Social housing issue? Know how to complain.

Everyone deserves a safe and secure home.

If you live in social housing and you have an issue with your home or your landlord, there are ways to make things right.

This website is for tenants living in England only.

How do I get an issue sorted?

To get an issue sorted you can:

  1. Report it to your landlord
  2. Complain to your landlord
  3. Escalate to the Housing Ombudsman.

You can take these steps for lots of issues, including:

  • mould or damp
  • poor insulation
  • broken doors or windows
  • leaking pipes
  • other repairs
  • anti-social behaviour
  • access problems
  • poor service from a landlord.
Short video showing the steps to raise issues and make complaints.

Step 1 – Report it to your landlord

Report the issue to your landlord. Most landlords have a website with a form to fill in, as well as an email address or phone number you can use.

If you live in council housing, contact your council. If you live in a housing association home, check your contract for contact details.

Step 2 – Complain to your landlord

If you’ve reported an issue and it hasn’t been sorted or you’re not happy, complain to your landlord. They should have a website explaining their complaints process.

Landlords must take your complaint seriously and cannot punish you in any way for raising a problem or making a complaint.

Most landlords have 2 stages to their complaints process:

  • Stage 1: They must respond within 10 working days of a complaint being logged.
  • Stage 2: If a complaint goes to stage 2, they must respond within 20 working days.

Read more about how to make an effective complaint.

Landlords will send you a final response, which may explain how they plan to fix things.

Step 3 – Escalate to the Housing Ombudsman

If you’re not happy with your landlord’s final response to a complaint, escalate it to the Housing Ombudsman. They are free to use, impartial and will investigate fairly.

You can also:

Investigations take six months on average but can be faster or slower, depending on the case. The Ombudsman will check the facts and be thorough.

When the Ombudsman investigates and rules against a landlord, they must show they are acting within 6-8 weeks.

Last year (April 2022 to March 2023), the Ombudsman ordered landlords to pay over £1 million in compensation to residents.

Need more help?

Citizens Advice, Shelter and other advice organisations offer free and impartial advice on housing issues, including your right to raise your issue through the courts. You can also contact your local MP, councillor, or Tenants Panel to see if they can help.

Dealing with housing problems can be stressful. If you want to talk to someone, contact NHS mental health services or speak to a mental health charity.

Can you support the campaign?

You can help more residents know how to complain by using the social media posts, posters and leaflets in the campaign toolkit.

Frequently asked questions

What is my responsibility compared to the landlord?

Your landlord is responsible for larger, essential things, such as maintenance of the structure of the property, electric, gas and water, and shared parts of the building. 

As the tenant you are responsible for smaller things, such as fixing breakages like a shower rail, changing lightbulbs, as well as fixing any damage you may have caused.

How can I find out who my landlord is?

Your landlord will be named on the tenancy agreement. This might be the name of your local authority or council, or it could also be the name of a housing association. The Government service, request a repair to a council property, lets tenants search for their council using their home’s postcode. 

What if my issue is an emergency?

If the issue is life threatening or dangerous, tenants should contact their landlord’s emergency request service. Landlords often have different contact information for emergency requests. It is usually a phone number which is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This can be found on your landlord’s website, by searching for your landlord’s emergency repairs number.

What can I complain about?

You can complain about issues that are your landlord’s responsibility to fix. These include issues related to the structure of the house such as damp and black mould, insulation, condensation complaints, and repairs such as boiler issues, plumbing problems, leaking pipes, broken taps, and door security. Additionally, you can complain if you don’t have the correct accessibility requirements, and if you are experiencing anti-social behaviour in your housing.

What makes an effective complaint?

Reporting an issue as soon as it appears is important.

Having evidence about the issue will always be useful, so try to:

  • keep a record of all conversations with your landlord, as well as copies of any letters or emails
  • take and date photographs of the issue
  • record any correspondence from any medical visits if you were injured or made ill by the repair problem
  • record any reports from a surveyor or Environmental Health Officer.

What can I expect from my landlord after I complain?

Your landlord must respond within 10 working days of a complain being logged, with clear details of how they will put things right and what actions they will take. They will also provide information on how to take your complaints to the next stage if you’re not happy. The Housing Ombudsman has made a set of standards that landlords should follow – it’s called the Complaint Handling Code.

What if my landlord doesn’t respond within the time periods?

You can continue to follow up with them by phone or email. You must receive a response before you move on to the next stage of the process. While you are waiting, you can reach out to the Housing Ombudsman for advice.

What if I am worried about complaining or being kicked out?

You may be worried that raising a complaint about your landlord may result in losing your social housing. Landlords must follow the Government’s standards and are not able to evict tenants for complaining about issues. Be reassured, complaining will help to make things right.

Should I withhold rent while my home is in disrepair?

You should never withhold rent during a dispute or disrepair case with your landlord, as paying rent is part of your tenancy agreement. 

How long will the Housing Ombudsman take?

The Housing Ombudsman receives high volumes of cases, and aims to deal with these as quickly and efficiently as possible. The current average timescale for investigations is four and a half months, but more complex cases may take longer. The Ombudsman completes 99% of cases within 12 months.

What is mediation?

If you are dissatisfied with a response from a landlord, the Housing Ombudsman will help find a resolution before a full investigation takes place. This pre-investigation stage is known as mediation and 80% of complaints are dealt with this way.

What if I don’t agree with the Housing Ombudsman decision? 

If you are not satisfied with the decision made by the Housing Ombudsman, you can review it by contacting your caseworker and providing new evidence. If you are still unhappy, you can go through their complaints process. Further information can be found at housing-ombudsman.org.uk.

Will the landlord follow the Ombudsman’s recommedations?

Landlords are obliged to follow orders from the Ombudsman. If an Ombudsman ruling is in the tenant’s favour it is highly likely the landlord will follow the recommendation. A landlord has to provide the Ombudsman with proof of compliance with its orders before it shuts the case.