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Who is responsible for social housing repairs?

In this article Which repairs the council is responsible for What your duties are as a tenant Things to be aware of when taking on a tenancy agreement  Introduction Some tenants are surprised by just how much they are responsible for when taking on a tenancy in social housing and exactly who is responsible for […]

who is responsible for council house repairs

In this article

  • Which repairs the council is responsible for
  • What your duties are as a tenant
  • Things to be aware of when taking on a tenancy agreement


Some tenants are surprised by just how much they are responsible for when taking on a tenancy in social housing and exactly who is responsible for social housing repairs.

It is important to know that the council is responsible for the structural condition of the property you are renting, as well as much of the interior, but it is down to you, the tenant, to keep an eye on the “small” things.

The council’s obligations

Your council is responsible for making sure:

  • The walls, ceiling, roof and windows and other structural parts are in good condition
  • Gas and electricity appliances work safely
  • Shared parts of a building or housing estate are kept in good condition
  • If any works need to be carried out at the home you are renting the council should notify you a good few weeks ahead of time
  • If damage is caused to the property during repair work the council is obliged to put it right. This may lead to a reduction in rent if this process causes too much disruption.
  • If you have to leave the property in the event of major works the council has to re-house you and pay the costs while the work is completed. You can also apply to have the costs of moving paid by the council too

What you are responsible for in your council home

When you signed your tenancy agreement you were basically agreeing to keep the property you are renting in good repair throughout your occupancy of the house/flat. With that in mind it is only right and proper that you are responsible for upholding that part of the agreement.

Therefore, in most cases if damage to the property or its contents has occurred as a result of your neglect or recklessness, then it is up to you to foot the bill for any repair or replacement. This can also be the result of a family member, friend, visitor or pet, so do be aware that as the tenant you will be liable for meeting any costs.

Similarly, if the property you have been renting has been subject to vandalism or criminal damage, and you have failed to report it or co-operate with the police, then you may well be held responsible for the costs of putting it right.

In addition,  if you have made modifications to the interior of the property without consent of the Council, then you might well be faced with a bill for returning the room(s) to the condition they were in when you first moved in


TTV suggests you take a good look at the following list to see exactly what else you may find yourself responsible for (though you can always check with your Tenancy Agreement as that should contain itemised particulars of your responsibilities too):

  • Gardens
  • Gullies
  • Frost damage to outside toilets, taps and pipework
  • Internal decor (not applicable in sheltered accommodation)
  • Light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and starter units (communal areas excluded)
  • Fuses to appliances and the consumer unit
  • Smoke alarms (battery-operated)
  • Chimney sweeping (except if used by council-owned gas appliance)
  • The connection and disconnection of your own gas or electrical appliances
  • Loose floor covering or carpets (unless provided by the council)
  • Hat and coat rails/hooks
  • Bathroom/basin plugs and chains

As you can see, there are some pretty specific items that you might take for granted but which could actually be all your responsibility, but TTV recommends you check all this with the council when moving in so that you can be certain as to your responsibilities.

 Making modifications

Some councils allow tenants to make improvements to the home they are renting, but this depends on the type of tenancy. If you are new to renting from the council you will probably be limited to minor improvements such as redecorating.

If you are a “secure tenant” you may be given permission to:

  • Install a new bathroom or kitchen
  • Build an extension
  • Put up a garden shed or greenhouse
  • Install a new gas fire or fireplace
  • Install cavity wall insulation
  • Re-decorate the outside of a house
  • Fit an aerial or satellite dish

Depending on the type of work you want to carry out, you might need your council’s written permission so TTV suggests you contact the council whenever you wish to modify anything in the property just to be sure.

Where to go for further help and advice

If you are at all unsure about what your responsibilities are, ask the council’s housing department for clarification. Alternatively, consult a welfare advisor or call in at you local Citizen’s Advice office

In summary

  • As a social housing tenant you will have certain responsibilities and duties for making sure the property you are renting remains in good condition and repair during your occupancy
  • The council is responsible for the repair of major structural and interior fixtures of a property it is renting out
  • The tenant is responsible for many of the “small” things such as smoke alarms, bath plugs and coat hooks
  • TTV suggests making your own list of what you are responsible for to act as a reminder for you as it is easy to forget where your duties lie
  • In some cases the tenant may be given permission to carry out home improvements such as installing a new bathroom

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.

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