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Council tenants handbook

Home emergencies

Gas leaks

If you smell gas in your property, you must immediately:

  • put out any cigarettes or naked flames
  • stop flicking any electrical switches. They can cause sparks
  • stop using a telephone inside the property. This can also cause sparks
  • turn off the gas at the gas meter
  • open all windows and doors.

Once you have done this, you must contact the National Gas Emergency service. Call 0800 111 999. It's free to call.

They will make your property safe and tell you what to do.

Leaking, overflowing, burst or frozen pipes

If a pipe leaks, you should:

  • place a dish or bowl underneath the leak
  • pull back any carpets and lay down newspapers or towels to absorb any moisture
  • request a repair
  • contact your contents insurance provider if your possessions are damaged.

If you do not arrange a repair for the leak, you may be liable for any damage caused.

If a pipe freezes, you should:

  • turn off the mains water at the main stopcock to your property
  • open the cold taps
  • leave the pipes frozen, but if you are sure they are not burst, you may try to thaw the pipe using hot water bottles or a hair dryer 
  • thaw from one end of the frozen section and not from the middle
  • use any remaining hot water sparingly until the pipes are thawed.

If a pipe bursts, you should:

  • turn off the mains water at the main stop tap to your property
  • switch off all water heaters and boilers
  • open all taps and drain the water from the system. Collect the water in jugs and containers to use for cooking, in the kettle or to flushing the toilets later
  • request a repair
  • contact your contents insurance provider if your possessions are damaged.

If a ceiling bulges, you should:

  • place a bucket under the bulge
  • pierce a small hole to let the water through and prevent the ceiling falling down
  • request a repair.

Electrical faults

Electric fittings

If electric fittings get wet, you should:

Loss of light or power

If you lose electric light or power, you should:

  • check your consumer unit or fuse box. It is usually next to the electricity meter
  • if it has fuses, the blown fuse will need to be replaced. If it is a cartridge type it should be rewired using special fuse wire to the correct amperage.
  • if it has trip switches, check which switches have tripped to the ‘off ’ position and put them back to the ‘on’ position.
  • if a switch trips again, a faulty appliance is probably causing it
  • put towels down around your freezer to prevent water damage.

Finding a faulty appliance

  • Go around the house and unplug all the appliances, and switch off the immersion heater.
  • Go back to the fuse box and switch the tripped switch back to the ‘on’ position.
  • One by one, plug in the appliances until the switch trips again.

The appliance that causes the switch to trip will be the faulty appliance. You should:

  • leave that appliance unplugged
  • plug in all the other appliances
  • reset the trip switch to the ‘on’ position.

You can then:

  • request a repair, if the faulty appliance is ours
  • get it fixed or replace it, if it is your appliance.

Blocked drains

Blockages are usually caused by the build-up of cooking fat in sinks, hair in basins and baths and nappies, sanitary towels, and small objects in toilets.

It's your responsibility to avoid blockages from items that shouldn't go down the toilet or sink. If a blockage happens and it's your fault, we may charge you the full cost of clearing it.

If a toilet pan is blocked, you should:

  • bail out most of the water using a suitable container
  • push a toilet brush or plunger (without a metal disk) to the bottom of the pan and pump up and down rapidly about ten times. This may shift the blockage.
  • flush the toilet to check if the blockage has gone.

You may need to repeat the process several times before the toilet flushes normally.

If a sink, basin or bath is blocked, you should:

  • bail out most of the water using a suitable container
  • hold a rag firmly over the overflow opening and place a plunger over the drain hole
  • pump the plunger up and down rapidly until the blockage clears.

After clearing the blockage you should also clear out the waste trap. To do this, you should:

  • bail out most of the water from the sink, basin or bath using a suitable container.
  • place a bowl underneath the waste trap and unscrew the joints to remove it.
  • clean thoroughly and replace the waste trap, checking that the seals are in place and that all joints are screwed tightly.

Toilet not flushing

If your cistern isn't filling properly, or nothing happens when you try to flush:

For most households, this is a routine repair. If it's not possible for you or anyone in your household to carry a bucket of water, please tell Osborne this when you report your repair online or by calling 0800 915 1215.

No hot water

If you don't have hot water, you need to:

For most households, this is an urgent repair, not an emergency repair.

It is an emergency repair if you, or someone in your household, is:

  • under 2 years old
  • over 90 years old
  • ill with a terminal illness.