Going to court if repair issues are affecting your health

If disrepair in your home is seriously damaging your health or the health of anyone else in your household, you can apply to the sheriff court for an abatement order. If the order is granted, your landlord will have to put the problem right. Bear in mind that this is a lengthy procedure, and may not be successful.

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 health is being affected by disrepair in your home, you can raise an action in the sheriff court for an abatement order.

What is an abatement order?

An abatement order is a legal document ordering your landlord to put the problem right and setting a time limit by which any works must be completed.

You can raise an action for an abatement order to put right any repair problems that are 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.

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

How do I raise an action for an abatement order?

Speak to an adviser or solicitor first. They should be able to:

  • tell you whether it is worth raising an action against your landlord

  • help you with the procedure.

Before raising an action, you'll first need to serve a notice on your landlord. The notice must:

  • explain what the disrepair problem is

  • give the landlord 21 days to put the problem right

  • state that if the landlord doesn't put the problem right, you intend to raise an action in the sheriff court.

If, after the 21 days are up, your landlord still hasn't put the problem right, you'll need to lodge a summary application at the local sheriff court. You'll need to get a solicitor to do this for you, and you will have to pay for their time. However, you may be able to get legal aid to help pay for the costs.

What can the sheriff decide?

If the sheriff decides that the disrepair problem is affecting your health or causing a nuisance, they will make an abatement order instructing your landlord to carry out any repair work necessary. If the sheriff decides that the repair problems are so bad that your home is not fit for human habitation, they will make an order banning anyone from living there until the disrepair has been sorted out.

If your landlord doesn't carry out the necessary work, they will be held in contempt of court and may be punished in any way the court sees fit.

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Last updated: 29 December 2014

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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