Leaking roofs, damp and structural damage can lead to misery for anyone living in a home blighted by such problems.
And in recent weeks the Noel Park estate has become a focus of complaints because of delays to work on homes owned by Haringey Borough Council.
But those battling to keep historically important housing fit for living in can face unexpected pressures, as Haringey Independent reporter Jaber Mohamed discovered when he met repairmen at Homes for Haringey.
Mention run-down council estates and most people think of grim tower blocks built in the 1950s and 60s - concrete eyesores that nobody would think twice about tearing down.
But for people in the Noel Park estate in Haringey, the problem is a different one. First, the 1,207 council homes in estate were built between 1881 and 1927 – so many are more than 100 years old.
Second, most of the houses are located in conservation areas and are ornate and even attractive, which puts constraints on how they can be repaired.
Homes for Haringey is Haringey Council's 'arms length' company responsible for the authority's social housing.
Its director of housing repairs Chris Liffen said: “There is a roof job at the minute which was originally thought to cost a few hundred pounds to fix but once the roofers got up there they realised that a lot of the brick work was crumbling and just hanging off.
“Because the building is so old, has an ornate finish, and in a conservation area we have to order special made parts to maintain how the building looks.
“At the minute it’s probably going to cost around £16,000 to repair just one roof.”
The housing company manages its 15,000 homes and 4,000 business properties, employing 150 tradesmen – electricians, roofers, and painters - who carry out an average of 5,000 repairs a month and up to 60,000 a year.
Mr Liffen said he understands frustration felt by people living in Noel Park but said the council and HfH are committed to finding a long-term solution to improve the quality of houses there.
He said: “Right now surveyors are holding one-on-one interviews with every resident in Noel Park to talk through options of how their homes can be fixed.
“But in the meantime we will continue to carry out repairs as usual – it’s an ongoing process.”
The authority has invested around £340,000 on the survey and it will take around six months for its team to analyse the data and propose a way forward.
Mr Liffen added: “One of key goals is to get all the repairs within budget.
“We want to be a top housing management company and make sure that we are as good, if not better, than the best in the market.
“We are in the process of improving all our systems and we want to make sure all the repairs get done on time.
“There is still a bit of work to do but we are using the data that we collect to constantly try to improve our service.”
Dave Gentles has been an electrician with HfH for 15 years.
He said: “I get a lot of people moaning at me but they tend to moan about everything, the bins, council tax, parking – all sorts – but I’m an electrician and all I can do is fix their electrical problems.
“I understand where they are coming from but I think there is only so much we can do.
“I have been with this company a long time and in the last few years it has improved a lot."