Blog: how to sort housing association problems

5 min read
October 15, 2014

(15/10/14) What are the rights and regulations for housing association and council house tenants who want to complain? We find out

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There are as many of us renting with housing associations as there are renting from private landlords. But if you are one of the 3.8 million people who live in housing association property or a council house, do you know what to do if you have an issue with your landlords? We take a look at how you should deal with these issues.

As funding from central government is reduced, housing associations are increasingly focused on how they can mitigate that reduced subsidy. This means that there is almost inevitably greater potential for poor service.

Secure, unsecure, or introductory tenants 

There are several different types of housing association tenancy agreements, and so you need to work out what type of agreement you have. Find your lease and have a read, you are looking for are the words secure or introductory tenant.

You are likely to be an introductory tenant if you have been with the housing association for less than 12 months. During this first year, you cannot buy your home, exchange your home or apply for a transfer.

Key reasons a housing association could try to evict you from your home are if you have not paid your rent or are causing a disturbance to the local environment. They will to apply a court to get an eviction notice.

Other potential causes for evictions are if you have not kept the property in good condition, your application was not truthful, or if you or a member of your household has been involved in anti-social behaviour.

Can I take in a lodger or sub-let my home?

Once you are a secure tenant, you are permitted to have lodgers and you will not need to get permission to do this. You should be aware that any income will need to be taken into account with the Social Security Agency and the Inland Revenue. The first £4,250 of income is tax-free.

You cannot sub-let your home unless you have written permission from the housing association.

Right to improve

Secure tenants can carry out improvements to the property as long as they’ve got the housing association’s permission first. Introductory tenants aren’t allowed to carry out any improvements.

Your landlord should only refuse permission for the improvements if it is worried that the work will make the property less safe, reduce the value of the property or make it difficult to let in the future. You will become responsible for future repairs and maintenance of any new improvements you make to the house. If you install a new shower and it leaks, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Right to buy

You can apply to buy your housing association home if you’ve been a tenant for five years or more.

Looking after the property

It’s your responsibility to look after your home and to try to avoid causing any damage. You should:

• Keep your home reasonably clean
• Not damage the property or any contents provided (and not allow your family or guests to do so either)
• Carry out minor maintenance like checking smoke alarm batteries or unblocking a sink
• Use the heating properly to avoid damp and burst pipes.
In most cases, you will also be responsible for interior decoration. Read your tenancy agreement to confirm what exactly is your responsibility.

The housing association is then responsible for:

• The structure and exterior of the building – this includes the roof, walls, windows and external doors
• Central heating, gas fires, fireplaces, flues, ventilation and chimneys
• Water, pipes, basins, sinks, toilets and baths, drains and guttering
• Gas pipes, electrical wiring, and any appliances provided
• Common parts such as lifts and communal entrances.

Making a complaint

Before you can make an official complaint with a housing association, you must make what is technically known as an ‘unofficial complaint’. This sounds quirky, but basically it means you must raise the issue with the housing association and given them a chance to resolve the issue. Around 87% of issues are resolved by housing associations.

Ensure you head any communications as a ‘Formal Complaint’. This way, it is recognised as a complaint. This is important, as otherwise you will not be able to escalate the case if it is resoled to your satisfaction.

Ensure the letter or email is addressed to the ‘Head of Complaints’ and keep it to one side of A4 paper (roughly the same length for an email). It is important to keep your communication focused. We recommend you: 

• Explain what the issue is, try and keep it simple and keep it to the key points
• Say what have you done so far to try and resolve the issue. Have you made an informal complaint? Who to? When?
• What would you like to be done to resolve the issue (ensure this is simple and straightforward)

You should then give the housing association time to respond. If you still have no resolution, the next stage of the process is to contact a designated person. Under the Localism Act of 2011, a local person has been introduced into the process of complaining against a housing association. The idea is to help resolve issues in a local environment.

Designated Person

The ‘Designated Person’ can be an MP, a local councillor, or a tenant panel. This person (or people in the case of a tenant panel) can then try to resolve the dispute or can pass your case to the Housing Ombudsman. If they try to resolve the issue they will act as an independent assessor, trying to find a way to sort the problem.

Housing Ombudsman

If the issue cannot be resolved by the Designated Person or after eight weeks from when the formal complaints process from the housing association has finished, you can take your complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.

The Housing Ombudsman is the final stage of the escalation process.

Next time: Payday loans what are your rights and how to resolve your issues.

For a simple, easy way to complain about more than 1,500 companies across 60 services, go to or download the iPhone or Android app. If you have a case and need some advice on how to complain, contact

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