Repairs and maintenance in council and housing association homes

A council or housing association landlord is usually responsible for keeping a home in a decent condition and doing any repairs it needs.

Conditions when you move in

When you move into a council or housing association home:

  • it should be clean and fit to live in
  • any necessary repairs should be completed
  • gas and electrical supplies and all plumbing should be safe and working
  • windows and doors should be secure and work properly
  • the garden should be free from rubbish

If there are no working smoke alarms in your new home, ask your landlord if they can supply and fit them.

Repairs in your home

Your landlord is responsible for most repairs in your home.

This includes:

  • the structure and exterior of the building – including the roof, walls, windows and external doors
  • central heating, gas fires, fireplaces, flues, ventilation and chimneys
  • water, pipes, basins, sinks, toilets and baths
  • drains and guttering
  • gas pipes, electrical wiring and any appliances provided
  • common areas such as lifts and communal entrances

Your tenancy agreement might set out any other responsibilities the council or housing association has.

How to report repairs

Councils and housing associations should have a system for you to report repairs your home needs. They should give you information about this at the start of your tenancy.

How long repairs should take

After you report a repair problem, your landlord should tell you how they are going to deal with it and how long it is likely to take.

Your tenants' handbook or tenancy agreement may tell you how long a particular type of repair will take.

For council tenants, some small repairs may be covered by the right to repair scheme.

Contact your landlord again if they take too long to start repairs or don't keep to their own agreements for what should be repaired.

For example, if your landlord says that you have to pay to redecorate your home after damage caused by disrepair, but this is one of their repair responsibilities.

There are steps you can take if your landlord won't do repairs.

Accidental or deliberate damage

Landlords are not required to fix any damage caused by tenants, their guests or visitors.

If your landlord does fix damage you're responsible for, they will usually charge you for this.

Problems during repairs

If your home is damaged by repair or maintenance work organised by your landlord, they should fix it.

You can ask for a rent reduction if you can't use all or part of your home because of repair work.

If your landlord refuses to reduce the rent, you could take them to court to claim compensation.

Find out what to do about problems during repairs.

If your landlord doesn't do repairs

Contact your landlord again if they take too long to start repairs or don't keep to their own agreements for what should be repaired.

There is action you can to take if your landlord takes too long to do repairs or refuses to repair your home.

Health and safety standards

There are health and safety standards that apply to rented homes. Your home must be safe and fit to live in when your tenancy starts and throughout your tenancy.

Your landlord is responsible for:

Condensation, damp and mould

These are common problems in rented homes. Report any problems with condensation, damp or mould to your landlord.

After you've reported the problem, your landlord should organise an inspection and carry out any repairs they are responsible for.

Domestic appliances, furniture and carpets

Most council or housing association homes are unfurnished. You are usually expected to provide your own appliances, furniture, carpets and other floor coverings.

You are responsible for repairing and replacing these.

There are usually connections for a washing machine, fridge and cooker.

Budgeting loans and advances

You may be able to apply for a budgeting loan if you claim some income-related benefits to help with the costs of furnishing your home.

If you are on universal credit you will have to apply for a budgeting advance instead.

Decorating and home improvements

You usually need your landlord's permission to make your own improvements to a council or housing association home.

Home improvements could include:

  • a shower if your home doesn't have one
  • new kitchen units
  • a gas fire

Improvements could also include decorating the outside of the house, putting up a greenhouse or shed or building an extension.

Council tenants may be able to apply for compensation for certain improvements at the end of their tenancy. Contact your council's housing department for more information.

Find out more about a tenant's right to improve a council or housing association home.

Decorating your home

Tenants are usually responsible for decorating a council or housing association home.

Your landlord could be responsible for redecoration:

Ask your landlord to pay something towards redecoration costs if the property is in a poor state of decoration when you start your tenancy.

Some councils and housing associations provide decoration vouchers which can be used to buy decorating materials in local DIY stores.

Disability adaptations

Ask your landlord if the improvements you want might be classed as adaptations that you need because of a disability.

Common areas

Common areas are those shared with other people, such as hallways, stairs or lifts in the building.

Your landlord is responsible for the repair and decoration of these areas. This applies even if your tenancy agreement says you have to help keep common areas clean and tidy.

Gardens and outside spaces

It's usually a tenant's responsibility to take care of their garden. This means you should keep it reasonably tidy. It doesn't mean that you have to improve the garden.

Ask your landlord for permission if you want to make any changes to your garden, such as building a shed or laying a patio.

If your tenancy agreement doesn't say anything about the garden, then you are expected to at least keep it in the condition it was in when you moved in.

Where the garden is shared with other tenants, either your landlord may be responsible for maintaining it or you'll share responsibility with the other tenants.

Still need advice?

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Last updated 18 May 2018 | © Shelter

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