The up and down arrow buttons in a lift

The lifts in my tower block are always broken, dirty or unsafe to use

If you live on a high floor or struggle with stairs, lifts are always a help and often a necessity.

And if they’re working, that’s not a problem — but when they frequently break down, or are left for a long time without repair, it can have a massive effect on quality of life. At worst, it might mean you can’t leave your home.

Lifts can also be a setting for anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

These problems are all linked, because they are to do with the landlord failing to keep the common areas of the building clean, safe and in good repair.

Plus, anti-social behaviour might stop you feeling you can use the lift, just as much as if it’s not working.

What does the law say?

In England and Wales

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 says that a landlord must keep ‘the structure and exterior of any part of the building’ in repair, provided that your tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989. This includes lifts.

In Scotland

Your home should be kept to the ‘repairing standard‘ and this includes common areas (parts of the building shared by everyone — again, including lifts).


The Equality Act of 2010 states that disabled, pregnant or elderly people* (‘people with impaired mobility’) must not be put at any disadvantage by the building’s fixtures and fittings: for example it should be just as easy for these people to gain access to upper floors or shared facilities (like parking or laundry rooms) as it is for everyone else. 

Where there is a lift, it must be accessible to all, and be able to carry a wheelchair (or a pushchair along with the person pushing it). 

These concepts are part of UK building regulations. In England and Wales, take a look at the Approved Document part ‘M’ (section 4.0) and in Scotland, Section 4.2 of The Technical Handbook.

* and other protected classes of people; but when we are talking about lifts, those are the relevant ones.

Do tower blocks have to have lifts?

Modern buildings (built or adapted for use after October 2015) which are more than two storeys high must provide access for people with impaired mobility — this usually means a lift, but for short flights of stairs there might be a ramp or a platform lift.

Antisocial behaviour

The Housing Ombudsman (England and Wales) says that all social housing landlords have a duty to publish a policy on how they will deal with reports of anti-social behaviour. You can write to your landlord to ask if they have such a policy, and if you can see it.

If they don’t have a policy, you should point out that they have this duty — and if that doesn’t change anything, try letting the Housing Ombudsman know.

What can I do if my lift is broken or needs cleaning?

You may wish to make a complaint that your landlord is not keeping the common parts of the building in order. Have a look at our page on disrepair to see more about this.

In Scotland

If your landlord fails to upkeep the lift or other parts of your block, you can first make a formal complaint to your Registered Social Landlord, and, if that doesn’t work, you can try the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

Anywhere in the UK 

If the lack of a working lift is an issue that causes discrimination because of your age or mobility, you can complain under the Equality Act. This page on the government website explains what steps to take.

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