You may be able take your landlord to court or get help from the environmental health department of your local council, if the conditions in your council or housing association home are harmful to your household's health or cause a nuisance to your neighbours or the public
Disrepair in council or housing association homes – first steps to take
The first step you should take is to report any disrepair to your landlord and allow a reasonable time for the work to be done. You can also send a letter, saying that you will contact the environmental health department if the repairs are not done by a certain deadline.
What counts as 'harmful to health' or 'nuisance'?
'Harmful to health' usually includes properties affected by:
- dampness, 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
In this context, 'nuisance' has a different meaning to the everyday one. A statutory nuisance is a problem in the property which either poses a risk to the public, for example if roof tiles are falling off into the street, or if the nuisance disturbs other people in their homes, for example if a toilet leaks into the flat below.
How do housing association tenants take action?
Housing association tenants should contact the council's environmental health department to report the problem.
Find your local council using the Gov.uk council finder.
The council must inspect your home and, if it agrees with your claims, it can give your housing association an abatement notice, ordering it to do the work needed within a certain amount of time. In extreme cases, the council may even do the work itself and claim the money back from the housing association.
If the environmental health department won't help you, you may be able to take court action in the same way as a council tenant.
How do council tenants take action?
The environmental health department can only provide limited help to council tenants. Some environmental health departments will serve 'informal abatement notices' on the council. However, as they are part of the council they take formal action.
You may have to ask the magistrates' court to issue an abatement order. You may need help from a housing specialist or solicitor. Use our directory to find a local adviser.
If the court agrees that the problem is affecting your health or causing a nuisance, it can make an order instructing your landlord to carry out repairs. The court can also fine the council, and/or order it to pay you compensation.
Costs of taking action over disrepair
If the council's environmental health department takes action on your behalf, its services are free.
Taking court action yourself can be expensive, so it will only be an option if you can afford it.
Legal aid is usually not available, but if you win, you can ask the court to order the landlord to pay your legal expenses.
Some solicitors may offer a conditional fee arrangement (usually known as 'no win, no fee').
Warning the landlord before starting court action
If your landlord fails to carry out repairs, you may be able to get an order from your local county court instructing your landlord to do the work that's needed or claim compensation.
There is a special procedure, which must be followed in all disrepair cases, called the pre-action protocol. You must send your landlord a 'letter before action'. The notice must:
- explain what the disrepair problem is
- give the landlord 21 days to put the problem right
- state that if the landlord doesn't put the problem right within that time, you intend to take them to court.
If, after the 21 days are up, your landlord still hasn't put the problem right, you can apply to the magistrate's court.
Find more information on taking court action against your council or housing association landlord.