Social housing tenant rights to repair
Right to repair and complaints procedures for tenants of private registered providers of social housing and secure and introductory local authority tenants.
- Secure and introductory local authority tenants right to repair scheme
- Local authority appeals and complaints procedure
- Local authority tenants complaints to the Ombudsman
- Complaints to the Local Government Monitoring Officer
- Private registered providers of social housing appeals and complaints procedure
- PRPSH tenants complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service
Secure and introductory local authority tenants right to repair scheme
Secure and introductory local authority tenants who need repairs to their homes can use the right to repair scheme.
The current scheme is designed to give compensation to tenants where certain 'qualifying' repairs are not done within a prescribed period.
The previous scheme, which allowed tenants to carry out certain repairs themselves, has been abolished (although tenants still have some rights to use rent to pay for repairs).
20 repairs qualify for the scheme. These include insecure doors, broken entryphone systems, some problems with water and electricity supplies, blocked sinks and leaking roofs.
In certain circumstances, even where the repair is a qualifying repair, it is not covered by the scheme. These are where the landlord:
has fewer than 100 properties
is not legally responsible for the repair
decides the repair would cost more than £250
The scheme does not apply if, after inspection, the landlord decides that the repair is not a qualifying repair and notifies the tenant of this in writing.
Procedure to apply under right to repair scheme
The procedure is as follows:
1) The tenant must apply to the local authority for the repair to be carried out. The regulations do not state that this has to be in writing, but it is good practice to write and keep a copy of the letter.
2) If the landlord decides that the repair qualifies for the scheme, it must issue a repair notice to a contractor to do the repair within a specified number of days and give a copy to the tenant. The number of days depends on the nature of the repair and is specified in the regulations.
3) If the contractor does not do the work within the specified period, the tenant must contact the local authority again. It is very important that the tenant does this as this triggers the next stage of the scheme.
4) The local authority must then issue a notice to another contractor, if this is practical, and set a fresh time limit as prescribed in the regulations.
5) If the repair is not carried out within the new time limit, the tenant will qualify for an amount of compensation depending on the number of days for which the repair remains outstanding.
The tenant can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if the local authority fails to carry out a repair, or the repair is done poorly or there has been an unsatisfactory administrative procedure.
Compensation for improvements for local authority tenants
A secure local authority tenant may have the right to be compensated for improvements that they carry out to their property. The compensation is only paid for certain types of improvement and can only be claimed at the end of the tenancy.
Secure local authority tenancy clauses
A secure local authority tenancy may have specific clauses for rent reductions if there is a failure in services to a property, for example if a lift or a heating system is in disrepair. If there is such a clause and the landlord fails to apply it, the tenant could take an action for damages for breach of contract.
Local authority appeals and complaints procedure
A local authority tenant could consider making a complaint to a local councillor. A councillor may be able to put pressure on the local authority to take action.
Some local authorities have complaints and/or appeals procedures. These could be utilised as a way of compelling local authorities to meet their repairing obligations.
Local authority tenants complaints to the Ombudsman
If the failure by the local authority to carry out a repair is due to bad or poorly applied administrative procedures, the tenant could complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service.
The Ombudsman only investigates complaints if no other legal remedy is available. It has discretion to do so in other exceptional circumstances.
The Ombudsman investigates the complaint and, if they find maladministration, the Ombudsman is likely to recommend that the authority pay compensation to the tenant.
If the Ombudsman finds that the local authority's procedures for dealing with repairs are flawed they may recommend that the local authority modifies them.
Examples of complaints
In one case, the Ombudsman found that the authority had not investigated complaints about dampness properly, and had not taken appropriate action to carry out repairs. It had also failed to take into account all the relevant information provided when considering a transfer request on the grounds that conditions in the property were exacerbating health problems. The Ombudsman recommended that the authority pay £2,500 in compensation, as well as commissioning an independent survey, implementing a programme of works and reviewing its procedure for transfer requests.
In another example, the local authority failed to respond appropriately to a tenant's complaints about a leaking roof. The damage remained unattended to for 19 months, causing the tenants considerable distress as one of them suffered arthritis that was made worse by damp and the cold. The Ombudsman found the local authority guilty of maladministration and recommended that the local authority should pay the tenant £1,000 in compensation and change their internal administrative procedures.
Similarly, in another example, a council tenant was left without the use of a bedroom for over 18 months. The delay was in part due to a lack of proper procedures between the local authority and its contractors, and a failure to respond the tenant's complaint. The Ombudsman recommended that the local authority should pay the tenant £4,500 in compensation and improve its internal procedures.
Complaints to the Local Government Monitoring Officer
An under-used course of action is a complaint to the Local Government Monitoring Officer.
This officer, who is an officer of the local authority, must prepare a report to present to the council if they think it is likely that a council officer or committee is about to or has contravened the law or caused maladministration. The report must be considered within 21 days of it being sent.
Although there is no obligation for the council or the committee to consider compensation and there is no right of appeal if the council takes no action as a result, this may be a further way of putting pressure on a local authority to meet its repairing obligations.
Private registered providers of social housing appeals and complaints procedure
All private registered providers of social housing (PRPSHs) must have complaints and/or appeals procedures. These could be utilised as a way of compelling PRPSHs to meet their repairing obligations.
PRPSH tenants complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service
If the failure by a PRPSH to carry out a repair is due to poor administration or procedures, the tenant could complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service.
The Ombudsman might investigate the complaint and, if they find maladministration, will recommend how the PRPSH should resolve it.
The Ombudsman may also inform the Regulator of social housing.
Before complaining to the Ombudsman, the tenant should exhaust any internal complaints procedure of the PRPSH.
Last updated: 19 March 2021
s.96 Housing Act 1985, s.135 Housing Act 1996 and Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations SI 1994/133, as amended by Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) (Amendment) Regulations SI 1994/844 and Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) (Amendment) Regulations SI 1997/73.
ss.99A and 99B Housing Act 1985 and Secure Tenants of Local Authorities (Compensation for Improvements) Regulations SI 1994/613.
Local Government Ombudsman Complaint No. 00/C/14964 against Nottingham CC, and Local Government Ombudsman Complaint No. 01/B/15974 against Lambeth LB.
Local Government Ombudsman Complaint No.03/B/03543 against Plymouth CC.
Local Government Ombudsman Complaint No. 06/A/13667 against Basildon DC.
Local Government Ombudsman Complaint No. 09/005/422 against Harlow DC.
s.5 Local Government and Housing Act 1989.