Your council house repairs

We aim to provide an excellent repairs and maintenance service to our customers and take pride in keeping your home up to a high standard of repair.

The latest information regarding housing visits and repairs in Northumberland and how this service is affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This information was last updated 11 May 2020.


Gas servicing of council homes
As your landlord we are required by law to carry out an annual Gas Safety Inspection. Even during the current crisis, this is categorised by the Government as an essential activity and we must continue to carry out servicing visits in order to keep residents and their families safe in their home. 
 
In order to minimise the risk of infection for both residents and our gas servicing engineers, we will be taking the following approach:
 
  • Engineers will be practicing good hand hygiene and wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with the advice from Public Health England. 
  • They will be adhering to social distancing and maintaining a minimum of 2 metre distance from residents whilst in the property. We will be seeking to carry out the inspection as quickly as possible but we would ask that you please respect this and if possible move to a different room while the inspection is taking place. 
  • Surfaces and any tools used will be wiped clean after the visit and PPE disposed of away from your home. 
  • If you or a member of your household is displaying symptoms of the Covid-19 please let us know and we will look to re-arrange the inspection after 14 days. 
  • If you or a member of your household is currently shielding or have received notification from the NHS that you are vulnerable, again please let us know and we will look to re-arrange the inspection at a later date.
We appreciate this is a very challenging time for everyone, but would please ask that you allow access and support us to carry out these essential works to maintain safety in your home.

Visits and repairs
In order to protect both our tenants and our housing staff from coming into contact with the Coronavirus, we will not be carrying out housing repair visits until further notice.
 
Only essential emergency repairs will be carried out. An emergency repair is an issue such as a major burst water pipe, or if you smell gas.
 
If you have no heating or hot water you need to check to see if your gas/electric meter has credit on it.
 
If you have a minor problem with your property this will be logged and addressed as soon as we are able.
 
As you can appreciate, Northumberland County Council is working very hard at this time to help vulnerable residents across the county.
 
If you have a genuine housing emergency please call  0345 600 6400.

Housing allocations
We will not be allocating council housing to new tenants during this time, unless it is for an emergency situation such as homelessness.
Our customer services centre is your first point of contact to report emergencies, faults and requests for repairs.

 Please call 0345 600 6400 for all your repair enquiries

The area maintenance managers have a team of directly employed engineers and time-served tradesmen who provide:

  • an all year round repair service for our properties
  • periodic electrical testing
  • regular gas safety testing, as required by law
We aim to provide an excellent repairs and maintenance service to our customers and take pride in keeping your home up to a high standard of repair.

Priority definitions

To ensure we deal with your repair request efficiently we operate a repair prioritisation scheme.
 
Repair priorities are to be defined as:

Emergency repairs:

Repairs to remedy any unforeseen defect which puts the safety or security of a tenant, or third party, at immediate risk, or which adversely affects the structure of the property.
 
Emergency repairs will be attended within 24 hours. The emergency situation will be made safe. A full repair will be carried out if possible, otherwise further work will be scheduled.
 
Examples of an emergency are: complete loss of power to the property, insecure doors or low-level windows, leaking pipes where the leak cannot be contained.
 
A charge will be applied for all non-emergency call-outs or no access given to repairs operatives.
 

Routine repairs

Non-emergency repairs where the defect is not causing an immediate risk to person or property and will be attended by appointment.
 
Routine repairs will be attended on appointment at a time agreed with the customer and within 30 working days of the request.
 
Examples of routine repairs are: partial loss of power, insecure windows upper level, leaking pipes where the leak can be contained and all minor repairs.
 

Planned works:

Periodic and planned improvements and repairs to maintain and/or improve the condition of the property. Planned maintenance and improvements will be completed within 90 working days of repair request or need identified. 
 
External works will have a completion date range unless access to property is required, in which case an appointment will be made with the customer.
 
Internal works will be attended on appointment. Examples of planned works include external painting programmes, and kitchen replacements.
 

Exceptions:

Completion of external repairs and planned maintenance are weather dependent and these appointments may need to be re-scheduled. Customers will be kept informed of any such arrangements.
 
Some repairs may be treated with more urgency if the customer or a member of the household is classed as vulnerable or at risk.
 
If we do not repair within a set time, you have the right to arrange your own repair. However, not all repairs qualify under the right-to repair scheme.
After consulting our customers, we have set service standards for when properties become empty. Our staff will make sure that each property meets these standards before they are re-let.
If you would like to make changes to, or improve your home (apart from decorating), you must get our written permission first, before any work starts.

Examples of improvements are: 
  • Fitting a new kitchen, bathroom, shower, gas fire or heating system.
  • Installing electrical sockets or new light fittings
  • Fitting a new front door or windows
  • Painting the outside of your home
  • Putting up a shed or greenhouse, or making a driveway or pavement crossing
  • You cannot Artex your walls or fix polystyrene tiling to your ceilings
For a full list go to our Tenant Improvement Guidelines 

If you do undertake any improvments to your home, you will be responsible for maintaining new fixtures and fittings for 12 months. If your improvements were done by a private contractor they will normally be covered by a guarantee or manufacturer's warranty.

If you leave your home, you will be able to remove the new fittings, but we will charge you the full cost of putting the property right if you do not leave it in its original condition.

You can apply for our permision by downloading a Home Improvement Application Form. Once complete hand it in to your nearest customer information centre. If you have any problems please contact us on (0345) 600 6400.

If permission is granted, we will consult with you and let you know if there are any health and safety issues and whether any of the work requires special approval such as planning permission, or building regulations. If we need to discuss it with you further, we will make an appointment with you.
If we refuse permission, we will give you an explanation why. Usually permission is only refused if we consider the work would make the property unsafe or devalue it.


Compensation for Improvements

All tenants have the right to compensation for improvements to their home (if they were started on or after 1st April 1994) when you leave your property. We will tell you at the time of application whether you qualify and will visit you during your 4 week notice period to give you advice and help towards your claim. You are unable to get compensation if you are buying your home through the Right to Buy scheme.

You can claim compensation for the cost of materials such as fixtures and fittings and reasonable labour costs. Compensation does not cover appliances such as cookers or fridges, or you own labour costs. Only improvements for which you have our full permission can be compensated.

You can claim a minimum of £50 and up to a maximum of £3,000 for each improvement you make. We may deduct money owed to us when your tenancy ends.

We can refuse your claim if you claim for an improvement you haven’t made, or claim for more than the correct amount.

If we refuse your claim, you have the right to appeal and should get advice from a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau
 
 
 
Paint packs may be awarded to new tenants moving into empty properties (empty property service standards) or after certain kinds of minor repairs. Paint packs are also available if capital works are undertaken on your home.
For full details, please call us on 0345 600 6400

To make other improvements to your home read Home Improvement leaflet and our Tenant Improvement Guidelines
When you take on a new tenancy, you may see a LET1 sign attached to the electric cupboard. If this is present, please contact us for an appointment.

Periodic electrical testing is also carried out on all Homes for Northumberland properties. You will receive a letter or telephone call to arrange an appointment when yours is due.
There is always some moisture in the air, even if you cannot see it.
  • If the air gets colder, it cannot hold all the moisture and tiny drops of water appear. This is condensation.
  • If your home is newly built it may be damp because the water used during its construction (for example, in plaster) is still drying out. It may take weeks of heating and ventilation to dry out. Hiring a dehumidifier will help in the worst cases.
However, if you notice any of the following please contact our customer services centre:
  • leaking pipes, wastes or overflows
  • rain seeping through the roof where a tile or slate is missing
  • spilling from a blocked gutter
  • penetrating around window frames
  • leaking through a cracked pipe (these often leave a ‘tide-mark’)
  • rising damp due to a defective damp-course or because there is no damp-course (rising damp only appears in ground floor rooms, and only to a maximum of 1m up a wall)
To read our useful guide click here

Heating appliances – the dangers

  • Keeping warm is vital. Unfortunately, heating appliances are one of the most common causes of injury and death in the home.
  • If users don’t follow simple safety rules, heating appliances can kill.

Carbon monoxide is deadly

What is it?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. It can be given off by any appliance that burns fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil, if they’re not working properly, if the flue is blocked, or if the room is not properly ventilated.

Why is it so dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and tasteless, which makes it difficult to detect. However its effects are deadly.

What are the main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to inadequate ventilation, or poor maintenance of appliances, blocked chimneys or leaky flues.

Chimneys can become blocked for various reasons. It could be as a result of birds nesting on the chimney, or possible degradation of the flue.

A blocked flue can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into your home, the occupants becoming drowsy, falling asleep, and not waking up again.

Who is most at risk?
Some people mistakenly think that it is only gas heating systems which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. However, it can happen with any fossil fuel, if the system, which includes both the appliance and the flue, is faulty or the room is not properly ventilated. Some people only associate carbon monoxide poisoning with rented accommodation, in fact more people are killed in owner-occupied rather than rented properties.

Look out for the following danger signs:

  1. The windows and doors have been draught-proofed and the permanent ventilation has been blocked up to prevent draughts so that the room is not properly ventilated.
  2. There has been no regular maintenance of the appliance, like cleaning the throat plate monthly, or having the appliance serviced professionally.
  3. The chimney and flue have not been swept for years.
  4. The chimney or flue is blocked – watch out for smoke in the room.
  5. There are soot deposits at the appliance outlet, or sooty stains appear on or just above appliances, regardless of the fuel being burnt.
  6. The fire is difficult to light.
  7. Gas flames that normally burn blue, burn orange or yellow instead.
  8. Coal or wood fires burn slowly or go out.
  9. You develop the following unexplained symptoms: tiredness; drowsiness; headaches; dizziness; chest pains; nausea. 
Carbon monoxide detectors are available from Homes for Northumberland for our tenants. Please contact us for more details. 
If your property is more than 15 years old, it is possible that it contains materials made from asbestos.
  • Asbestos fibres are strong and resistant to heat and chemicals.
  • In the past, this led to their use in a wide range of building materials and products.
  • Properties built since the mid-1980s are very unlikely to contain asbestos in the fabric of the building.
  • Properties built after 1990 are extremely unlikely to contain asbestos anywhere in the building.
  • Asbestos cement has been widely used as a cladding material and can still be found in garages and sheds.
You are required to conduct your tenancy in a tenant-like manner, taking reasonable care of your home both inside and out, carrying out some basic routine maintenance. You are required to:
  • report any repairs as they arise to help minimise any damage that could get worse if unattended
  • allow us to get repairs done as quickly as possible
Following consultation with tenants a definitive list of rechargable repairs has been established, which identifies tenants' responsibilities as follows:
  • repairing minor plaster cracks
  • internal decoration
  • TV aerials (except communal aerials)
  • loose screws on cupboards, windows, doors or gate furniture
  • washing machine installation
  • curtain rails
  • gaining entry to the property
  • external door locks
  • additional household keys
  • re-glazing windows
  • shower curtains and poles
  • laminate flooring
  • loose floor coverings and carpets
  • bolts or locks to outhouses or garden gates
  • coat rails or hooks
  • plugs and fuses for electrical appliances
  • light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and starters
  • batteries for smoke detectors
  • clothes posts
  • safety chains
  • doorbells
  • sink and bath plugs and chains
Northumberland County Council directly employs its own gas engineers to ensure gas appliances in our properties are safe and efficient. Our gas engineers carry out periodic testing along with the regular safety tests as required by law.

Every year about 14 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues which have not been properly installed or maintained. Many others also suffer ill health.

We aim to provide an excellent gas safety service to our customers through our continuous programme of planned services and safety checks to prevent problems occurring.

Annual gas safety checks are a requirement of your tenancy agreement.
  • Turn off your gas supply immediately.
  • Find the lever next to your meter and move it one quarter of the way round, either right or left, until the gas stops.
  • Once the gas has been turned off, open the windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air.
  • Do not turn any electrical switches on or off, light matches or lighters, or smoke.
  • Immediately ring Northern Gas Network on 0800 111999. They will come to your home within one hour and make it safe.
Because it is important to keep your gas appliances in perfect working order, we need you to be at home when our gas engineer calls to carry out your gas service.
During the safety inspection we will service and repair all the gas appliances that we own in your property and identify any faults with your own appliances, such as your cooker.

You can then arrange to have any necessary repairs carried out.

Our engineer will explain what work has been carried out and get you to sign the gas safety certificate.

If any additional work is required which cannot be carried out during the service we will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient appointment to carry out the work.

Appliances that are serviced regularly are less likely to break down. Just think how inconvenient it will be if your heating system breaks down unexpectedly – no heating and no hot water.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 place a duty on landlords to make sure that appliances and flues are kept in good order and checked for safety at least once every 12 months.

Landlords must also keep a record of previous safety checks and issue the current record to the tenant.

Tenants moving into new accommodation should:
  • check that air vents are present, open and not blocked in rooms that have gas appliances
  • ensure that safety checks were carried by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer
  • not use any gas appliances which they think may be unsafe
  • not attempt do-it-yourself work on appliances
Solid fuel heating systems can also pose a danger from carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not serviced correctly.

Tenants should:
  • check that air vents are present, open and not blocked in rooms that have solid fuel appliances
  • check that chimneys and flues have been swept in the last year – even if burning smokeless fuel
  • ensure that ash has been emptied regularly – if ash is allowed to build up, the fire may not burn properly and this may also damage the appliance
  • have appliances regularly serviced by a qualified heating engineer

Contact our customer services centre on 01670 542424 if you notice any of the above danger signs.

If you need to contact the gas service section to arrange an annual gas service, please contact them direct on 01670 623639, or if you have any concerns about gas safety in your home, please contact us on the number above or alternatively you can send a SMS text message to:
  • 07950 08 09 08 – Type the word Repairs and then your message.
Electricity is everywhere in our homes, and it’s a very useful part of our lives. Yet it only takes one old or poorly wired plug to prove just how powerful it is.

The wires don’t even need to touch for a spark to jump and a fire to start. Don’t get too casual with electricity. Just because there’s no flame doesn’t mean there’s no fire risk.
  • From 1 January 2005, people carrying out electrical work in their homes and gardens will have to follow the new rules in the building regulations.
  • The new rules have been introduced to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faulty electrical installations and to make it harder for ‘cowboy builders’ to leave electrical installations in an unsafe condition.
  • The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a helpful guide “New Rules for Electrical Safety in the Home”.
  • The basic rule in fires is that you should put people’s safety above every other consideration. But if a fire has just started and hasn’t spread, you may be able to tackle it. With electrical fires, it’s vital that you do things right.
  • Pull the plug out or switch off the power at the fuse box. This may stop the fire immediately.
  • Smother the fire with a fire blanket, or use a dry powder.
  • Never use water on it.
  • If the room is filling with smoke get straight out of the building. The most common cause of deaths from fire is fumes or smoke. You can be affected extremely quickly.

Danger signs

  • Badly wired plugs – wire plugs correctly or, if in doubt, get a qualified electrician.
  • Use the right fuse – it is designed to stop overheating. If the wrong fuse is fitted and there’s a problem, a fire could occur.
  • Fraying power leads/repaired power leads – throw away damaged cables.
  • Overloaded sockets – if you plug too many appliances into an adaptor you could overload the socket.
  • Water near electrics – don’t let cables or plugs get wet.
  • Cables in vulnerable positions – don’t leave power leads where they can be tripped over.
  • Toaster – keep the toaster clean and away from curtains.

How many appliances are on?

  • At night how many of your appliances are using electricity?
  • Obviously the fridge and freezer, the clock on the cooker, the TV and video on standby, the alarm clock, the mobile being recharged.
  • How many are plugged into live sockets that don’t need to be? The stereo, the kettle, the radio, the computer - each one is connected to enough power to start a fire instantly.
  • At night, check your electrics and unplug any appliances that do not need to be on.

Fires and heaters

Electrical heaters use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat – treat them with great care.
  • Keep them clear of curtains and furniture.
  • Sit at least three feet (one metre) away.
  • Buy them from reputable shops.
  • Don’t dry washing on or near heaters, or on fire guards.
  • Don’t cover the air grilles of storage heaters, fan heaters and convection heaters.
  • Use a fireguard with a radiant fire, permanently if you have children. 

Electric blankets

Electric blankets cause more than 500 fires a year.
  • You should replace your electric blanket at least every 10 years.
  • Don’t fold electric blankets – it can damage the wiring.
  • Always follow the instructions.
  • Only leave a blanket switched on all night if it has thermostatic controls for safe all-night use.
  • Don’t get blankets wet, and if your blanket does get wet, don’t use it. Never switch it on to dry it.
  • If your blanket (or its flex) shows any danger signs, (scorch marks, exposed elements, worn flex, loose connections) you should have it checked or replaced.
For more information on electrical safety tips, click here.
We offer a handyperson service to help our vulnerable tenants with everyday DIY jobs, free of charge.


Our handyperson service allows you to have a fully qualified and skilled handyperson visit your home for free. To book your visit, call 0345 600 6400 ( please note tenants are now restricted to 3 visits per year.)
Here you will find out how the right to repair scheme works.

You must give us the opportunity to complete the work within the stated time.
If the repair has not been completed in the time given, you can ask us to get a second contractor to do the work. 

Unless there is a good reason why the work has not been done, we will order the work with the second contractor and send you a copy of the order.

The second contractor will have the same time to complete the repair.
If the repair is still not completed in time, please contact the customer services centre on 0345 600 6400
Unless there is a good reason why the repair was not done, for example you did not keep your appointment you will be entitled to £10 compensation. 

For every extra day you wait you will get another £2, up to a maximum of £50.

If you owe us money, we will take away the amount you owe from your compensation.
If the second contractor fails to do the work in time without good reason such as you did not keep your appointment, then you can get the work done yourself up to a cost of £250 and send us the bill.

This is known as the right to repair. 

Please note this applies to qualifying repairs only.
Repair type Response time (days)
Total loss of electric power (NCC responsibility) 1
Partial loss of electric power 3
Unsafe electrical fitting 1
Total loss of water supply (NCC responsibility) 1
Partial loss of water supply 3
Total or partial loss of gas supply (NCC responsibility) 1
Blocked flue to open fire or boiler 1
No heating or hot water 1 Nov–30 Apr 1
No heating or hot water 1 May–31 Oct 3
Blocked/leaking foul drain, soil stack, toilet 1
Toilet not flushing (only one toilet in the home) 1
Blocked sink, bath or basin 3
Tap that cannot be turned off 3
Leaking from water pipe, tank or cistern 1
Leaking roof 7
Insecure external window, door or lock 1
Loose or detached banister or hand rail 3
Rotten timber flooring or stair tread 7
Door entry phone not working 7