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Council tenants - Maintenance and repairs

Council tenants - Maintenance and repairs

The following advice and tips will help you carrying out repairs in your home and managing your property. Each section has easy to follow steps and information on common repairs query's and repairs which tenants are responsible for carrying out, to help you get things fixed quickly and safely.

If you need more help or advice or to report repairs, contact us via the iHousing Portal. In an emergency contact Housing Repairs on 0300 456 0117 option 2.

Heating and hot water

Any faults with your heating or hot water system should be reported to Housing Repairs and an engineer will attend. The following advice is for common problems with the heating or hot water systems at your property.

In very cold weather, your gas boiler may stop working unexpectedly. This can be due to water discharged through the condense pipe freezing and creating a blockage. This pipe is usually on an external wall and is white plastic, leading to a drain. If you suspect that your boiler condensate pipe has frozen, the following steps should help you get things back to normal quickly.

Remember, if you don’t feel confident when following this guide then you should contact Housing Repairs to arrange for an engineer to attend:

  1. Confirm the condensate pipe is frozen. Depending on the make and model of your boiler, a frozen condensate pipe may be indicated by a ‘fault code’ or warning light on the boiler’s display. Gurgling or bubbling sounds coming from the boiler or the condensate pipe are another sign that the condensate pipe has frozen.
  2. Locate the blockage. The pipe is probably frozen at its most exposed point. This may be the open end of the pipe, or at a bend or elbow. Running your hands over the pipe until you find a section that feels colder than the rest should help you identify the blockage quickly.
  3. Use hot water to thaw the pipe. Using a jug or watering can, pour hot water along the length of the pipe, repeating the process until the pipe has thawed. Do not use boiling water as this can crack or damage the pipe. If you’re using a kettle, make sure to cool the kettle for at least 15 minutes once it’s boiled. Alternatively, you can use a hot water bottle or a heat pack to slowly defrost the pipe.
  4. Restart your boiler. Once the frozen section has been melted and cleared, check your boiler manual for instructions on how to reset the boiler correctly. Your boiler should now restart.
  5. It may take several attempts before your boiler restarts and if it does not, you need to contact Housing Repairs to arrange for an engineer to attend.
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If your personal items become damaged due to a water leak you will need to claim on your contents insurance.
Contents insurance covers you against loss, theft or damage to your personal and home possessions. By having cover, it means that if something happens in your home such as a flood or your washing machine overflows, you will not need to worry about purchasing new items to replace any that have been lost.

Wiltshire Council is able to offer home contents insurance. Information is available from your housing team by emailing HSGMail@wiltshire.gov.uk.

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If you have an open fire or a wood burner at your property that is not part of a back boiler heating system, you must arrange for the chimney to be swept each year by a HETAS registered engineer. The certificate issued must be kept in a safe place as we may ask to see this. Regular sweeping of the chimney will keep it safe, clean and efficient.

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Electricity

Any faults with electrical fittings at the property should be reported to Housing Repairs immediately if there are any sparks, smoke or buzzing noises from the fitting or a smell of burning or discolouration of the fitting.

If you experience a power failure at your property, you can call 105 or look online at SSENs power tracker website to see if your area is affected by a power cut. If it is, then you will usually need to wait until power is restored by the provider.

If you have one, check your electricity key meter to make sure your credit has not run out.

If the power failure is just affecting your property, then check your trip switches on your consumer unit. They may require resetting which is explained in the Resetting a Trip Switch section below.

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If your power cuts out suddenly, it may have been caused by a tripped switch. This is usually because of a faulty appliance or plug sockets being overloaded and is something that you can easily reset to should resolve the power cut.

To reset the trip switch, follow these simple steps

  1. Unplug all appliances and extension leads and turn all sockets off.
  2. Open the cover on the consumer unit to expose the trip switches. If this is mounted high up, ensure you have a secure step ladder for safety. Never climb on a kitchen unit or unstable furniture.
  3. Examine all the switches, they should all be in the 'on' position. If there is a switch in the 'off' position, simply push the trip switch back up. The switches will usually be labelled so you can see which circuit was affected. If it fails to come back on, or immediately trips again and an appliance is not the cause of the issue, then log a report via iHousing or contact repairs.
  4. Plug the appliances back in one at a time. This will help identify the cause of the trip, and if there is a faulty appliance as the power will trip when the appliance is put back on.
  5. Once you're happy that your electricity has returned to normal, close the cover on the consumer unit.
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Test your alarms on a weekly basis, as recommended by the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire service.

Testing the alarm is a short and simple process:

  1. Press and hold the test button on your smoke detector. The alarm should sound. 
  2. If the alarm does not sound, clean the smoke detector gently using a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment.
  3. If the alarm still does not sound, contact Wiltshire Council Housing Repairs as soon as possible for a replacement to be fitted.

Never remove or disconnect the alarm as this could leave the property unprotected.

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Kitchen

Before you begin, make sure the light is turned off at the wall switch.

  1. If your strip light has a plastic diffuser casing, remove it from the light. The casing can be easily removed either by unscrewing it directly or by removing several small screws that hold it in place.
  2. Using both hands gently rotate the tube and it will slot out of the fitting.
  3. Remove all packaging from the new bulb and make sure it is lined up correctly. It will push into the fitting. Gently rotate it to lock into place.
  4. Once the bulb is firmly in place, wipe the inside of the cover with a dry soft cloth to remove any dust or dirt and replace the cover securely.
  5. To change the starter, you may need to remove the tube as above. The starter should be turned clockwise, usually a quarter turn, and removed. A new starter can then be installed. Do not push the starter into the fitting as this could break it or cause it to fall into the case.
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As soon as a cupboard or drawer handle becomes loose, you can tighten it up. Using the correct screwdriver for the fitting, simply tighten the screws until it is tight again. Do not overtighten the screws.

If the screws will not tighten or the cupboard or drawer is damaged, log this as a repair on the iHousing Portal.

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If you have purchased a new cooker, it is important that these are fitted by a professional who will provide you with the correct paperwork to show it is installed safely.

A poorly fitted cooker could mean potentially life-threatening gas leaking into your home, or exposed live electrics being around you when cooking.

Residents are responsible for arranging the installations and disconnecting of cookers, be they gas or electric. We may ask you to provide evidence that your cooker has been fitted by a suitably qualified individual.

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As a tenant, you must try to clear any blockages in the sink at your property before contacting housing repairs.

You will need:

  • Bucket or bowl.
  • Scoop, jug or cup.
  • Cloth
  • Plunger
  • Rubber gloves
  1. Scoop out as much of the water as you can.
  2. Wet the cloth and hold it tightly over the overflow opening.
  3. Place the plunger over the plug hole and pump it up and down quickly.
  4. Flush the pipes clear with hot water.

Once you have finished wash your hands and everything you have used thoroughly
If this does not clear the blockage after several attempts, use a suitable drain unblocking cleaner. These are available over the counter in supermarkets and hardware stores. Always follow the manufactures instructions. We recommend using up to three treatments if required.

If the sink is still blocked following this, then log the blockage on the iHousing Portal.

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Bathrooms

Choosing a new seat

Most toilet seats are a standard size however, we recommend measuring first to ensure that your seat fits correctly. Take a tape measure and check the distance between the bolt holes above the toilet bowl. Ensure that this distance is the same between the bolts on your new toilet seat.

Removing the old seat

  1. Remove the nuts that are holding the toilet seat bolts in place. These will be located underneath the toilet seat fitting. You will likely need an adjustable wrench for this task.
  2. Lift the bolts out of the bowl, taking the toilet seat with it. There is no need to keep the bolts or nuts, your new toilet seat will come with fittings. Dispose of the old seat.

Fitting the new seat

  1. The hinges on the new seat will be pre-attached and may have the nuts loosely screwed to them. Remove these if so.
  2. Insert the bolts into place through the holes at the back of the toilet bowl. Ensure the toilet seat covers the bowl completely, there should not be a gap around the edge and it should not overhang.
  3. Thread the nuts onto the bolts located underneath the edge of the side of the toilet bowl. Turn the nuts onto the bolts clockwise until it is tight by hand, then use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nuts and secure the seat further.
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As a tenant, you must try to clear any blockages in the toilet, basin or bath at your property before contacting housing repairs.

Clearing a blocked toilet

You will need:

  • Bucket or bowl.
  • Scoop, jug or cup.
  • Cloth
  • Plunger or toilet brush
  • Rubber gloves
  1. If the pan is already full, scoop out as much of the water as you can.
  2. Push the brush or plunger to the bottom of the pan. 
  3. Pump it up and down quickly about ten times to clear the blockage. 
  4. Flush the toilet to confirm the blockage has gone. This process may need to be repeated several times.
  5. Once you have finished wash your hands and everything you have used thoroughly.

If this does not clear the blockage after several attempts, use a suitable drain cleaner for clearing blockages. These are available over the counter in supermarkets and hardware stores. Always follow the manufactures instructions. We recommend using up to three treatments if required. If the toilet is still blocked following this, then log a repair request on iHousing for the blockage.

Clearing a blocked bath or basin

You will need:

  • Bucket or bowl.
  • Scoop, jug or cup.
  • Cloth
  • Plunger or toilet brush
  • Rubber gloves
  1. Scoop out as much of the water as you can.
  2. Wet the cloth and hold it tightly over the overflow opening.
  3. Place the plunger over the plug hole and pump it up and down quickly.

Once you have finished wash your hands and everything you have used thoroughly.

If this does not clear the blockage after several attempts, use a suitable drain unblocking cleaner. These are available over the counter in supermarkets and hardware stores. Always follow the manufactures instructions. We recommend using up to three treatments if required.

If the toilet, sink or basin is still blocked following this, then log a request on iHousing for the drain to be unblocked.

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Lime scale in your shower head can affect its performance, making water pressure seem lower and your shower less powerful. If the head becomes clogged, it can cause the shower to shut down and stop working. Before logging a repair, always check the shower head is not scaled and read our tips on descaling your shower head below.

White vinegar

  1. Remove your shower head from the shower hose.
  2. Fill a plastic bag partway with white vinegar.
  3. Place the shower head into the bag of white vinegar and tie securely.
  4. Leave to soak for around 30 minutes, or overnight depending on how bad the lime scale has built up. This step can be repeated after you've rinsed the shower head if needed. Please note, if your shower head is made from brass, do not soak for more than 30 minutes.
  5. Carefully untie the bag, and empty the contents into a sink, including the shower head. Turn the water on to flush out any lime scale deposits.
  6. Scrub the shower head with an old tooth brush, focusing on the nozzles. You may need to unscrew the face of the shower head to prevent lime scale deposits being pushed back into the shower.
  7. Rinse the shower head with water again to flush out any residue.
  8. Polish with a soft cloth and refit to the shower hose.

Lime scale remover

There are many cleaning products designed to remove lime scale from shower heads. These can be picked up from supermarkets for a reasonable price.

Simply follow the directions on the label. Be sure to take any necessary safety precautions and rinse the shower head thoroughly before using the shower as normal.

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The light fitting in the bathroom or toilet is referred to as a sealed unit. This means it is sealed against moisture and you will still be able to access the fitting to change the bulb.

Before you begin, make sure the light is turned off at the wall switch.

  1. The casing can be easily removed either by unscrewing it directly or by removing several small screws that hold it in place.
  2. Grasp the plastic centre of the Bulb and gently remove it from the fitting. Some bulbs with have tabs on either side of the centre which need to be pressed together to unlock the bulb.
  3. Remove all packaging from the new bulb and make sure it is lined up correctly. Gently push into the fitting until it is secure.
  4. Once the bulb is firmly in place, wipe the inside of the cover with a dry soft cloth to remove any dust or dirt and replace the cover securely.

Always follow the manufacturers instructions.

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Doors and windows

Squeaking hinges and a lock that's hard to turn can both usually be solved by a spray of aerosol lubricant, such as WD40. The lubricant should be applied onto the latch mechanism or on to the hinge pins.

After you've sprayed the hinges, open and close the door a few times to encourage the lubricant to flow through them. Wipe away any excess to prevent this from dripping onto the floor.

Try to oil your locks and hinges every six months or so, to prevent them from seizing up or sticking.

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Tighten all loose handle and hinges with the appropriate screwdriver as soon as you notice them become loose. Be careful not to overtighten.

If the screws won’t tighten or there is damage to the frame around the hinges then report this on the iHousing Portal to arrange a repair.

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If the door has dropped and is catching on the floor you can report this on the iHousing Portal to arrange a repair. If you have had carpet or flooring laid at the property and this is the reason the door is not opening correctly, you will need to have the door adjusted by the carpet fitters yourself to fit if needed.

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The keys to your property are your responsibility and you will need to replace them if they are lost or stolen. You will need to arrange a private locksmith if you are locked out of your home. Wiltshire Council is not responsible for changing the locks at a property if the keys have been lost or given out to others.

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Internal walls

Although plaster is durable and makes a good smooth surface, it can develop cracks over time. Cracks in plaster walls and ceilings are usually nothing to worry about and are straight forward to smooth over.
Filler can be purchased from most DIY stores. Make sure you follow the instructions on the packet.

When using filler, follow these simple steps:

  1. Rub down and smooth the area around the crack
  2. Apply the filler as per the instructions.
  3. Once dry, rub down and smooth to a level finish ready for decoration.

If cracks appear suddenly or start to grow then log a repair request on the iHousing Portal. 

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Internal decoration of a property is the responsibility of the tenants. When you sign your tenancy, the property will be in a condition where it is ready to decorate. Decorating Vouchers may be offered at the discretion of the Housing Team.

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Maintaining your garden

It is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the gardens at the front and rear of the property including any plants, bushes and trees present when you sign your tenancy.

Garden lawns generally do well without needing too much attention. However, they do benefit from regular cutting of the grass, removing weeds and moss and sowing grass seeds if patches become bare.

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Pruning the branches on small trees and bushes helps to promote healthy growth. You should only remove dead or broken branches, as well as those that cross or rub each other.

Try to avoid pruning young or newly planted trees as they will need as many leaves as possible for good root growth.

If you have a tree in your garden that you are unable to prune, you will need to employ a private gardener or tree surgeon to keep the tree or bush a manageable size.

If you have a tree in your garden that is dangerous, we may assist you but you will be charged. If you allow a tree to grow uncontrolled and it causes damage to the property, path or any underground utilities, you could be responsible for the repairs. Contact the Housing Officer for more information at hsgmail@wiltshire.gov.uk 

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Hedges are a great natural way to define boundaries and house wildlife. To keep them tidy, at the right size and remaining healthy, it is important to trim hedges regularly, especially if they border a public footpath or right of way and could cause an obstruction.

You should not trim hedges if there are nesting birds in the hedge as they are protected by law.

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Garden pests can be dealt with using a range of options available at hardware stores and supermarkets. Always follow the instructions.

If you have more serious pest problems in the garden or your home, our Pest Control team may be able to help. Find out more at on our Pest Control page on the Wiltshire Council Website.

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Tenants are responsible for the fencing between their garden and the neighbouring properties. Your Housing Officer will be able to advise you which boundary you are responsible for maintaining.

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Condensation, damp and mould

Damp in a property can lead to mould forming on surfaces and damaging walls, ceilings and furniture. The most common cause of damp is condensation forming in the property. The following advice will help you reduce the formation of condensation and deal with mould effectively. If the mould and damp continues after you have followed the guidelines, log a repair on the iHousing Portal.

The most common cause of Damp is condensation building up in the home.

Damp can be also caused by:

  • leaking pipes, wastes or overflows
  • rain seeping through the roof where a tile or slate is missing
  • spilling from a blocked gutter
  • water penetration around window frames
  • leaking through a cracked down pipe

Rising damp can be due to a defective or missing damp-course or because there is no damp course. If earth or flowerbeds have been allowed to build up against the wall these can bridge the camp course and allow damp to enter the property. These causes of damp often leave a ‘tidemark’.

If you are able to identify a fault such as water entering around the windows, broken tiles, or plumbing problems, report them immediately to the Repairs Team on the iHousing Portal.

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First treat the mould already in your home. If you deal with the basic problem, mould should not reappear.

To kill and remove mould, wipe down walls and window frames with a fungicidal wash which carries a Health and Safety Executive ‘approval number’. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely.

Dry-clean mildewed clothes, and shampoo carpets. Disturbing mould by brushing or vacuum cleaning can increase the risk of respiratory problems.

After treatment redecorate using a good quality fungicidal paint to help prevent mould. Note that this paint is not effective if overlaid with ordinary paints or wallpaper. When wallpapering, use a paste containing a fungicide to prevent further mould growth.

The only lasting way of avoiding severe mould is to eliminate dampness.

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Condensation is caused by moisture in the air turning in to water droplets when it comes into contact with a cold surface. 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. You may notice it when you see your breath on a cold day, or when the mirror mists over when you have a bath.

Condensation occurs mainly during cold weather, whether it is raining or dry.

Those most obvious sign of condensation is mist on the windows but it can also form:

  • in corners
  • in or behind wardrobes and cupboards
  • where furniture is pushed against a wall, such as beds or sofas.

It often forms on north-facing walls.

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Some simple changes you can make to avoid condensation forming at the property:

  • When cooking, to reduce the amount of moisture, cover pans and do not leave kettles boiling.
    Close the kitchen and bathroom doors when these rooms are in use even if your kitchen or bathroom has an extractor fan. It will help to draught proof these doors. Doing this will help stop the moisture reaching other rooms, especially bedrooms, which are often colder and more likely to get condensation.
  • Paraffin and portable flueless bottled-gas heaters put a lot of moisture into the air. One gallon of gas or paraffin produces about a gallon of water. If you have a problem with condensation, try to find alternative means of heating.
  • When washing clothes, hang outdoors to dry if you can. Or put them in the bathroom with the door closed and the window open or fan on. It is best to fit a fan that can be switched to run continuously for clothes drying. If you have a tumble dryer make sure you vent it to the outside, unless it is the self- condensing type.
  • You can ventilate your home without making draughts. Some ventilation is needed to get rid of moisture being produced all the time, including that from people’s breath. Keep a small window ajar or leave a trickle ventilator open all the time if possible, and especially when someone is in the room.
  • Wipe moisture off surfaces such as windows every day.
  • Allow space for the air to circulate in and around your furniture. Open doors to ventilate cupboards and wardrobes. Leave space between the backs of wardrobes and the wall. Where possible, position wardrobes and furniture against internal walls, such as walls which have a room on both sides, rather than against outside walls.
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Last updated: 13 September 2019 | Last reviewed: 13 September 2019