services. 

It's also free to use your landlord's complaints procedure or to complain to the Ombudsman.

Taking court action can be expensive. Legal aid isn't usually available for this type of case. But if you win, the court will usually order the landlord to pay your legal expenses.

Get advice if you're thinking of taking legal action. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

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