Local council

What are local authorities' and councils' housing responsibilities?

Whether you’re a buyer, seller, landlord or tenant; there will be different services that your local authority is responsible for that will be useful to you. This guide goes through some of the services available from your council when it comes to housing and property.

Checking a property’s council tax

Whether you own or rent a property, you will need to get in touch with your local authority whenever you move in or out of a property. This will ensure you always pay the correct amount of council tax and aren’t charged after you leave a property. You may also want to check the potential council tax of a property before you make an offer, in case the cost affects your decision to buy.

If you are a student, you will need to contact your local authority in order to receive exemption from paying council tax.

If you are on a low income or receiving Universal Credit, you may also be able to apply for council tax reduction.

Planning permission and building regulations

One of the most important services of your local authority is planning permission. You need to get this when you want to change part of your property, or build something new, such as an extension or another building.

Building regulations will also be in place if you want to make any changes to the property internally. Whether you’re looking to renovate, demolish, build or rebuild some, or all, of a property, it will likely need planning permission.

Listed buildings will also require listed consent for any changes.

NOTE: If you make any changes to a property without planning permission, your local authority could order you to change the property back to its previous state, including demolishing any newly built structures.

Housing inspection

If you’re a tenant and believe part of your property is in disrepair or is causing a hazard that makes it unfit for human habitation, then you are advised to inform your landlord or letting agent to allow them to fix the problem.

If the problem isn’t resolved, you can get in touch with your local authority’s private sector housing or environmental health team to perform an inspection of the property, where they will highlight any hazards that need rectifying and can serve an improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice to your landlord.

If an improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice is served to your landlord and they serve you a Section 21 notice to try and evict you, it will be invalid for 6 months, meaning you cannot be evicted.

Licensing and Houses in Multiples Occupation (HMOs)

For landlords that own a large HMO, which is considered a property that is rented by at least five people from more than one household that also share facilities then you must license your property through your local authority.

Remember that a household is either a single person or members of the same family (such as a husband and wife, father/mother and son/daughter, brother and sister). For example, five friends living together would be five households, but a brother and sister living with two friends would be three households.

Some local authorities require licensing for smaller HMOs of three people in more than one household. It is important to remember that you need a separate license for each HMO property you own.

Certain authorities also require selective licensing for rented properties. You can find out whether you need a license and how to apply through your local authority’s Private Sector Housing team.

NOTE: Failure to get your license can result in prosecution and a fine.

Scottish Landlord Register

Landlords in Scotland must be part of the Scottish Landlord Register in order to legally rent out a property. Once you have registered, you must inform your local authority of any changes to the information you provided through the Scottish Landlord Register.

You can check the register and your own license here

Rent Smart Wales

Landlords that own rental property in Wales must be registered with Rent Smart Wales. If they are also managing their rental property and setting up tenancies then they must also undergo training and become licensed or use a licensed letting agent to manage their property.

You can register or find out more about licensing here

Pest control and removal

For tenants, landlords and homeowners, your local authority can help remove and identify the cause of certain pests on your property.

Rats, mice and insects such as fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches can usually be removed either for free or a small cost, depending on your circumstances. For infestations such as wasps, bees or other small animals, you will need to contact a professional service, as most local authorities do not deal with these.

Tenants should contact their landlord and local authority about pests. It may be your responsibility to resolve the issue if it is a problem caused by you e.g. letting rubbish sit outside, creating a hole in a wall allowing pests to enter.

Housing Benefit/Universal Credit

Universal Credit has largely replaced housing benefits in most constituencies, but it can still be used to pay your rent. You can find out more information about applying for Universal Credit through your local authority and contact their team to assist you with any Universal Credit enquiries.

Apply for Universal Credit here

Homelessness

If you are homeless or are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, then your local authority has a duty to offer support to you. You can contact your local authority by phone or online in order to resolve your housing problem.

Council housing

Your local authority is responsible for getting you a council house if you need one. You can apply for council housing on their website, where you will be put on a waiting list based on how a ‘points’ or ‘banding’ system.

Priority will be given to individuals who are homeless, living in cramped conditions or have a medical condition which is made worse by their current home.

You can also ‘bid’ for your preferred property based on what is currently available from your local authority; this doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t necessarily mean you will be offered that property but can increase your chances of being offered it.

Once a property that is suitable becomes available, your local authority will inform you and you will be able to accept or reject the offer. Be aware, you can be temporarily taken off the waiting list if you constantly reject offers.

Apply for council housing here

Rubbish collection

If you have just moved into a property or have a problem with refuse or recycling, then your local authority should be the first place you look for more information.

Their website will be able to tell you what days your rubbish and recycling is collected and help with any general enquiries about your household rubbish.

You can also find out where your local tip and recycling centre is.

Complaints about neighbours

If you’ve moved into your dream home, started renting for university or are planning on selling your property, then there’s nothing worse than a nuisance neighbour that spoils the quiet enjoyment of your property and may hinder the sale of your home.

You can report neighbour nuisances to your local authority, who can also advise on how to resolve any potential issues with your neighbour. Excessive noise, bad behaviour or illegal activity are all things you can bring up.

Housing advice

Your local authority can offer further advice and point you in the right direction for any enquiry you have regarding housing. Be sure to make the most of your local authority’s website and use their search function to find out more about issues specific to you.

Local trading standards

If your letting or estate agent is engaging in questionable practices or is actively breaking the law or their obligations to you, then you may be able to report them to your local trading standards. You can see some common examples of what you can complain to trading standards about here.

Find your local trading standards office here

Contact your local councillor

If you have any major ongoing concerns regarding your property, neighbourhood or borough, then you can always write to your local councillor. They are elected to assist their constituents and may be able to find solutions to your problem or bring it up in council meetings.

Find your local councillor here

Further advice

If you’re using an ARLA Propertymark or NAEA Propertymark agent, then you’ll be dealing with a local property expert who can assist further with any enquiries you may have about your property.

Find an Expert

Find your local authority

To find your local authority and see what services they can offer you, head to the GOV.uk website and enter your postcode here

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