A crack in the wall

There are cracks in the walls of my flat

Why are there cracks?

If there are cracks in the walls, floors or ceilings of your flat, it might be because of:

  • Subsidence (movement in the ground below or near the building, causing it to shift)
  • A failure or weakness in the building’s structure
  • A design flaw in the building (for example, see our page on Large Panel Systems)

Cracks can also be a fire safety issue. Flats should be completely sealed from one another. This is called ‘compartmentation‘ and is one of the ways that fire is prevented from spreading from flat to flat within tower blocks. 

Air from your neighbour’s flat should never be able to flow into your flat internally. If compartmentation is breached, it can pose a serious fire risk.

If there are cracks in your flat, large or small, you should get them assessed by a professional. See below

What does the law say?

The relevant law is the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, section 11, which states that your landlord is responsible for keeping the exterior and structure of your flat in good repair (although, the way the law is written means that if the cracks are caused by the design of the building, rather than by disrepair, this will not apply).  

If the cracks are making your home unfit for human habitation, the rights set out in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 might also apply.

Finally, the responsible person must also, thanks to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, minimise the risk of fire in your building. Have a look at our Fire Risk Assessment page for more information.

What action can I take? 

Your first step should be to contact your landlord and ask them to view the cracks.

Not sure what to say? Use our template letter.

If your landlord takes no action, and you are still concerned, you might try one of the following: 

Not sure what to say? Use our template letter.

More advanced information

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amended the law which was already set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, so you might need to look at section 9A to 10 of the 1985 Act for the basic detail that underlies the current rules.

If disrepair is making your home hazardous (likely to cause an accident), it is worth knowing that under the Housing Act 2004 (section 3(1)) the local housing authority must keep all housing conditions in their area under review.

This is to identify any action that they may need to take on hazardous deficiencies under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) guidance.

This applies to all housing, including the housing authority’s own property. If the lack of repair (or any other issue) is making your home hazardous, you could ask Environmental Health to assess your home, and they have the power in some circumstances to take enforcement action.

If your landlord is the council/local authority, Environmental Health can’t take enforcement action against them, but they still have a duty to assess housing conditions in their area and their assessment might make it possible for you to take action under the provisions in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.

If your landlord is not the local authority, Environmental Health could force them to act to remedy the problem. There is more information about this on the Citizens’ Advice Bureau website here, and there is an example letter here.

Watch this

Cracks in the System is a short film about the Ledbury Estate, where residents had been living with sizeable cracks in their walls, and organised to get something done.

It’s definitely worth a watch!

Related guides

cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Chris Upson - geograph.org.uk/p/119968 cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Chris Upson - geograph.org.uk/p/119968

Guide

I’m worried my building is Large Panel System

Large Panel System is a method of construction that was popular in the 60s but has since been found to be potentially unsafe. If you think your building may be LPS, here’s what to do.
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Tools you can use

Contacting your landlord

Tips and letter templates to help you communicate with your landlord when there’s something wrong, or you want to find out more.
A letter box. Image by Dele Oke A letter box. Image by Dele Oke

Tools you can use

Contacting your local councillor or MP

Your elected representatives, like MPs and Councillors, can help you with your housing issues. Here’s information on how to get in touch.
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Tools you can use

Contacting the media

Sometimes, if you’re not getting results through any other means, it can help to get some coverage in the local – or even national – press.
Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat

Tools you can use

Starting or joining a Residents’ Association or an Action Group

Joining together with other residents in your block or community can make you much more powerful.
Two doors with a staircase between them. Photo by Nick Chalkiadakis Two doors with a staircase between them. Photo by Nick Chalkiadakis

Tools you can use

Making a formal complaint

If you have made a request to your landlord and you’re not getting results, then what can you do next to get things fixed?

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