Council housing handbook

Maintenance and repairs

Chapter 3: Maintenance and repairs

In this section:

Help videos: Fixing common problems

The following videos will help you fix some common problems in your home.

Looking after your home

Here are a few things that you can do to help prevent future problems:

  • Know where your mains water stop tap is located and check that it turns easily and that you are able to shut off the water supply to the property in an emergency. It is usually located where the water pipe enters the house or near the kitchen sink
  • If you go away for a few days in winter it is best to leave the heating on, but lower the setting on your central heating, to help prevent pipes freezing.
  • Prevent blockages in the kitchen sink waste pipes by flushing through regularly using washing soda and hot water. Buy a plunger (without a metal disk) from a DIY store to help you clear blockages.
  • Keep outside gullies clear of leaves and other debris so that surface water drains away easily
  • Remove lime scale from baths, sinks, showerheads and taps with a de-scaler available in DIY stores and supermarkets
  • When it rains, check that there are no leaks from gutters and down pipes from the roof
  • Check your roof at least once a year to make sure there are no broken or missing tiles or slates

Our responsibilities

We are responsible for repairing and maintaining:

  • the structure and exterior of your property
  • most of the items we provided in the property when your tenancy started
  • items we have provided since you moved in to your home

However, we will only repair or replace items as a result of fair wear and tear.

If you request fencing, you should note the details below:

  • If the fence repair borders a path at the front of the property, bow top fencing will be installed
  • If the fence repair divides two properties, chain link fencing will be installed and will include a 3m privacy panel to the rear unless the garden opens onto a public space
  • If the fence repair at the rear or side borders open land, private land, public land or public footpaths or roadways, 6ft close boarded fencing will be installed

We will not replace or repair a fence which was installed by the tenant or a previous tenant. It is deemed to be the tenant’s responsibility to maintain that fence for the lifetime of the fence. If the fence is in a state of disrepair, the tenants fence will be taken down and reinstated with a new fence of the type as detailed above.

Your responsibilities

You are responsible for:

  • keeping your home in a reasonable condition
  • taking reasonable precautions to prevent damage to the property by fire, frost, the bursting of pipes or the blocking of drains and sinks
  • connecting and replacing electrical fuses to your own domestic appliances such as cookers, washing machines and fridge freezers
  • servicing your own appliances
  • managing condensation to prevent mould
  • clearing minor blockages in baths, basins or sinks
  • replacing waste plugs and chains to baths, basins or sinks
  • replacing damaged toilet seats, (excluding sheltered and supported housing)
  • cleaning and descaling shower heads
  • replacing damaged shower pull cords
  • venting and 'bleeding' all radiators regularly
  • tightening and adjusting kitchen cupboard doors and handles
  • tightening and fixing of internal door handles
  • minor plastering jobs, including filling small cracks
  • decorating the inside of your home
  • resetting the trip switches in the electrical fuse box if it is within your home
  • changing light bulbs
  • setting time thermostats
  • clearing external gullies (drains)
  • repairing fences that are not council-owned
  • repairing washing lines and rotary dryers
  • maintaining all DIY structures, patios and paths
  • maintaining your garden
  • reporting any faults promptly
  • providing us with access to the property so that our contractors can carry out repairs, maintenance and safety checks

Home alterations and improvements

Most council tenants have the right to carry out their own alterations and improvements to their home, but you must make an application to seek our permission first. See the webpage: Improving your council home

Accidental and deliberate damage to a property

You are responsible for repairing or replacing all items that are accidentally or deliberately damaged:

  • by you, your pets, or anyone living in or visiting your home
  • through carelessness or neglect, even if it is not your fault

If someone damages or vandalises your home, you must:

  • report the matter immediately to the police on 999 in an emergency or 101 in a non-emergency
  • get a crime reference number from the police
  • report the repair to us and tell us the crime reference number
  • co-operate with the police during their investigation into the incident
  • co-operate with your repairs team to repair any damages made

Please note: If you ask us to deal with any damaged items without having a crime reference number, we will charge you for the full cost of carrying out the work.

Gas safety, immersion heater and smoke detector checks

Each year, we have a legal duty to come to your home to check:

  • gas pipes that run from the gas meter into your home
  • gas appliances that we own
  • gas appliances that you own

Each year we will send you an appointment letter to carry out the gas safety, immersion heater and smoke detector check. If the appointment is not suitable for you, please let us know as soon as possible and we will rearrange it.

If you need to change an appointment, you can do this in your My Housing Tenancy account or by contacting Customer Services.

Please note: It is a legal requirement to carry out an annual check and for you to allow access to your home. Under your tenancy agreement, you must let us into your home to carry out these checks. If you do not let us in, we will take legal action against you and charge you the full cost of taking this action. In 2020, the cost of applying for an access injunction is £310.00.

If we find any problems with our appliances, we will arrange for them to be put right.

If we find any problems with your appliances, we will tell you. However, you will be responsible for getting your own appliances repaired or replaced.

Faulty gas appliances can:

  • give off poisonous carbon monoxide. You cannot see or smell this gas, but it can kill you and your family.
  • explode, destroying your home and damaging neighbouring properties

Remember: Gas appliances can kill. Help us to keep you safe.

Electrical safety check

Every ten years we will test the electric circuits in your home. We will send you an appointment letter a few weeks before we intend to carry out the test.

If needed, you can change the appointment via the Customer Services webpage.

Requesting a repair

You make a request for a repair online. See the webpage: Request a housing repair 

If the repair is urgent, you should report it by telephone or in person.

To request an emergency repair call 01793 445503.

Alternatively, if you are on the Homeline system, you can call them in an emergency.

Please note: If we attend and find it is not an emergency, we will charge you for the emergency call-out and the full cost of the work.

Prioritising repairs

When you report a fault, we will decide if it is an emergency, urgent or a non-urgent repair.

Emergency repairs

Emergency repairs are for those situations that are actually or potentially dangerous and where there is a serious risk to the health and safety of people. It is also likely to include repairs where immediate action will prevent serious damage to property.

Our repairs contractor will:

  • Attend the property within two hours of the fault being reported
  • Complete the repair or ‘make safe’ the situation

In cases where the problem can only be made safe during the emergency call out (and cannot be fully repaired), we will arrange for the work to be completed the following working day. Emergency repairs are most likely to be to:

  • secure external doors or ground floor windows
  • remedy serious and uncontrollable leaks
  • remedy sewage backing up into the property
  • remedy unsafe electrics that are sparking, smoking or have loose wires
  • remedy total loss of electric, unless this is due to a general power failure affecting other properties (in such cases you should contact your electricity supplier)
  • remedy gas fumes or leaks (we will contact National Gas Emergency Service to isolate the property)

Please note: Loss of heating or hot water is considered to be an urgent repair and not an emergency situation. This is unless you or a member of your household would suffer greatly from having no heating or hot water because of extreme age (children under two years of age and people who are ninety years or older) or health (suffering from a terminal illness). If we are unable to repair the heating system during cold weather, we will provide you with a temporary electric heater until the repair is completed. You will be responsible for the cost of the electricity the heater uses.

Urgent repairs

Urgent repairs are small repairs as defined in the Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994.

Our repairs team will complete these repairs the next working day.

Urgent repairs are most likely to be to remedy:

  • partial loss of electric power (unless it is possible for you to change a fuse or reset the consumer unit to restore power)
  • partial loss of water supply
  • loss of heating or hot water
  • a blocked WC where you have been unable to clear the blockage yourself
  • a door entry system that is not working

Non-urgent repairs

Our repairs team will take no longer than forty working days to complete repairs that are not considered an emergency or urgent.

Appointments to carry out work

The following appointment times are available:

  • Weekday morning, 8.00am to 12 noon
  • Weekday afternoon, 12 noon to 4.00pm
  • Weekday evening, 4.00pm to 6.30pm
  • Weekday ‘school run’, 9.30am to 2.30pm

If you need to change an appointment, you can do this in your My Housing Tenancy account.

Planned maintenance, major repairs and improvements

As well as carrying out repairs you have requested, we will also carry out planned maintenance, major repairs and improvement work to make sure your home continues to meet the government’s ‘Decent Homes Standard’. This work may include the following:

  •  Re-painting the outside of the property
  •  Re-roofing the property
  •  Installing new thermal efficient external doors and windows
  •  Replacing kitchen and bathroom fittings*
  •  Improving insulation levels within the property
  •  Installing new efficient central heating and hot water systems
  •  Rewiring or upgrading electrical installations
  •  Renewing fences, gates and paths

* We may not carry out these improvements if you have serious rent arrears.

Before starting any work, we will:

  • write to you to let you know we are coming
  • visit your home to carry out a survey before deciding what work needs to be done
  • tell you:
    • what work we are going to do
    • the name of the contractor
    • the arrangements for carrying out the work

Please note: This type of work may take several days or even weeks to complete and may involve erecting scaffolding around your property.

We may also need to inspect the works a number of times during the work and again after the work has been completed.

Adaptations for people with disabilities or impairments

If you have a disability or impairment, we can help you to make your home more suitable to live in and help you to be independent.

Minor adaptations

The types of minor adaptations that may be available are:

  • Grab rails
  • Lever taps
  • Stair hand rails

We may also be able to provide you with equipment, such as shower seats.

You can request a minor adaptation by phone on 01793 445503.

Major adaptations

The types of major adaptations that may be available are:

  • Stair lifts
  • Over bath showers
  • Easy access showers
  • Access ramps
  • Extensions

If you need a major adaptation, our occupational therapist must first carry out an assessment of your disability. They will either recommend the adaptation you need or recommend that you move into more suitable accommodation.

As part of the assessment, you may be asked to provide further information and fill in a self-assessment form.

To arrange an assessment you should telephone Careline on 0800 085 6666.

If an adaptation is recommended, we will need to survey your home to make sure that it is structurally and economically viable to make the necessary alterations.

Depending on the cost of the adaptation, and your financial circumstances, you may need to make a financial contribution.

See also: Request an adaptation to your council home

Visiting your property

When we visit your property to carry out work or an inspection there must be a responsible adult present for the whole visit.

If the only person at the property is under eighteen years old, the contractor or housing officer will refuse to carry out the work or inspection. You will need to report the fault again, if you still want the repair to be done.

Please note: All contractors and housing officers carry identification (ID) cards, which you should always ask to see before allowing them into your home. If you ever wish to confirm the contractor’s or housing officer’s identity, please contact us on: 01793 445503.They will always wait outside whilst you do this. Remember: If in doubt, shut them out!

If our contractor or inspector calls and you are not in, they will leave a note to let you know they called. Please telephone the number given on the note and let us know when we should call again.

All our contractors have been instructed not to smoke in or around our tenants’ homes. We would ask you to reciprocate this by not smoking in the vicinity of an operative undertaking works in your home.Whilst they are working, your home is their workplace and it must be made as safe an environment as possible.

If you have a dog or any other animal in the property, this should be kept away from the contractor’s working area.

Customer satisfaction

Service standards

We aim to:

  • tell you when the work will be carried out
  • complete all work on time and to a standard you are happy with
  • respect you and your home when carrying out any work
  • provide a service that gives you value for money

If you are unhappy with the standard of any part of the service you received from us, please let us know. See section 10: Complaints, feedback and procedures

Your complaint may be about:

  • the contact centre or service at Customer Services reception
  • the way you were dealt with by our inspector or the contractor who carried out the work
  • the standard of the repair carried out

We will investigate your complaint and, if necessary, arrange for the fault to be put right.

A service area manager will respond within ten working days of receiving your complaint.

Customer satisfaction surveys

To help us monitor our repairs and maintenance service, we carry out a range of customer satisfaction surveys as follows

  • A postal survey - the contractor will leave you a questionnaire and ask you to complete it and return it to us in a pre-paid envelope.
  • A telephone survey - we may ring a customer at random and ask them their opinion on the service we have provided.
  • A follow-up visit - a housing officer may visit to inspect the work done at your property

We use all the feedback we receive to help us to identify problems and improve our service.

Tenant liaison officers (TLOs)

TLOs are able to help and give guidance to tenants on repairs, planned maintenance and capital improvement works. TLOs can provide guidance on requesting repairs online. They are also available to assist in housing emergencies.

TLOs work with SBC tenants and staff. Their role is to listen to and support the tenant. If the tenant has any issues, TLOs try to resolve them quickly and fairly.


The government sets time frames for certain urgent repairs to be carried out. Under Right to Repair regulations, you may get compensation of up to £250 if such repairs are not completed within those time frames.

If you think you are entitled to compensation, please let us know.

We will send you a claim form that you must fill in and return to us. We will only accept claims for compensation on the form we provide.

We will investigate your claim and give you our decision in writing.


If there is too much moisture in the air it may condense onto any cold surfaces. Condensation is sometimes mistaken for a damp problem. People can often be the cause of condensation in their home by:

  • cooking or boiling water in unventilated kitchens
  • taking baths and showers in unventilated bathrooms
  • using unventilated tumble dryers
  • drying wet clothes indoors

When moist air cools, it releases water. You will see it on colder surfaces such as external walls, windows, wall tiles and even furniture and clothes.

If it cannot dry out, it will cause mould to form.

You can help stop condensation forming in your home by:

  • covering pans and turning down the heat when boiling food
  • switching off boiling kettles
  • drying wet clothes outside on a washing line
  • opening bathroom and kitchen windows for a short while to let steam escape and to change the air in your house
  • using an extractor fan
  • keeping your home warm all day by maintaining a low background heat
  • wiping down surfaces where moisture has settled and if any mould has formed, clean it off using a proprietary cleaner (available in DIY stores)

Saving money on your energy bills

Here are a few helpful tips on saving energy and money:

  • Check that all your heating controls are set correctly
  • Turn down your heating by one degree - you may not notice this change but it can cut up to 10% off your fuel bills
  • Close your curtains at night to stop heat escaping through the windows
  • Do not leave the fridge freezer door open for too long as cold air will escape. The fridge freezer will then use a lot of electricity to reduce the temperature back to the correct level
  • Always wait until you have a full load before using your washing machine or dishwasher. Try to use the low-temperature programme. Do not put really wet clothes into a tumble dryer – wring them out or spin-dry them first.
  • Fit energy-saving light bulbs. It will use around 25% of the electricity and last eight times longer than an ordinary bulb.
  • Heat only the amount of water you really need for washing and do not overfill kettles for just one drink.

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