Consumer programme. Matt Allwright hits the streets in Havering, London, on the trail of suspected tenancy fraud.
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As soon as we opened the door, there were flies everywhere.
'Everyone deserves a safe place to live.'
You've got a choice of the tomahawk or the bayonet.
'But with rents rising and demand increasing,
'it's getting harder and harder to find a secure place to call home.'
A little bit concerned about what's happening here.
'I'm Matt Allwright, and I'm back with the housing enforcers.'
That worries me a bit there, look.
-You got the biggest stinging nettles in the world.
'I'm on the front line with those
'fighting for the right to decent housing.'
The amount of money they owe, it's in excess of £100,000.
Whoa, whoa, calm down! Sir, sir, sir.
'As local councils and housing associations
'battle problem properties and slum conditions...
Hyde Housing, is there anyone in there?
'..as they deal with dodgy landlords...'
-He just said he was selling the house.
-When did he tell you that?
A couple of weeks ago.
-She doesn't like you.
-She hates me.
-Would you want either side evicted?
'..and everything in between...'
There was a shed here, look, there's the base for it.
'..to help those in need of a happy and healthy home.'
It doesn't leave you with a good feeling, though. That's a tough job.
KNOCKS AT THE DOOR
'..I'm in Havering, on the beat with the fraud squad.'
Have you got any other forms of ID? I need to see some correspondence
that's got your name and this address on it.
'A housing inspection in Tendring reveals a potential hazard.'
So, if someone was to go, they'd fall on to the hard
and unforgiving surface below, which is concrete.
The last thing we want is that.
'In London, the stress of noisy neighbours is taking its toll.'
They just get... You hear?
And I can't sleep.
And the doctors have me on the heavy medication.
And in Newcastle, an empty house provides a sticky situation.
You can't expect someone to move in and lose their shoes to that floor.
HER SHOES SQUEAK AND SQUELCH
Making sure everyone's got the chance to find
and keep a roof over their heads
is the job of housing officers across the UK.
I'm working alongside these men and women
who use the law to make sure we don't live in slums
but in homes fit to raise a family or enjoy our retirement.
They can make sure you have the facilities you need
as you get older.
They also have the power to enforce a landlord
to sort out a dangerous property, or help evict a bad tenant.
It's definitely a challenging role.
Welcome to the world of the housing enforcers.
Throughout my time working with housing officers all across the UK,
the one message that keeps returning is
that a person's home is not just bricks and mortar,
it's the place where you live and the community that you share.
And that part of being a good tenant
is also being an understanding neighbour.
Of course, that might be all well and good in theory
but, as we know, in real life things aren't always that straightforward.
Neighbours can end up falling out with each other
over many different issues
but it's noise that tops the table of complaints.
Today I'm in Brent, north-west London,
joining housing officer Grace Briody, who's been called
to a neighbour dispute that illustrates
there are always two sides to every story.
So it's not one, but two properties we're interested in right now?
What's the situation?
The property on the first floor has been making complaints
about noise from the above property for about 18 months.
But they've intensified in the last six to seven months.
Basically the situation is upstairs we've got a lady
who's got two children, a young boy and a young girl.
So, the lady below and ourselves are aware
that it is...although completely unintentional noise
coming from the property, it is still noise.
The young boy's unable to sleep at night,
he's running round the property and dropping things.
There's obviously constant noise throughout the day and the night,
all times, all through the week.
And the lady below is quite elderly, she's quite vulnerable,
and it's having a massive negative impact on her mental health.
It's a difficult one because we have had to class this
as antisocial behaviour although we are aware that it's not intentional.
-Shall we go and have a look?
-Yeah, let's see it.
London is one of the busiest cities in the world,
so I'm guessing residents here
might have a higher than average noise threshold.
But sleepless nights are clearly something else entirely.
our first stop is to the first floor
and a tenant who's made the complaints.
-How are you doing?
THE LADY REPLIES QUIETLY
-Oh, bless you.
-Are we all right to come in?
This tenant's complaint isn't about occasional noise
from the neighbouring children,
she says it's a constant issue and is now affecting her health.
What we're interested in is the way that the flat upstairs affects you.
Can you explain to me what it's like?
They can start four o'clock in the morning.
They will start if the parents put them to bed at nine, ten o'clock.
They've got no way to control them.
They just get... Do you hear that?
And I can't sleep.
And the doctors have me on heavy medication, for blood pressure.
And you know when blood pressure reach its height, it's hospital,
and I don't like hospital.
'The stress of the situation is very clear,
'and the impact on her life even more so.'
Do you often stay out of the property to get away from the noise?
Yeah, that's right, especially at night.
And when it come...um...time for her to get the kids ready,
this one don't want to go in the bath,
that one want to stay in the bath.
It's too much. It's too much for one person...
..to cope with.
'It's hard not to feel sympathy
'but here in London, home to more than 8.5 million people,
'there still has to be some give and take.'
-Do you like where you live here?
-I love where I live.
I love where I live.
If this family goes,
there may well be somebody else after them who makes some noise.
So why can't you put somebody quiet here?
Because there's all sorts of people that need houses,
some of them are noisy and some of them are less noisy.
If they've got kids, they're going to be noisy.
You get an old one like myself.
They won't be able to climb the stairs.
I can help them up the stairs, don't worry about that,
That's fine, that's covered. The difference with this
is not that there's a problem that there's children living there,
but because he's up all through the night and all morning,
that's the problem.
Enough is enough with the noise.
Thank you so much for your time, we appreciate it.
Grace is going to do the best she can for you.
-And you help her.
-I will do whatever I can.
'This is a difficult one for Grace,
'the ongoing noise problem is clearly having
'a genuinely negative impact on this tenant's life
'and it's equally clear there are no easy answers either.'
It's incredibly difficult.
You can't evict somebody because their son makes a load of noise
but, at the same time, if the lady below is suffering
to the extent that we're talking about,
something has to be done to help her.
-I mean, what would you do?
-This is the difficulty, what would you do?
-What would I do?
I don't know, you see. I honestly don't know what I'd do.
'Later on, we hear the other side of the story.'
That's about the last thing you imagine there.
There's a mum, beautifully turned-out kids, gorgeous kids,
and just obviously desperately trying to keep that family together.
With demand for social housing far outstripping supply,
local councils and housing associations have to work hard
to ensure that when a property becomes vacant,
it doesn't stay empty for too long.
Here in the north-east,
Isos Housing currently provide around 17,000 homes.
And when one of their tenants moves out,
the race is on to get the property turned around
for the next resident on the waiting list.
That job often lands on the desk
of housing officers like Laura Barnett.
Today we're going to two empty properties.
The keys have just come in.
We'll be checking them out, seeing that they're clean and tidy.
What repairs need to be done,
get them back to letting to a new person.
With a long waiting list for social housing,
Laura's hoping she can get these properties turned around quickly
but it looks like this first house
might present something of a challenge.
When they handed the keys in, they promised they would tidy that away.
Obviously hasn't been done.
Not the best start.
And with a garden in this state,
you wonder what could be waiting on the inside.
It's not as clean as what I would like.
I can already spot repairs.
As soon as you walk in, you can see holes in the doors
and stuff they've tried to hide.
You can see them.
It looks like there are plenty of other issues
the previous tenant hasn't attempted to disguise.
You can see here, the hinge needs replacing,
it's been completely bent off.
This could be either vandalism or wear and tear,
probably more a little bit of misuse,
slamming the door, swinging off them.
Either way, clearly more than just a couple of things
to add to the to-do list.
And upstairs in the bathroom, it's a similar story.
So what's happened here, they've had laminate floor covering on
that they've glued to the floor.
And they've obviously not cleaned the glue off or anything.
So our lads will have to come in and scrub the floor.
They'll probably end up having to put plywood on the top of it
because you can't expect somebody to move in
and lose their shoes to that floor!
As Laura makes her way slowly...and carefully out of the bathroom,
her list of repairs is becoming longer.
And she's hoping the next tenant
might take a little more care of the house.
We'll try to put someone in the property where we know that
they can spend the rest of their life here.
We don't want them to keep moving around,
we don't want a high turnover as a company.
So the longer they stay here, the better.
Despite the condition of the garden, and that bathroom floor,
Laura's confident this property isn't going to defeat her.
We'll turn this property around in two weeks,
because we know there's somebody for it, we'll prioritise them,
as opposed to the ones we haven't got somebody waiting for.
Two weeks would be the standard for this.
That's one property down, and it's on to the next.
Let's hope this one is in better condition than the last.
We've got everything we need.
The good news is the garden is at least in better shape
but Laura's not counting any chickens just yet.
It can go from being spotless, nothing there,
to you not being able to open the door, really, you never know.
So this isn't a horror story, it looks all right.
First appearances seem positive.
Sometimes you think there's a carpet on the floor
but it's actually just dog hair!
Bottles of wee, anything.
Sometimes it's some really grim stories.
So I'm happy to see a clean carpet for a change.
When it comes to a thorough inspection,
Laura's not forgotten some of the golden rules.
Test the door to see if it shuts. Shut it in here.
You don't want to test the door while you're in it, shut it on you,
otherwise you can get stuck.
Just a tip that you're always told when you first start training.
Things seem to be going well so far.
No broken doors, no sticky bathroom floors.
People here obviously kept the place quite tidy,
everything's pretty clean, they must have been pretty house-proud.
As well, they've obviously been reporting their repairs
because there's not much to do.
Sometimes you come in, none of the doors shut,
none of the windows open.
But it's generally quite in a good condition.
With this one, everything seems to be in full working order.
Of course, there is just one place left to inspect.
Checking the loft's clean and tidy,
because a lot of people throw things in the loft
and think that we'll not check
so there's always loads of rubbish up there.
We'll also check on the insulation levels.
Checking that there's no holes in the roof, no birds living up there,
nothing that you wouldn't expect.
Sometimes you go in and you open it
and the birds come across and swipe you in the head.
It's mainly a hole in the wall.
But I'm not expecting to find anything in this one
because it's obviously been painted shut
which means that they've probably not used it.
Shouldn't have spoken too soon, Laura.
So this loft's absolutely full of stuff.
Old Christmas decorations. Bits of wood.
So we'll contact them and say that they're going to charged for it.
And they'll just say, "It's not my stuff,
"I never put it up there, I shouldn't be charged for this."
But we have pictures of it previously being void
so we can prove that it's been cleared since then.
And it's things like that.
So, not quite the clean bill of health Laura had hoped for,
although her time as a housing officer has taught her,
it could have been much worse.
Only found one dead body, and it's not the best idea.
In Newcastle city centre in a block of flats,
I had reports that they hadn't seen the tenant for a while.
So we broke the locks with the police.
Walked in, and he was lying there, dead.
It's a smell that you'll never forget.
Oh, that was a bit dark!
Anyway, nothing like that today. Thank goodness.
That was all right, one of the better properties I've been to.
And it won't be long before both properties are back
amongst the 17,000 social homes
available to Isos tenants in the north-east.
Earlier in north London, I joined housing officer Grace Briody,
at a block of flats where the patter of tiny feet
was anything but welcome for the tenant below.
The parents put them to bed at nine, ten o'clock,
and they wake up 12 o'clock. They just get... Do you hear that?
And I can't sleep.
But, as I'm being made aware, when it comes to housing problems,
there are rarely any easy solutions.
You don't get to pick and choose,
you can't have a whole block of people with children,
it just doesn't work that way.
So I honestly don't know what I'd do.
I did promise to help Grace find an answer,
so we take a trip up a floor, to speak to the tenants above
in the flat that's the source of the noise.
-I've got Matt here with me.
-Pleased to meet you. I'm Matt.
The residents are happy to let us in and tell us their side of the story,
although they've asked not to be identified.
Although, after meeting the family,
and seeing and hearing the situation for ourselves...
Thank you very much. See you later.
..I'm not sure I'm any closer to spotting a resolution
that can work for both sides.
There's a mum, beautifully turned out kids, gorgeous kids,
and just obviously desperately trying to keep the family together
and trying to make it work somehow.
Meanwhile, you know, she's got a neighbour downstairs
who, understandably, and it's a very active child, making a lot of noise,
screaming, jumping up and down. We saw that.
Understandably, feels they can't lead the life they want to either.
That's really tough.
It's a bit of a lose-lose situation really for the both of them.
It really has kind of made me realise just how much of a struggle
this has been for such a long time.
Because, obviously, as I've pointed out to her,
she's had people making noise complaints about her.
It was pretty desperate, wasn't it? You could sense her desperation.
She knows she's got somebody downstairs
having a problem with it as well.
I just felt that she was on the brink really.
When I was asked earlier what I'd do to help,
I was fresh out of ideas.
Fortunately, for both these tenants though, there's Grace.
I think it's important to look at trying to
work with the local authority, or within our own housing stock,
to get this lady moved.
Because both situations are horribly desperate and
they're unintentional, that's the key word that I would use in this.
It is antisocial behaviour.
A person, a household, is making noise at late hours of the night,
through the night, consistent for long periods of the day.
But it's not being done intentionally.
So, how do we move forward and resolve this?
Obviously your heart goes out to both families,
-both are suffering.
Moving a tenant, especially in London,
where social housing is at a premium, is clearly a last resort,
but I wonder if, in a situation like this, that's the only option left.
Six weeks later, I managed to catch up with Grace again.
She's just been to visit the tenants and looks to have some news.
So that felt like a very difficult situation to resolve there.
Have we got an update? Has anything happened?
We have opted to try and find a property within London.
We've worked with the family closely to identify areas.
We want to make sure we're not going
to put another family in the same situation.
Because, you know, for the family involved, actually
it's been quite traumatising for them,
that relationship breakdown with the neighbours
and all of the negative energy
and negative comments they've had as a result of that.
'So, with Grace's help, the hunt is now on
'to find the family a ground-floor flat that will hopefully
'minimise the impact of the children's noise on the neighbours.'
It seems that however sophisticated and complex the guidelines,
laws and procedures that there are surrounding housing,
there's always a new situation that can't be accommodated
within what we've got.
It's an almost infinite number of stories, aren't there?
Yeah, because if you think, guidelines, policies,
numbers, statistics, they're great,
but it still humans that we're dealing with
and humans will react in a million different ways in the same situation
so, yeah, there are times when you have to think outside the box.
So, put the human beings first,
and then occasionally improvise a little bit.
It just takes a bit of different thinking.
Yeah, definitely, it does. It takes a bit of different thinking.
It's just a case of presenting that in a way that can be understood.
Defending our rights to a safe place to live
is the job of housing officers right across the UK.
'Fire Service turned up, didn't they.'
There was no need for them.
-There was a fire.
-There was not!
I'm working alongside the men and women that do exactly that.
This one's the worst that I've seen.
The amount of mould was quite shocking actually.
-Hitting the streets...
..finding out what's happening on the front line...
Warrants have been issued and they can be enforced.
..as we make sure a house is a fit place to call a home.
Is that one there? Oh! Look at that.
-There's another one.
Now I've got somewhere that I can call home and it's permanent.
That's got to be a good thing.
The UK's housing crisis shows no signs of slowing up,
with more than 1.2 million people on a waiting list for social housing
just in England alone.
With a number that high,
it's more important than ever that councils and housing associations
are able to offer homes to those in need as soon they become available
but that task can be made that much harder
by some people trying to cheat the system.
Whether that's illegally sub-letting homes for profit,
or tenants trying to buy a home they're not entitled to,
housing fraud is a huge problem for councils,
costing them close to an estimated £2 billion a year.
'Here in the London Borough of Havering,
'there are more than 2,000 families waiting for a home.
'I'm with Rob Kleinberg and his team
'who are in charge of fighting fraud to make sure council homes
'are going to those who actually need them.'
So, what are we doing today, then, Rob?
This property we're going to now
is a referral that came from neighbours of the property
because their tenant is not there.
He's been reported to them and to us as not being there
but his friends or people that neighbours imply
that are his friends, use the property.
We were informed that he lives with his mother.
So we've got his mother's address.
But what we need to do now is verify who is at the property
whether it's him or whether it's friends or potentially sub-tenants,
et cetera. So...
'It seems there are suspicions this tenant is
'no longer living at his property.
'If there are other people using it, it could be that
'he's renting it out without permission from the council.
'That's illegal, and such a serious offence
'it can land you with a prison sentence.'
It's a very difficult thing to prove, isn't it?
Because proving someone is not somewhere,
it's like I'm currently not at my home,
I'm out here, because I'm working.
-So proving someone is not somewhere is difficult.
'Yeah, I'm fairly sure that makes sense!
'Today, Rob and his team will do their best to get answers
'from whoever opens that door
'but their investigative powers stretch further than that.
'They're also allowed to dig around a tenant's financial background
'including bank statements and credit agreements.
'If there are any sums that don't add up,
'it can provide evidence for any further legal action.'
Here we go.
KNOCKS ON THE DOOR
'I do love a good strong door knock.'
-Hello. Mr Hunt?
My name is Rob Kleinberg, London Borough of Havering, fraud team.
This is my colleague, Zed.
We're just coming in with regards to an audit on the property.
-Is that OK? Have you got a couple of minutes of your time?
Yeah, why not?
-Thank you very much.
-Go in the living room, I'll be in in a sec.
-Hang on, I'll get my ID for you.
-Lovely, thanks very much.
-Nice to meet you.
-Hello, mate, are you all right?
'So, we're in luck and someone is at home.
'The question is, is it the right person for this address?
That's lovely. That's great. Thanks very much.
-Have you got any other forms of ID at all?
-A driving licence. Passport.
-I've got a birth certificate.
Can I see that as well? Is that OK?
The other thing as well, Mr Hunt, while you're looking,
for proof of residency, I need to see some correspondence
that's got your name and this address on it.
-Can I see that as well? Is that OK?
-Lovely, thanks, Mr Hunt.
Here it is, as old as I am, the state of it.
I know it's August 15th but it's from the social.
What we're doing with each of the visits,
because we need to verify it is the tenant we're speaking to,
then of course we need to verify the residency
-which is why we need the proof of...
The ID suggests Trevor here is the correct tenant for this property.
But there are still many questions that need to be answered.
The reason we're here from the fraud team
-as opposed to being an audit officer is...
-I thought it was audit?
Yeah, well, it's because the audit officers have had several visits
-to the address.
-That's right. And I was at my mum's.
That's right. Yeah. So what it did, alarm bells rang
so they refer it to us, and that's the reason we're here to verify it.
My mum's in her 70s, and my dad's just gone into a care home.
-That's why I was there a lot, helping her out.
-Ah, right, I see. OK.
'Trevor says family commitments have left him no option
'but to be away from the flat.
'But what about those other people seen coming and going?'
-Is it just yourself living here?
-Yeah. My mate stays here on and off.
'Trevor says his friend is the only other person spending time here.
'But Rob and the team need to be thorough in their investigation.'
-You just need to show me the property.
-Yeah. All right.
You got the kitchen.
-Lovely. Great stuff.
'While Rob and Zed check out the rest of the property,
'I want to do a little digging of my own.'
Trevor, tell me about you and this flat. How long have you been here?
I've been here 17 years now.
And what does it mean for you? What has it provided for you?
Oh, blimey, lots of stability.
Neighbours, the friendship with the neighbours.
Somewhere of my own.
I couldn't really explain to you how much it means, you know?
I don't know. It's nice to have your own flat, obviously.
It sounds like recently things have been difficult with your mum?
Stepfather's just gone into the care home.
My mum's had to sell the house to pay for his half of the care.
So she's only left with half of the money from the house
so she can't buy a house.
But she needed help, though, because I'm the only one that's local.
It's only me and my mum that live locally.
It's been hard out there. There's been a lot going on.
I had different tenants next door. There was a lot of drugs going on.
A lot of police visits and raids and stuff.
We had a lot of burglaries up here before, which is why he asked me
to come and sit here while he was staying at his mum's,
basically just to look after the place.
Make sure no-one comes in while he's not here.
Obviously you thought I was letting the flat out, you know?
-Do you understand then why they've come in today?
-Oh, totally. Yeah.
Does it worry you when you get a knock on the door from the council?
Do you know what? It does worry me. And it don't.
Because I've been through it before with them.
I've got disability issues, because I had a car accident
and some mental issues,
because I've got post-traumatic stress disorder
and I can't deal with stress. So, like,
I've got a kind of a buffer that protects me to a degree, you know?
But also, there's a certain amount
of vulnerability in that as well, you know?
I mean I might come across all right,
but I still am a vulnerable person.
-Do you worry about losing this place?
-I do worry about it, yeah.
But I try not to dwell on it.
I'm not the type of person that dwells on worry.
But, yeah, it is a worry.
Thanks for letting us into your home. I appreciate that.
-And nice to meet you as well, Danny.
-Yeah, nice, one. And you. Yeah.
Nice to meet you. You take care.
'It's always interesting to meet tenants like Trevor
'and his story seems legit to me. But then I'm not the fraud expert.
'It will be interesting to hear Rob's view.'
I mean that felt like home to me.
I mean, that was... It's clearly his abode.
Interesting enough in the bathroom, one toothbrush,
which is always a clear sign.
Bearing in mind the reports we had, ie, he was living with his mum.
He just explained that away as well. We've got the mum's address.
On paper, you think, hm, it's a bit suspicious.
But once you're in front of someone and you're speaking to them
and they've given you all of their details,
it can be explained away.
This was an unannounced visit.
The tenant was there.
And he's confirmed and explained the other side of the situation.
-He understood the job that you were there to do.
He understood it was necessary.
He understood it was a part of keeping his tenancy.
He totally got the fact that without you being able to do your job,
-that place could be under threat for him.
-Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Yeah, so, again, all we'll do now is send copies of our findings
through to the tenancy team, and just let them know
it was unannounced, and he was there. So...
'I can only wish Trevor the best for the future.
'Again this visit has illustrated
'how important social housing can be.'
What came across there was just how valuable that flat is to him
and even the slightest idea that it could be under threat, you know,
was something that made him really quite nervous, quite anxious.
But that's fine. Because it seems like his story rings true.
It makes sense. And that means he can still have that platform,
that place to go back to every night.
So, that's good. Job well done.
The population of the UK now stands at just under 65 million people.
There are indications it could be set to rise by almost ten million
in 25 years' time.
A large chunk of that number is expected to come from migration.
No matter which shores the new tenants have left from,
those looking to settle here are entitled to
the same standards of housing as everyone else.
In Tendring, housing officers Rob Goswell and Ian Cavanagh
are on the way to a property for a potential new tenant from overseas.
So we're going to an immigration inspection.
So what happens with one of these inspections is that
the Home Office will ask the person that's moved into the country
to find an accommodation.
They want to know if the accommodation is correct
and suitable for that person.
So then they ask them to come to us.
So, when we are asked to do these inspections,
we look at the facilities the person has, if they are adequate,
the rooms are a good enough size.
So, it's standard stuff that we would do.
'Visits like these are a vital part of the housing officer's role
'as people newly arriving in the UK can find themselves
'living in houses of multiple occupancy.
'And sometimes these properties can fall short
'of decent standards of accommodation.'
The idea is meant to stop people being exploited
when they come over to this country
and to stop the situation further down the line
of overcrowding situations that may accompany people
that are coming from other countries.
We're on their side, you know.
It can be a very daunting thing to move from one country to another.
And you may accept something that you may feel that that's what
we do here and actually find out it's actually illegal
but you would have no way of being able to challenge it.
So that's the idea why we're here, is to help people know
what they are entitled to with housing
and what conditions they should be living in.
I'm hoping today that it's all going to be straightforward.
But, with all these kind of jobs, you never truly know
if it's going to be a straightforward job.
I think this one is going to be anything other than ordinary.
Rob and Ian are not going to a house of multiple occupation
but to an interesting looking curry house in Clacton
run by Sandra and her husband Russell.
It's an Indian restaurant, and a little bit strange
because my husband, obviously, he's from Bangladesh, I'm English,
which people find quite unusual but it's worked very well.
We live here ourselves and we're very, very happy to make it a home
and share our home and obviously we want to have a nice home.
So... Hopefully it works out, you know, well with the inspection.
Sandra has good reason to hope things go well today
as there's a lot riding on the result of Rob and Ian's assessment.
Our assistant chef has got married, and his wife is in Bangladesh
and he wishes to bring his wife to this country.
So, of course, they've got to have somewhere to live,
and we feel quite happy to share our home with them.
'Before the Home Office agrees to provide a visa
'for the chef's new wife, they need to be satisfied
'she has safe and secure accommodation to move into
'when she arrives from Bangladesh.
'That means the house has to conform to the same health and safety
'standards as any other rented property.
'If the accommodation isn't in a fit state for them both to live,
'the chef, Mr Ahmed, will be told
'his wife will be refused entry into the UK.'
This is a big thing.
She won't come until, you know, this is passed.
'That means he might have to return home himself.
'Bad news for him, the restaurant and their customers.'
Hello, sir. Tendring District Council.
'Sandra's husband Russell
'will accompany the team on their inspection.'
It might be boring. It usually is!
Smoke detection is one of the most important things here.
We're also looking at general facilities, kitchens,
bathrooms and access to everything that they need to do.
Just have a quick look at the windows.
It's high enough not to be an issue for anyone falling out there
and you've got a lock-open feature.
Can you just check the lights, please?
-Which light? These ones?
-Yeah, let's have a look. That's working fine.
'So, the honeymoon suite checks out. What about the bathroom?'
Internal bathroom. Got an extract fan. It's working fine.
There's no issue with damp in here, so I'm assuming it's sufficient.
Okey dokey. Check the toilet.
What we're trying to see is if it's got enough facilities
for him and his family, as well as the owner's family,
because there will be shared use.
-Is there any children moving in at all?
-We haven't got any children. Two dogs only.
-Oh, that's fine.
-They're like kids, aren't they!
Things are looking good for chef Mr Ahmed so far.
We're going to share that kitchen.
We've got somewhere to eat, that's important.
Is it generally like a shared...
When you eat, do you all eat together, or is it separately?
-Yeah, they'll eat with us.
-Lovely. Thank you.
'It looks like the cooking arrangements will work well too.
'So, just one place to check.
Can we just double check that balcony, if that's all right?
Oops. Mind my head.
'And here there is a problem. The terrace wall is too low.'
The idea is that, if you come out here,
you don't want to slip and fall, you know.
As a rule, we look at roughly about a metre from the ground.
So, something about that high and that just stops it, perfect.
-What about if we put them?
-That would be fine.
It's just to stop someone if they did trip.
As you can imagine, if you did fall...
-Yeah, we'll fix that.
-..they'd fall in a bin there. Yeah.
We're just advising that the wall is a little on the low side.
So if someone was to go, they'd fall on to the hard,
and unforgiving surface below, which is concrete.
The last thing we want is that. Also, the gentleman's got a dog
so we don't want the dog jumping over there, either, do we?
We don't, indeed.
The low wall is a point of danger
and could count against the property.
So, we've seen his accommodation, we've seen his bathroom,
we've seen his kitchen, the communal kitchen.
We've seen the means of escape.
We've got a sufficient fire detection,
because it's only a single domestic, really, he's just a lodger.
So that's fine. The only slight issue we have is the height...
The height of this wall, yeah.
I mean we've not got a high-risk group living here.
-There's no children.
I mean, you could argue that down there,
if you was to trip and everyone else was working,
you may not be discovered in the winter for some time.
So that's why we definitely need to have that.
But the big question for Mr Ahmed,
will this issue cause problems for his wife's visa?
I don't think it's going to stop us approving someone living here.
-All good for a change.
So, Rob and Ian will ask that the wall be raised to a metre height.
Other than that, their feedback to the Home Office
is going to be positive,
meaning Mr Ahmed's wife will be free to join him in Clacton.
It does feel more like a shared house
than maybe what we're used to sometimes,
where it is a clear separation between the owners and the staff
but it's like they've been invited into their home which is quite nice.
You can feel that when you were there.
There was no hazards.
It looks like they had no restriction
-on any of the facilities they could use.
-They were sharing the lounge.
You could see that, and see the standard was very high.
So I haven't got a problem writing that letter,
-and I don't think you have either?
You do wish they were all this easy, I really do.
But, hey, we wouldn't be in a job if they all were.
You have to take the rough with the smooth.
-We don't want to talk ourselves out of a job!
'It's great news for Mr Ahmed.'
-We'll get it out soon.
-Yeah, we'll get it out soon as possible.
You don't want to be away from your wife for too long, do you?
We'll send the letter saying we found no real issues.
-Excellent. Thank you very much for your time.
Yeah, I'm really excited, yeah.
I like her, she come in here and live with me.
It's nice, isn't it?
Even though Rob and Ian have given the all-clear at the property,
Mr Ahmed is having to wait a little bit longer
before his wife can join him at the restaurant.
The Home Office is still in the process
of considering the application but, hopefully, it won't be too long
before all the paperwork is cleared.
'Earlier in the north London, I joined housing officer Grace Briody
'as she was faced with the task of trying to deal with
'a very challenging case of antisocial behaviour.
'It proved that neighbourly disputes,
'like most human interaction, are rarely clear-cut.'
-I mean what would you do?
-This is the difficulty, what would you do?
-What would I do?
I don't know, you see, I honestly don't know what I'd do.
'Here in Newcastle, I've travelled up the M1
'to join housing officers Chris and Gary
'on a very similar and demanding case.
'Between them, these guys have seen more than their fair share
'of antisocial behaviour.
'But today's case is one that's proved tough to crack
'even for these seasoned professionals.'
Tell us about the place we're going to go to today, Chris?
A property where we have a number of victims
of a tenant who was moved in, who was previously with us.
He caused problems in the previous address.
The behaviour, I will explain, was excessively loud shouting.
Like very, very violent threats being made.
When speaking about it, he's saying that the threats
aren't directed at anybody,
it's him shouting at voices in his head that he's hearing.
Mental health issues are a growing concern in the UK
with one in four of us each year
expected to experience a mental health problem
and it sounds like this tenant's issues
are not only affecting his quality of life but also those around him.
We've got him help through a support worker
who was employed by Isos, because we have a support network as well.
So he was moved to a new address where it was felt
it might be a bit better for him
because he was literally city centre of Newcastle.
So he's moved further out of the city centre.
But recently his behaviour's started up again.
It's hard to know, isn't it, if somebody's going through that,
where can they live that's not going to affect people, scare people,
and change their lives.
How very tricky that is.
'This tenant sounds like he's really struggling
'but then so too are his neighbours.
'We're starting our trip at the adjoining flat.
'The tenant here, who doesn't want to be identified,
'has complained to the housing association
'about the disturbances next door.
'Our chat again illustrates how complex these cases can be.'
So that was really interesting.
We're talking to a guy there who himself has some issues,
mental health issues,
and the behaviour of his neighbour is affecting him.
-But he was really quite tolerant.
And understanding of what the guy was going through,
even though it has deprived him of sleep.
Is that typical, do people get it that much?
-It's not typical.
-We have a wide range of different tolerances
between victims of antisocial behaviour.
I mean, he was genuinely very appreciative
of what you guys were doing, and the level of care and attention
that you're giving to this situation.
What I'd love to be able to do is talk to the gentleman
on the other side of this equation, or at least try to.
Is that something we should attempt? You should go and have a chat?
Yeah, we'll speak to him. We've spoken before,
so we'll definitely go and speak to him.
'Given the challenges already facing this resident,
'our cameras wait outside.
'The tenant, though, is more than happy to chat about
'what he's facing. And, once again, the experience is eye-opening.'
So, there we have a guy who, there have been plenty of reports
of him causing problems for his neighbours.
And we walk in, the most civil, polite, intelligent...
Yep, very well-spoken. Very polite.
He certainly said he felt like he was much more in control
of the things that were causing that than he has been for a long time.
The way he was expressing it, he seemed like he was happy here
and in this environment. That's got to be a good thing?
It is. It is. And I think it's because he's not as
city-centre based as he was, so it's a bit quieter.
There's not as much going on, not as much people about,
he can get away and just sort of get into his books
or get into his DVDs, his films, whatever he wants to do,
just lose himself to the world and just forget what's going on.
Having his own space where he could be
without coming into contact with people
-seemed very important to him.
And maybe, I mean, do you guys think that is the key
-to his continued recovery and improvement?
-I would hope so.
Where he is now with his continued support from his support workers,
that he should hopefully maintain his behaviour and his mental health
to a standard where it's not causing problems for anybody.
His behaviour affects himself, due to his mental health problems,
and his outbursts.
But of course, we've got people living next door
or people living in the surrounding areas who would be affected
by the outcome if he didn't have the support in place
and if he didn't have this work going on.
So if it can be managed, that's great for everybody.
'We've said it many times on this programme,
'everyone deserves a safe and secure place to call home.
'It is easy to say but, as cases like this demonstrate,
'it's much harder to put into practice.'
I do wish you could have joined me in those two households there
because they were really interesting.
The first one, the chap that we're calling for the sake of argument,
the victim, it was very dark, the shutters were down.
It was a very enclosed space and he was very nervous.
Very nervous indeed.
The second chap, we went in,
he was intelligent, confident I'd say to a certain extent.
They're sorting out their problems
but that is not going to happen without people like Gary and Chris
and without the support network that they've got,
trying to improve their lives for themselves
and everybody else around them.
That's what I think is happening there. It seems to be working.
Well, as we've just seen,
being a housing officer means a daily dose of tough choices
and difficult decisions
but it's all in a day's work for the men and women
fighting to ensure we can enjoy a safe place to call home.
That's it for today but join me again next time
when I'll be back on the front line with the housing enforcers.
Matt Allwright hits the streets in Havering, London, on the trail of suspected tenancy fraud. In Newcastle, housing officer Laura encounters a sticky situation when she investigates an empty house. And Matt is faced with two challenging cases of antisocial behaviour where noisy neighbours are making life a misery for tenants. But he soon discovers there are two sides to every story.