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Help from the council's environmental health department

If the state of your home is affecting your health, your local council's environmental health department may be able to help you take action.

How could my health be affected?

There are many ways in which your mental or physical health could be affected by disrepair in your home. This might be due to:

  • dampness
  • mould growth
  • rats, cockroaches and other infestations
  • blocked drains or problems with rubbish or sewage
  • lack of fire precautions
  • stress (for example, because unfinished repairs make life unbearable)
  • faulty or dangerous gas or electrical appliances
  • defective electrical wiring.

If your landlord is refusing to repair these sorts of problems, the environmental health department may be able to help you force them to do so. Write to your landlord warning them that if the disrepair is not fixed within a certain time limit (depending on the urgency of the problem) you will seek help from the council. You can download a sample letter to send to your landlord.

What can the environmental health department do?

The council's environmental health department has to inspect and take action to sort out disrepair that is causing a 'nuisance'. 'Nuisance' has a specific legal meaning here that's different from its everyday meaning. Disrepair that is causing a nuisance may:

  • affect your health
  • cause a problem for the public
  • disturb people in any neighbouring property
  • make your home unfit for you to live in.

Getting the environmental health department to help

Before contacting the environmental health department you should consider:

  • how easily you can be evicted
  • whether you want to stay in the property
  • the seriousness of the problem and how this affects you and the people you live with.

If the condition of your accommodation is affecting your health, or is causing problems for other people around you, contact your local council's environmental health department and ask them to carry out an inspection. Inspections are free and your complaint will be kept confidential if you wish.

An environmental health officer should then carry out an inspection of your home. If your landlord won't let them in, they can obtain a warrant.

If the officer thinks that the problem is likely to be harmful to your health, or cause a public nuisance, the environmental health department can give your landlord an 'abatement notice'.

Abatement notices

An abatement notice is a legal document ordering your landlord to put the problem right within specific period of time. 

The environmental health department may send your landlord a warning asking them to carry out the repairs, before giving them an abatement notice.

Your landlord can appeal against an abatement notice if they don't think it is fair. This must be done at the sheriff court within 21 days of receiving the notice.

What if my landlord ignores the abatement notice?

If your landlord doesn't comply with the abatement notice, the environmental health department can:

  • repair the problem themselves and charge your landlord for the work
  • take your landlord to court.

If your landlord is taken to court by the environmental health department, they can be ordered to carry out the works and/or be fined up to £5,000.

My home doesn't meet the tolerable standard

If your home doesn't reach a basic level of repair known as the 'tolerable standard', report this to the environmental health department and ask for an officer to inspect your home. The page on responsibility for repairs has information on what the tolerable standard is.

If they decide that your home isn't fit, they will either:

  • order your landlord to fix the problems by issuing a repair notice, or
  • decide that your home should be demolished.

If your landlord doesn't carry out the repairs or improvements within the time limit specified in the repair notice, the council can carry out the work and charge your landlord for it.

What if I have to move out?

If you have to move out of your home because it's unsafe, and you don't have anywhere else to go, make a homeless application to your local council. They will provide you with temporary accommodation while they look into your situation, and may then offer you a permanent home.

What if the council won't help me?

If the environmental health department doesn't take action, you may be able to:

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
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The important points

  • The council's environmental health department has to inspect and take action to sort out disrepair that is causing a 'nuisance'.
  • Environmental health may send your landlord an abatement notice, which requires the landlord put right an issue within a certain timescale. 
  • Your landlord can appeal against an abatement notice if they don't think it is fair.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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