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Complaining about disrepair if you are a social housing tenant

This advice applies to England

If you rent your home from a social housing landlord, they're responsible for dealing with most repair problems. If you’ve reported repairs to your landlord and they haven’t done anything, you can make a complaint.

This page explains how to complain about disrepair to your landlord, a councillor or an Ombudsman, and what you should include in the complaint.

Before making a complaint

Before making a complaint, double check that your landlord is responsible for doing the work, for example, by looking at your tenancy agreement or tenant's handbook. However, every landlord is responsible for carrying out certain repairs even if these aren't mentioned in your tenancy agreement.

If your disrepair problem is urgent and your landlord hasn't done anything about it, then making a complaint may not be the best way to resolve it and you may need to consider other options.

Keeping evidence about repairs

Having information to support your complaint will always be useful. This could include:

  • records of conversations with your landlord, the date you spoke to them and anything they agreed to do
  • copies of any letters or emails you've sent to, and received from, your landlord
  • photographs of the repair, particularly if the problem gets worse over time
  • belongings or photographs of belongings that have been damaged because of the repair problem. For example, clothes or furnishings damaged by mould. It's useful to keep a note of how much they cost you or keep receipts if you have to buy new things to replace them
  • a note of any medical visits if you are injured or made ill by the repair problem
  • any expert evidence you may have, for example, reports from a surveyor or an Environmental Health Officer.

Complaining to your landlord using their complaints procedure

You can consider making a formal complaint to your landlord if they:

  • haven't dealt with a repair problem
  • are slow to do the work
  • have carried out an inspection but have done little or nothing since
  • have done the repair work but it's of poor quality.

Every social housing landlord must have a clear and accessible complaints policy and procedure, and you should be able to complain in a range of ways. The policy should set out when your landlord will get back to you and what you can do if you're unhappy with the outcome.

It's best to make your complaint in writing, keeping a copy of the letter and any response. There's a checklist of things at the end of this page which may help you when writing your complaint.

Most complaints procedures have two or three stages and if you're unhappy with the final outcome of your complaint, you can complain to an Ombudsman.

Complaining to a local councillor

If you're a local authority tenant, as well as complaining to your landlord, you can also raise the problem with a local councillor.

You can contact a local councillor through your local authority or by attending the councillor's advice surgery. You can find out who your local councillor is and contact them using the WriteToThem website.

Complaining to an Ombudsman

If you're unhappy with the outcome of a complaint to your landlord, you can complain to an Ombudsman. You should do this after you've exhausted your landlord's internal complaints procedure.

In England, social housing tenants complain to the Housing Ombudsman. However, you may first have to refer your complaint to a 'designated person' before it can go to the Housing Ombudsman.

In Wales, social housing tenants complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

A complaint to an Ombudsman may take some time to be investigated. If the Ombudsman finds that your landlord is responsible for the problem, the report will include recommendations for a suitable solution. Landlords usually take their findings seriously and act on them. The actions the Ombudsman might ask for include:

  • an apology
  • payment of compensation
  • improved administrative procedures
  • putting the problem right.

Checklist for making a formal written complaint

Before starting to write your letter, make a note of the main points of the complaint.

  • Say that the letter is a formal complaint, for example, by mentioning this in the opening line of the letter or by heading the letter ‘Complaint’.
  • Make the letter clear, to the point and set it out in a logical order.
  • Focus on why you're complaining and stick to the facts. Include any relevant dates and times, the names of anyone involved, and how you've been affected.
  • Explain what you'd like to happen as a result of the complaint, for example, the repairs to be completed without further delay.
  • Attach copies of any other information that relates to or supports your complaint, for example, photographs of the disrepair, receipts of items that have been damaged because of the disrepair.
  • Date your letter and include your contact details.
  • Keep a copy of the letter and any attachments.
  • Where possible, get proof of postage or keep a record of when the letter was sent and who it was addressed to.
  • Check the complaints policy to see if there are any target response times and make a note in your diary when a response should be received by. Copies of policies and procedures are often available on landlords' websites.

Next steps

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