Complaining about the condition of your shared house

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Check if this advice applies to you

This advice will usually apply to you if all the following are true:

  • you have a private landlord

  • you don’t live with your landlord

  • you started renting on or after 15 January 1989

In most cases this means you’ll have an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ or ‘assured tenancy’.

This advice applies to people with one of these tenancies. It’s worth checking your tenancy agreement to make sure.

If you’re not sure, or you have a different kind of agreement with a private landlord, check your tenancy type if you rent from a private landlord.

Your landlord has to keep your home in a good condition and do repairs if you live in a shared house.  

If you live in a 'house in multiple occupation' (HMO) they must also make sure your home meets certain safety standards. You’II usually be living in an HMO if you live with several people who aren’t part of your family.

For example, if you live in an HMO your landlord must keep shared areas clean and repair faulty gas and electrical appliances so your home is kept safe.

If your landlord isn’t looking after your home properly you should complain to get the problem sorted out.

If you think your landlord might be treating you worse because of discrimination

You might be able to do something about it - check if your problem is discrimination.

Before you complain

There are steps you need to take before complaining to your landlord.

Step 1. Check if you live in an HMO  

You’II usually be living in an HMO if you live in a shared house, bedsit or hostel with 2 or more people who aren’t part of the same family.

If you’re not sure if you live in an HMO check with your local council - it can sometimes be difficult to tell.

If you don’t live in an HMO and have a problem with your shared home, see how to complain about your landlord.

Step 2. Check your home meets safety standards

Your landlord must make sure your home meets certain safety standards if you live in an HMO. This includes:

  • making sure the property isn't overcrowded - check when your home is treated as being overcrowded on the Shelter website

  • keeping shared areas clean and in good repair - for example staircases and corridors

  • installing smoke alarms and a fire escape  

  • making sure gas equipment is safe - your landlord has to get a gas safety check done every year

  • making sure your electrics are safe - your landlord has to get the electrics checked every 5 years 

Step 3: Check if your home needs to be licensed as an HMO

Your landlord has to have a licence for your home if it has 5 or more people living there as 2 or more separate households. Resident landlords and their families should count as one person when working out the total number of people in your home.

A household for example, is either a single person or family who live together (including couples).

Some councils require all HMOs to have a licence. Some councils require all private landlords to have a licence.

You should check with your local council if your landlord has a licence for your home. If they don’t and they should this can help you when you make your complaint.

Complain to your landlord

If your home doesn’t meet the safety standards or you’re unhappy with its condition you should complain to your landlord.

It’s best to write or send an email to your landlord, so you have evidence if you need it later. If you prefer to call them, keep a note of what you discussed. 

Explain your problem and what you want them to do to solve it. For example, if your shared stairways are blocked by rubbish tell them you want it removed. 

If your landlord is evicting you for complaining

If you’re worried about your landlord evicting you for complaining it’s really important to make sure you've checked if they’ve got a licence for your home. 

If they haven’t applied or got a licence and they should have, they can’t evict you by using a section 21 notice.

Even if they’re licensed, you can still complain if they’re not looking after your home. 

Talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help checking if your landlord’s got a licence or  you’re worried about your landlord evicting you for complaining.

If your landlord doesn’t fix the problem   

If your landlord doesn’t fix your problem when you complain, tell your local council.

It’s best to call your council to get your problem sorted out quickly. You could write a letter or send an email if you prefer. If you send a letter keep a copy in case you need evidence later.

If you call the council you should note down what you discussed and who you spoke to.

Explain how your landlord isn’t doing what they should for example, if they’re not keeping your home in good repair. Tell them you live in an HMO - this will usually make the council act faster.

Send a copy of any evidence following your call or with your letter, for example photos showing the problem.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help making your complaint.  

What the council will do

The council will usually inspect your home. They can tell your landlord to fix the problem if your home doesn’t meet the safety standards.

If your landlord doesn’t follow the council’s advice they can take over the management of your home in serious cases. For example, if your health or safety is put at serious risk. 

If the council decides to manage your home

If the council takes over the management of your home it will usually be for a period of 12 months, but they could take it over permanently - this doesn’t happen very often.

You’II have to pay your rent to the council if they’re managing your home. They’ll write to you to explain how you should make your payments.

Your tenancy rights will stay the same whilst the council is managing your home. For example, if they wanted to end your tenancy they would still need to give you proper notice. Check how you should be given notice.

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