Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Repairs if you rent from the council or housing association

What to do if repairs are not done

If the council or housing association will not do repairs they're responsible for, make a complaint.

If this does not work, you can take them to court or get help from environmental health.

Make a complaint about repairs

You can make a complaint when repairs:

  • are not done

  • are done badly

  • are delayed or not finished

  • have caused other repair problems

  • have damaged internal decorations or your belongings

Step 1: send a formal complaint

Email or write to the council or housing association. Their contact details are in your tenant handbook or tenancy agreement.

When you make a complaint, include:

  • what you're complaining about

  • when the problem started

  • what you want them to do

  • your contact details

Try and provide evidence, such as:

  • inspection notes by an expert

  • receipts for things you’ve replaced

  • a doctor’s note if your health has been affected

  • photos or videos of the repair and items damaged by the problem

Use our template letter to make a complaint about repairs

Ask for a copy of their complaints policy so you know what will happen next.

Send letters by recorded delivery. Keep copies of any letters or emails you send as evidence.

They must send you a response within 5 working days.

Step 2: ask for a final response

If repairs are still not done, ask them to look at your complaint again and send a final response. This is sometimes called a stage 2 complaint.

Your complaint will be looked at by a different member of staff. They must send you a final response within 20 working days.

Step 3: if you're unhappy with the final response

If making a complaint does not work, submit your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. You must complain to them within 1 year of the problem starting.

You can also contact environmental health or go to court to get repairs done.

Getting help from environmental health

Contact the council's environmental health department if the problem is affecting your health or making your home unfit to live in.

They will usually only get involved if you have already followed the complaints procedure.

Use our template letter to contact environmental health about repairs

Taking court action to get repairs done

The sheriff court can order your council or housing association to do repair work.

You must make a complaint before taking court action.

A solicitor can help you decide if court action is right for you. You could get free legal advice or legal aid to help with costs.

Find a solicitor on the Law Society of Scotland website.

Getting a court order to get repairs done

For repairs that would cost under £5,000, use a court process called simple procedure. You can apply and represent yourself if you do not want to hire a solicitor. Check the Citizens Advice guidance on simple procedure.

For repairs that would cost over £5,000, use a court process called ordinary cause. You’ll need a solicitor’s help to do this.

If repair issues are affecting your health

Apply to the sheriff court for an abatement order.

Before doing this, you must write to the council or housing association and:

  • explain what the repair issue is

  • give them 21 days to do the repairs

  • provide evidence that it’s affecting your health

  • warn them you'll take them to court if it’s not fixed

If it's not fixed after 21 days you can apply to the sheriff court. You’ll need a solicitor’s help.

The court can order the council or housing association to do any repairs. If they do not comply, the court can choose how to penalise them.

Going to court for compensation

The sheriff court can order the council or housing association to give you compensation if repairs cause:

  • inconvenience

  • damage to your health

  • damage to your belongings

The amount of compensation you can get depends on how seriously the problem affected you or how much money it cost you.

A solicitor can help you work out how much compensation you’re owed and make your case in court.

Alternatives to complaints and court action

Complaining to the ombudsman or going to court can take several months.

If the repairs are urgent or minor, you could arrange repairs yourself, and ask the council or housing association to pay you back the money or deduct it from your rent.

This can be risky. They could try to evict you if the repairs are done poorly or cause damage, or if you deduct money from your rent to pay for them. Always ask permission in writing first.

Check our guidance on doing repairs yourself

Some people withhold rent to force the council or housing association to do repairs. This is not recommended, as you could be evicted for rent arrears.

Check our guidance on withholding rent

If you’re worried about eviction

You cannot be evicted for asking for repairs to be done, making a complaint or taking legal action.

You have the right to live in your home free from repair problems.

If you're worried that you'll be evicted, speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser.

Last updated: 20 July 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England