Repairs and maintenance in council and housing association homes

A council or housing association landlord is usually responsible for renting you a home that's in a decent condition and for doing repairs to your home.

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.

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.

To help with the cost of furnishing your home, check with the council if you can apply for a budgeting loan.

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.

Repairs your landlord is responsible for

Your landlord is responsible for repairs to:

  • 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 parts such as lifts and communal entrances

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

Find out more about landlords' responsibilities for repairs.

How to report repair problems

Councils and housing associations should have a system for reporting and dealing with repairs. They should give you information about this at the start of your tenancy.

Find out more about how to report repairs.

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 should take to be fixed.

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.

Find out more about what to do if your landlord won't do repairs.

Accidental and deliberate damage

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

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

Problems during repairs by your landlord

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

This includes redecorating if disrepair or repair work caused damage.

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 about 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.

Find out more about action to take if your landlord takes too long to do repairs or refuses to repair your home.

Health and safety standards

Your home must be safe and fit to live in when your tenancy starts and throughout your tenancy.

Your landlord is responsible for:

Find out more about health and safety standards that apply to rented homes.

Condensation, damp and mould

These are common problems in rented homes.

Find out what you can do if your home is affected by damp and mould.

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.

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.

Adaptations because of a disability

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

Find out more about adaptations to your home if you are elderly or have a disability.

Get advice from Shelter

Get advice if your council or housing association home needs repairs.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Call Shelter's free national helpline on 0808 800 4444.


Last updated 10 Feb 2016 | © Shelter

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