Episode 11 The Housing Enforcers


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Episode 11

Consumer programme. Matt Allwright hits the streets in Havering, London, on the trail of suspected tenancy fraud.


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Transcript


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As soon as we opened the door, there were flies everywhere.

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'Everyone deserves a safe place to live.'

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You've got a choice of the tomahawk or the bayonet.

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'But with rents rising and demand increasing,

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'it's getting harder and harder to find a secure place to call home.'

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A little bit concerned about what's happening here.

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'I'm Matt Allwright, and I'm back with the housing enforcers.'

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That worries me a bit there, look.

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-You got the biggest stinging nettles in the world.

-Yep.

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'I'm on the front line with those

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'fighting for the right to decent housing.'

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The amount of money they owe, it's in excess of £100,000.

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Whoa, whoa, calm down! Sir, sir, sir.

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'As local councils and housing associations

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'battle problem properties and slum conditions...

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Hyde Housing, is there anyone in there?

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'..as they deal with dodgy landlords...'

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-He just said he was selling the house.

-When did he tell you that?

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A couple of weeks ago.

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'..nightmare neighbours...'

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-She doesn't like you.

-She hates me.

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-Would you want either side evicted?

-No.

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'..and everything in between...'

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There was a shed here, look, there's the base for it.

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'..to help those in need of a happy and healthy home.'

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It doesn't leave you with a good feeling, though. That's a tough job.

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'Today...

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KNOCKS AT THE DOOR

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'..I'm in Havering, on the beat with the fraud squad.'

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Have you got any other forms of ID? I need to see some correspondence

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that's got your name and this address on it.

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'A housing inspection in Tendring reveals a potential hazard.'

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So, if someone was to go, they'd fall on to the hard

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and unforgiving surface below, which is concrete.

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The last thing we want is that.

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'In London, the stress of noisy neighbours is taking its toll.'

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They just get... You hear?

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And I can't sleep.

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And the doctors have me on the heavy medication.

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And in Newcastle, an empty house provides a sticky situation.

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You can't expect someone to move in and lose their shoes to that floor.

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HER SHOES SQUEAK AND SQUELCH

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Making sure everyone's got the chance to find

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and keep a roof over their heads

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is the job of housing officers across the UK.

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I'm working alongside these men and women

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who use the law to make sure we don't live in slums

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but in homes fit to raise a family or enjoy our retirement.

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They can make sure you have the facilities you need

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as you get older.

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They also have the power to enforce a landlord

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to sort out a dangerous property, or help evict a bad tenant.

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It's definitely a challenging role.

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Welcome to the world of the housing enforcers.

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Throughout my time working with housing officers all across the UK,

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the one message that keeps returning is

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that a person's home is not just bricks and mortar,

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it's the place where you live and the community that you share.

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And that part of being a good tenant

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is also being an understanding neighbour.

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Of course, that might be all well and good in theory

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but, as we know, in real life things aren't always that straightforward.

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Neighbours can end up falling out with each other

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over many different issues

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but it's noise that tops the table of complaints.

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Today I'm in Brent, north-west London,

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joining housing officer Grace Briody, who's been called

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to a neighbour dispute that illustrates

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there are always two sides to every story.

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So it's not one, but two properties we're interested in right now?

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What's the situation?

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The property on the first floor has been making complaints

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about noise from the above property for about 18 months.

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But they've intensified in the last six to seven months.

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Basically the situation is upstairs we've got a lady

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who's got two children, a young boy and a young girl.

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So, the lady below and ourselves are aware

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that it is...although completely unintentional noise

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coming from the property, it is still noise.

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The young boy's unable to sleep at night,

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he's running round the property and dropping things.

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There's obviously constant noise throughout the day and the night,

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all times, all through the week.

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And the lady below is quite elderly, she's quite vulnerable,

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and it's having a massive negative impact on her mental health.

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It's a difficult one because we have had to class this

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as antisocial behaviour although we are aware that it's not intentional.

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-Shall we go and have a look?

-Yeah, let's see it.

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London is one of the busiest cities in the world,

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so I'm guessing residents here

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might have a higher than average noise threshold.

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But sleepless nights are clearly something else entirely.

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our first stop is to the first floor

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and a tenant who's made the complaints.

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-Hello.

-How are you doing?

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THE LADY REPLIES QUIETLY

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-Oh, bless you.

-Are we all right to come in?

-Yeah, come.

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This tenant's complaint isn't about occasional noise

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from the neighbouring children,

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she says it's a constant issue and is now affecting her health.

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What we're interested in is the way that the flat upstairs affects you.

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Can you explain to me what it's like?

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They can start four o'clock in the morning.

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They will start if the parents put them to bed at nine, ten o'clock.

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They've got no way to control them.

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They just get... Do you hear that?

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And I can't sleep.

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And the doctors have me on heavy medication, for blood pressure.

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And you know when blood pressure reach its height, it's hospital,

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and I don't like hospital.

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'The stress of the situation is very clear,

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'and the impact on her life even more so.'

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Do you often stay out of the property to get away from the noise?

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Yeah, that's right, especially at night.

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And when it come...um...time for her to get the kids ready,

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this one don't want to go in the bath,

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that one want to stay in the bath.

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It's too much. It's too much for one person...

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..to cope with.

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'It's hard not to feel sympathy

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'but here in London, home to more than 8.5 million people,

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'there still has to be some give and take.'

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-Do you like where you live here?

-I love where I live.

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I love where I live.

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If this family goes,

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there may well be somebody else after them who makes some noise.

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So why can't you put somebody quiet here?

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Because there's all sorts of people that need houses,

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some of them are noisy and some of them are less noisy.

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If they've got kids, they're going to be noisy.

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You get an old one like myself.

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They won't be able to climb the stairs.

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I can help them up the stairs, don't worry about that,

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That's fine, that's covered. The difference with this

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is not that there's a problem that there's children living there,

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but because he's up all through the night and all morning,

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that's the problem.

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Enough is enough with the noise.

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Thank you so much for your time, we appreciate it.

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Grace is going to do the best she can for you.

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-And you help her.

-I will do whatever I can.

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'This is a difficult one for Grace,

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'the ongoing noise problem is clearly having

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'a genuinely negative impact on this tenant's life

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'and it's equally clear there are no easy answers either.'

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It's incredibly difficult.

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You can't evict somebody because their son makes a load of noise

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but, at the same time, if the lady below is suffering

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to the extent that we're talking about,

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something has to be done to help her.

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-I mean, what would you do?

-Ha!

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-This is the difficulty, what would you do?

-What would I do?

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I don't know, you see. I honestly don't know what I'd do.

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'Later on, we hear the other side of the story.'

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That's about the last thing you imagine there.

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There's a mum, beautifully turned-out kids, gorgeous kids,

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and just obviously desperately trying to keep that family together.

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With demand for social housing far outstripping supply,

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local councils and housing associations have to work hard

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to ensure that when a property becomes vacant,

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it doesn't stay empty for too long.

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Here in the north-east,

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Isos Housing currently provide around 17,000 homes.

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And when one of their tenants moves out,

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the race is on to get the property turned around

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for the next resident on the waiting list.

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That job often lands on the desk

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of housing officers like Laura Barnett.

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Today we're going to two empty properties.

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The keys have just come in.

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We'll be checking them out, seeing that they're clean and tidy.

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What repairs need to be done,

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get them back to letting to a new person.

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With a long waiting list for social housing,

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Laura's hoping she can get these properties turned around quickly

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but it looks like this first house

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might present something of a challenge.

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When they handed the keys in, they promised they would tidy that away.

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Obviously hasn't been done.

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Not the best start.

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And with a garden in this state,

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you wonder what could be waiting on the inside.

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It's not as clean as what I would like.

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I can already spot repairs.

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As soon as you walk in, you can see holes in the doors

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and stuff they've tried to hide.

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You can see them.

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It looks like there are plenty of other issues

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the previous tenant hasn't attempted to disguise.

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You can see here, the hinge needs replacing,

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it's been completely bent off.

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This could be either vandalism or wear and tear,

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probably more a little bit of misuse,

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slamming the door, swinging off them.

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Either way, clearly more than just a couple of things

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to add to the to-do list.

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And upstairs in the bathroom, it's a similar story.

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So what's happened here, they've had laminate floor covering on

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that they've glued to the floor.

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SQUEAKING

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And they've obviously not cleaned the glue off or anything.

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So our lads will have to come in and scrub the floor.

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They'll probably end up having to put plywood on the top of it

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because you can't expect somebody to move in

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and lose their shoes to that floor!

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SQUEAKING

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As Laura makes her way slowly...and carefully out of the bathroom,

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her list of repairs is becoming longer.

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And she's hoping the next tenant

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might take a little more care of the house.

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We'll try to put someone in the property where we know that

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they can spend the rest of their life here.

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We don't want them to keep moving around,

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we don't want a high turnover as a company.

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So the longer they stay here, the better.

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Despite the condition of the garden, and that bathroom floor,

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Laura's confident this property isn't going to defeat her.

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We'll turn this property around in two weeks,

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because we know there's somebody for it, we'll prioritise them,

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as opposed to the ones we haven't got somebody waiting for.

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Two weeks would be the standard for this.

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That's one property down, and it's on to the next.

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Let's hope this one is in better condition than the last.

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We've got everything we need.

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The good news is the garden is at least in better shape

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but Laura's not counting any chickens just yet.

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It can go from being spotless, nothing there,

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to you not being able to open the door, really, you never know.

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So this isn't a horror story, it looks all right.

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First appearances seem positive.

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Sometimes you think there's a carpet on the floor

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but it's actually just dog hair!

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Bottles of wee, anything.

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Sometimes it's some really grim stories.

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So I'm happy to see a clean carpet for a change.

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When it comes to a thorough inspection,

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Laura's not forgotten some of the golden rules.

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Test the door to see if it shuts. Shut it in here.

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You don't want to test the door while you're in it, shut it on you,

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otherwise you can get stuck.

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Just a tip that you're always told when you first start training.

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Things seem to be going well so far.

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No broken doors, no sticky bathroom floors.

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People here obviously kept the place quite tidy,

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everything's pretty clean, they must have been pretty house-proud.

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As well, they've obviously been reporting their repairs

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because there's not much to do.

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Sometimes you come in, none of the doors shut,

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none of the windows open.

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But it's generally quite in a good condition.

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With this one, everything seems to be in full working order.

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Of course, there is just one place left to inspect.

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Checking the loft's clean and tidy,

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because a lot of people throw things in the loft

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and think that we'll not check

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so there's always loads of rubbish up there.

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We'll also check on the insulation levels.

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Checking that there's no holes in the roof, no birds living up there,

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nothing that you wouldn't expect.

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Sometimes you go in and you open it

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and the birds come across and swipe you in the head.

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It's mainly a hole in the wall.

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But I'm not expecting to find anything in this one

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because it's obviously been painted shut

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which means that they've probably not used it.

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Shouldn't have spoken too soon, Laura.

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So this loft's absolutely full of stuff.

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Old Christmas decorations. Bits of wood.

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So we'll contact them and say that they're going to charged for it.

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And they'll just say, "It's not my stuff,

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"I never put it up there, I shouldn't be charged for this."

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But we have pictures of it previously being void

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so we can prove that it's been cleared since then.

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And it's things like that.

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So, not quite the clean bill of health Laura had hoped for,

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although her time as a housing officer has taught her,

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it could have been much worse.

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Only found one dead body, and it's not the best idea.

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In Newcastle city centre in a block of flats,

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I had reports that they hadn't seen the tenant for a while.

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So we broke the locks with the police.

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Walked in, and he was lying there, dead.

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It's a smell that you'll never forget.

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Oh, that was a bit dark!

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Anyway, nothing like that today. Thank goodness.

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That was all right, one of the better properties I've been to.

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And it won't be long before both properties are back

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amongst the 17,000 social homes

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available to Isos tenants in the north-east.

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Earlier in north London, I joined housing officer Grace Briody,

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at a block of flats where the patter of tiny feet

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was anything but welcome for the tenant below.

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The parents put them to bed at nine, ten o'clock,

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and they wake up 12 o'clock. They just get... Do you hear that?

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And I can't sleep.

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But, as I'm being made aware, when it comes to housing problems,

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there are rarely any easy solutions.

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You don't get to pick and choose,

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you can't have a whole block of people with children,

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it just doesn't work that way.

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So I honestly don't know what I'd do.

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I did promise to help Grace find an answer,

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so we take a trip up a floor, to speak to the tenants above

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in the flat that's the source of the noise.

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Hi!

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-I've got Matt here with me.

-Pleased to meet you. I'm Matt.

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The residents are happy to let us in and tell us their side of the story,

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although they've asked not to be identified.

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Although, after meeting the family,

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and seeing and hearing the situation for ourselves...

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CHILDREN SHOUT

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Thank you very much. See you later.

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..I'm not sure I'm any closer to spotting a resolution

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that can work for both sides.

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There's a mum, beautifully turned out kids, gorgeous kids,

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and just obviously desperately trying to keep the family together

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and trying to make it work somehow.

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Meanwhile, you know, she's got a neighbour downstairs

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who, understandably, and it's a very active child, making a lot of noise,

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screaming, jumping up and down. We saw that.

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Understandably, feels they can't lead the life they want to either.

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That's really tough.

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It's a bit of a lose-lose situation really for the both of them.

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It really has kind of made me realise just how much of a struggle

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this has been for such a long time.

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Because, obviously, as I've pointed out to her,

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she's had people making noise complaints about her.

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It was pretty desperate, wasn't it? You could sense her desperation.

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She knows she's got somebody downstairs

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having a problem with it as well.

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I just felt that she was on the brink really.

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When I was asked earlier what I'd do to help,

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I was fresh out of ideas.

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Fortunately, for both these tenants though, there's Grace.

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I think it's important to look at trying to

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work with the local authority, or within our own housing stock,

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to get this lady moved.

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Because both situations are horribly desperate and

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they're unintentional, that's the key word that I would use in this.

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It is antisocial behaviour.

0:17:010:17:03

A person, a household, is making noise at late hours of the night,

0:17:030:17:06

through the night, consistent for long periods of the day.

0:17:060:17:09

But it's not being done intentionally.

0:17:090:17:12

So, how do we move forward and resolve this?

0:17:120:17:16

Obviously your heart goes out to both families,

0:17:160:17:18

-both are suffering.

-Yeah.

0:17:180:17:20

Moving a tenant, especially in London,

0:17:220:17:24

where social housing is at a premium, is clearly a last resort,

0:17:240:17:28

but I wonder if, in a situation like this, that's the only option left.

0:17:280:17:32

Six weeks later, I managed to catch up with Grace again.

0:17:370:17:40

She's just been to visit the tenants and looks to have some news.

0:17:400:17:45

So that felt like a very difficult situation to resolve there.

0:17:450:17:47

Have we got an update? Has anything happened?

0:17:470:17:49

We have opted to try and find a property within London.

0:17:490:17:52

We've worked with the family closely to identify areas.

0:17:520:17:55

We want to make sure we're not going

0:17:550:17:56

to put another family in the same situation.

0:17:560:17:59

Because, you know, for the family involved, actually

0:17:590:18:01

it's been quite traumatising for them,

0:18:010:18:03

that relationship breakdown with the neighbours

0:18:030:18:05

and all of the negative energy

0:18:050:18:06

and negative comments they've had as a result of that.

0:18:060:18:09

'So, with Grace's help, the hunt is now on

0:18:090:18:11

'to find the family a ground-floor flat that will hopefully

0:18:110:18:14

'minimise the impact of the children's noise on the neighbours.'

0:18:140:18:18

It seems that however sophisticated and complex the guidelines,

0:18:180:18:22

laws and procedures that there are surrounding housing,

0:18:220:18:25

there's always a new situation that can't be accommodated

0:18:250:18:28

within what we've got.

0:18:280:18:30

It's an almost infinite number of stories, aren't there?

0:18:300:18:33

Yeah, because if you think, guidelines, policies,

0:18:330:18:36

numbers, statistics, they're great,

0:18:360:18:38

but it still humans that we're dealing with

0:18:380:18:39

and humans will react in a million different ways in the same situation

0:18:390:18:43

so, yeah, there are times when you have to think outside the box.

0:18:430:18:46

So, put the human beings first,

0:18:460:18:48

and then occasionally improvise a little bit.

0:18:480:18:50

It just takes a bit of different thinking.

0:18:500:18:53

Yeah, definitely, it does. It takes a bit of different thinking.

0:18:530:18:56

It's just a case of presenting that in a way that can be understood.

0:18:560:19:00

Good stuff.

0:19:000:19:01

Defending our rights to a safe place to live

0:19:010:19:04

is the job of housing officers right across the UK.

0:19:040:19:07

'Fire Service turned up, didn't they.'

0:19:070:19:09

There was no need for them.

0:19:090:19:11

-There was a fire.

-There was not!

0:19:110:19:13

I'm working alongside the men and women that do exactly that.

0:19:150:19:18

This one's the worst that I've seen.

0:19:180:19:19

The amount of mould was quite shocking actually.

0:19:190:19:23

-Hitting the streets...

-Hello.

0:19:230:19:24

..finding out what's happening on the front line...

0:19:240:19:27

Warrants have been issued and they can be enforced.

0:19:270:19:29

..as we make sure a house is a fit place to call a home.

0:19:290:19:33

Is that one there? Oh! Look at that.

0:19:330:19:35

-There's another one.

-Yeah.

0:19:350:19:38

Now I've got somewhere that I can call home and it's permanent.

0:19:380:19:41

That's got to be a good thing.

0:19:410:19:42

The UK's housing crisis shows no signs of slowing up,

0:19:500:19:54

with more than 1.2 million people on a waiting list for social housing

0:19:540:19:57

just in England alone.

0:19:570:19:59

With a number that high,

0:19:590:20:01

it's more important than ever that councils and housing associations

0:20:010:20:03

are able to offer homes to those in need as soon they become available

0:20:030:20:08

but that task can be made that much harder

0:20:080:20:11

by some people trying to cheat the system.

0:20:110:20:14

Whether that's illegally sub-letting homes for profit,

0:20:140:20:16

or tenants trying to buy a home they're not entitled to,

0:20:160:20:19

housing fraud is a huge problem for councils,

0:20:190:20:22

costing them close to an estimated £2 billion a year.

0:20:220:20:25

'Here in the London Borough of Havering,

0:20:310:20:33

'there are more than 2,000 families waiting for a home.

0:20:330:20:35

'I'm with Rob Kleinberg and his team

0:20:350:20:38

'who are in charge of fighting fraud to make sure council homes

0:20:380:20:42

'are going to those who actually need them.'

0:20:420:20:44

So, what are we doing today, then, Rob?

0:20:440:20:46

This property we're going to now

0:20:460:20:48

is a referral that came from neighbours of the property

0:20:480:20:51

because their tenant is not there.

0:20:510:20:53

He's been reported to them and to us as not being there

0:20:530:20:55

but his friends or people that neighbours imply

0:20:550:20:58

that are his friends, use the property.

0:20:580:21:01

We were informed that he lives with his mother.

0:21:010:21:04

So we've got his mother's address.

0:21:040:21:07

But what we need to do now is verify who is at the property

0:21:070:21:10

whether it's him or whether it's friends or potentially sub-tenants,

0:21:100:21:15

et cetera. So...

0:21:150:21:17

'It seems there are suspicions this tenant is

0:21:190:21:21

'no longer living at his property.

0:21:210:21:23

'If there are other people using it, it could be that

0:21:230:21:26

'he's renting it out without permission from the council.

0:21:260:21:28

'That's illegal, and such a serious offence

0:21:280:21:31

'it can land you with a prison sentence.'

0:21:310:21:34

It's a very difficult thing to prove, isn't it?

0:21:340:21:36

Because proving someone is not somewhere,

0:21:360:21:40

it's like I'm currently not at my home,

0:21:400:21:42

I'm out here, because I'm working.

0:21:420:21:45

-So proving someone is not somewhere is difficult.

-Yep.

0:21:450:21:48

'Yeah, I'm fairly sure that makes sense!

0:21:490:21:51

'Today, Rob and his team will do their best to get answers

0:21:510:21:54

'from whoever opens that door

0:21:540:21:55

'but their investigative powers stretch further than that.

0:21:550:21:58

'They're also allowed to dig around a tenant's financial background

0:21:580:22:01

'including bank statements and credit agreements.

0:22:010:22:04

'If there are any sums that don't add up,

0:22:070:22:09

'it can provide evidence for any further legal action.'

0:22:090:22:12

Here we go.

0:22:130:22:15

KNOCKS ON THE DOOR

0:22:170:22:19

'I do love a good strong door knock.'

0:22:210:22:24

-Hello.

-Hello. Mr Hunt?

-Yeah.

0:22:250:22:27

My name is Rob Kleinberg, London Borough of Havering, fraud team.

0:22:270:22:30

This is my colleague, Zed.

0:22:300:22:32

We're just coming in with regards to an audit on the property.

0:22:320:22:34

-OK.

-Is that OK? Have you got a couple of minutes of your time?

0:22:340:22:37

Yeah, why not?

0:22:370:22:38

-Thank you very much.

-Go in the living room, I'll be in in a sec.

0:22:380:22:41

-Hang on, I'll get my ID for you.

-Lovely, thanks very much.

0:22:410:22:44

-Nice to meet you.

-Hello, mate, are you all right?

-All right?

0:22:440:22:46

'So, we're in luck and someone is at home.

0:22:460:22:49

'The question is, is it the right person for this address?

0:22:490:22:53

That's lovely. That's great. Thanks very much.

0:22:540:22:56

-Have you got any other forms of ID at all?

-Such as?

0:22:560:22:59

-A driving licence. Passport.

-I've got a birth certificate.

0:22:590:23:02

Can I see that as well? Is that OK?

0:23:020:23:04

The other thing as well, Mr Hunt, while you're looking,

0:23:040:23:06

for proof of residency, I need to see some correspondence

0:23:060:23:09

that's got your name and this address on it.

0:23:090:23:10

-Can I see that as well? Is that OK?

-Right.

0:23:100:23:12

-Birth certificate.

-Lovely, thanks, Mr Hunt.

0:23:120:23:15

Here it is, as old as I am, the state of it.

0:23:150:23:17

I know it's August 15th but it's from the social.

0:23:200:23:24

What we're doing with each of the visits,

0:23:240:23:25

because we need to verify it is the tenant we're speaking to,

0:23:250:23:28

then of course we need to verify the residency

0:23:280:23:30

-which is why we need the proof of...

-No problem.

0:23:300:23:32

The ID suggests Trevor here is the correct tenant for this property.

0:23:350:23:39

But there are still many questions that need to be answered.

0:23:390:23:42

The reason we're here from the fraud team

0:23:430:23:45

-as opposed to being an audit officer is...

-I thought it was audit?

0:23:450:23:48

Yeah, well, it's because the audit officers have had several visits

0:23:480:23:52

-to the address.

-That's right. And I was at my mum's.

0:23:520:23:55

That's right. Yeah. So what it did, alarm bells rang

0:23:550:23:58

so they refer it to us, and that's the reason we're here to verify it.

0:23:580:24:01

My mum's in her 70s, and my dad's just gone into a care home.

0:24:010:24:04

-That's why I was there a lot, helping her out.

-Ah, right, I see. OK.

0:24:040:24:08

'Trevor says family commitments have left him no option

0:24:080:24:11

'but to be away from the flat.

0:24:110:24:12

'But what about those other people seen coming and going?'

0:24:120:24:15

-Is it just yourself living here?

-Yeah. My mate stays here on and off.

0:24:150:24:20

'Trevor says his friend is the only other person spending time here.

0:24:200:24:24

'But Rob and the team need to be thorough in their investigation.'

0:24:240:24:27

-You just need to show me the property.

-Yeah. All right.

0:24:270:24:30

You got the kitchen.

0:24:300:24:32

-Lovely. Great stuff.

-Yeah.

-Yep.

0:24:320:24:36

'While Rob and Zed check out the rest of the property,

0:24:360:24:39

'I want to do a little digging of my own.'

0:24:390:24:41

Trevor, tell me about you and this flat. How long have you been here?

0:24:410:24:45

I've been here 17 years now.

0:24:450:24:46

And what does it mean for you? What has it provided for you?

0:24:460:24:49

Oh, blimey, lots of stability.

0:24:490:24:51

Neighbours, the friendship with the neighbours.

0:24:530:24:55

Somewhere of my own.

0:24:550:24:58

I couldn't really explain to you how much it means, you know?

0:24:580:25:01

I don't know. It's nice to have your own flat, obviously.

0:25:010:25:04

It sounds like recently things have been difficult with your mum?

0:25:040:25:08

Stepfather's just gone into the care home.

0:25:080:25:10

My mum's had to sell the house to pay for his half of the care.

0:25:100:25:13

So she's only left with half of the money from the house

0:25:130:25:16

so she can't buy a house.

0:25:160:25:17

But she needed help, though, because I'm the only one that's local.

0:25:170:25:20

It's only me and my mum that live locally.

0:25:200:25:22

It's been hard out there. There's been a lot going on.

0:25:220:25:24

I had different tenants next door. There was a lot of drugs going on.

0:25:240:25:27

A lot of police visits and raids and stuff.

0:25:270:25:30

We had a lot of burglaries up here before, which is why he asked me

0:25:300:25:33

to come and sit here while he was staying at his mum's,

0:25:330:25:35

basically just to look after the place.

0:25:350:25:37

Make sure no-one comes in while he's not here.

0:25:370:25:39

Obviously you thought I was letting the flat out, you know?

0:25:390:25:42

-Do you understand then why they've come in today?

-Oh, totally. Yeah.

0:25:420:25:46

Does it worry you when you get a knock on the door from the council?

0:25:460:25:48

Do you know what? It does worry me. And it don't.

0:25:480:25:51

Because I've been through it before with them.

0:25:510:25:54

I've got disability issues, because I had a car accident

0:25:540:25:59

and some mental issues,

0:25:590:26:00

because I've got post-traumatic stress disorder

0:26:000:26:02

and I can't deal with stress. So, like,

0:26:020:26:04

I've got a kind of a buffer that protects me to a degree, you know?

0:26:040:26:08

But also, there's a certain amount

0:26:080:26:11

of vulnerability in that as well, you know?

0:26:110:26:13

I mean I might come across all right,

0:26:130:26:15

but I still am a vulnerable person.

0:26:150:26:17

-Do you worry about losing this place?

-I do worry about it, yeah.

0:26:170:26:20

But I try not to dwell on it.

0:26:200:26:22

I'm not the type of person that dwells on worry.

0:26:220:26:24

But, yeah, it is a worry.

0:26:240:26:27

Thanks for letting us into your home. I appreciate that.

0:26:270:26:30

-And nice to meet you as well, Danny.

-Yeah, nice, one. And you. Yeah.

0:26:300:26:33

Nice to meet you. You take care.

0:26:330:26:36

'It's always interesting to meet tenants like Trevor

0:26:360:26:39

'and his story seems legit to me. But then I'm not the fraud expert.

0:26:390:26:43

'It will be interesting to hear Rob's view.'

0:26:430:26:46

I mean that felt like home to me.

0:26:460:26:49

I mean, that was... It's clearly his abode.

0:26:490:26:56

Interesting enough in the bathroom, one toothbrush,

0:26:560:26:58

which is always a clear sign.

0:26:580:27:01

Bearing in mind the reports we had, ie, he was living with his mum.

0:27:010:27:04

He just explained that away as well. We've got the mum's address.

0:27:040:27:06

On paper, you think, hm, it's a bit suspicious.

0:27:060:27:09

But once you're in front of someone and you're speaking to them

0:27:090:27:12

and they've given you all of their details,

0:27:120:27:14

it can be explained away.

0:27:140:27:16

This was an unannounced visit.

0:27:160:27:17

The tenant was there.

0:27:170:27:19

And he's confirmed and explained the other side of the situation.

0:27:190:27:23

-He understood the job that you were there to do.

-Yeah.

0:27:230:27:26

He understood it was necessary.

0:27:260:27:28

He understood it was a part of keeping his tenancy.

0:27:280:27:30

He totally got the fact that without you being able to do your job,

0:27:300:27:33

-that place could be under threat for him.

-Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

0:27:330:27:36

Yeah, so, again, all we'll do now is send copies of our findings

0:27:360:27:40

through to the tenancy team, and just let them know

0:27:400:27:42

it was unannounced, and he was there. So...

0:27:420:27:45

'I can only wish Trevor the best for the future.

0:27:450:27:48

'Again this visit has illustrated

0:27:480:27:50

'how important social housing can be.'

0:27:500:27:53

What came across there was just how valuable that flat is to him

0:27:530:27:56

and even the slightest idea that it could be under threat, you know,

0:27:560:28:01

was something that made him really quite nervous, quite anxious.

0:28:010:28:06

But that's fine. Because it seems like his story rings true.

0:28:060:28:11

It makes sense. And that means he can still have that platform,

0:28:110:28:14

that place to go back to every night.

0:28:140:28:18

So, that's good. Job well done.

0:28:180:28:21

The population of the UK now stands at just under 65 million people.

0:28:280:28:33

There are indications it could be set to rise by almost ten million

0:28:330:28:36

in 25 years' time.

0:28:360:28:37

A large chunk of that number is expected to come from migration.

0:28:380:28:42

No matter which shores the new tenants have left from,

0:28:420:28:46

those looking to settle here are entitled to

0:28:460:28:48

the same standards of housing as everyone else.

0:28:480:28:51

In Tendring, housing officers Rob Goswell and Ian Cavanagh

0:28:530:28:56

are on the way to a property for a potential new tenant from overseas.

0:28:560:29:01

So we're going to an immigration inspection.

0:29:030:29:06

So what happens with one of these inspections is that

0:29:060:29:10

the Home Office will ask the person that's moved into the country

0:29:100:29:13

to find an accommodation.

0:29:130:29:16

They want to know if the accommodation is correct

0:29:160:29:19

and suitable for that person.

0:29:190:29:21

So then they ask them to come to us.

0:29:210:29:23

So, when we are asked to do these inspections,

0:29:230:29:26

we look at the facilities the person has, if they are adequate,

0:29:260:29:31

the rooms are a good enough size.

0:29:310:29:33

So, it's standard stuff that we would do.

0:29:330:29:36

'Visits like these are a vital part of the housing officer's role

0:29:360:29:39

'as people newly arriving in the UK can find themselves

0:29:390:29:42

'living in houses of multiple occupancy.

0:29:420:29:45

'And sometimes these properties can fall short

0:29:450:29:47

'of decent standards of accommodation.'

0:29:470:29:50

The idea is meant to stop people being exploited

0:29:500:29:53

when they come over to this country

0:29:530:29:55

and to stop the situation further down the line

0:29:550:29:58

of overcrowding situations that may accompany people

0:29:580:30:01

that are coming from other countries.

0:30:010:30:04

We're on their side, you know.

0:30:050:30:07

It can be a very daunting thing to move from one country to another.

0:30:070:30:10

And you may accept something that you may feel that that's what

0:30:100:30:13

we do here and actually find out it's actually illegal

0:30:130:30:16

but you would have no way of being able to challenge it.

0:30:160:30:18

So that's the idea why we're here, is to help people know

0:30:180:30:22

what they are entitled to with housing

0:30:220:30:23

and what conditions they should be living in.

0:30:230:30:26

I'm hoping today that it's all going to be straightforward.

0:30:260:30:29

But, with all these kind of jobs, you never truly know

0:30:290:30:32

if it's going to be a straightforward job.

0:30:320:30:35

I think this one is going to be anything other than ordinary.

0:30:350:30:38

Rob and Ian are not going to a house of multiple occupation

0:30:380:30:41

but to an interesting looking curry house in Clacton

0:30:410:30:45

run by Sandra and her husband Russell.

0:30:450:30:48

It's an Indian restaurant, and a little bit strange

0:30:480:30:51

because my husband, obviously, he's from Bangladesh, I'm English,

0:30:510:30:55

which people find quite unusual but it's worked very well.

0:30:550:30:59

We live here ourselves and we're very, very happy to make it a home

0:30:590:31:03

and share our home and obviously we want to have a nice home.

0:31:030:31:07

So... Hopefully it works out, you know, well with the inspection.

0:31:070:31:13

Sandra has good reason to hope things go well today

0:31:130:31:16

as there's a lot riding on the result of Rob and Ian's assessment.

0:31:160:31:20

Our assistant chef has got married, and his wife is in Bangladesh

0:31:200:31:25

and he wishes to bring his wife to this country.

0:31:250:31:28

So, of course, they've got to have somewhere to live,

0:31:280:31:32

and we feel quite happy to share our home with them.

0:31:320:31:35

'Before the Home Office agrees to provide a visa

0:31:350:31:38

'for the chef's new wife, they need to be satisfied

0:31:380:31:40

'she has safe and secure accommodation to move into

0:31:400:31:44

'when she arrives from Bangladesh.

0:31:440:31:46

'That means the house has to conform to the same health and safety

0:31:460:31:49

'standards as any other rented property.

0:31:490:31:52

'If the accommodation isn't in a fit state for them both to live,

0:31:520:31:55

'the chef, Mr Ahmed, will be told

0:31:550:31:56

'his wife will be refused entry into the UK.'

0:31:560:31:59

This is a big thing.

0:31:590:32:01

She won't come until, you know, this is passed.

0:32:010:32:05

'That means he might have to return home himself.

0:32:050:32:08

'Bad news for him, the restaurant and their customers.'

0:32:080:32:12

Hello, sir. Tendring District Council.

0:32:120:32:14

'Sandra's husband Russell

0:32:140:32:16

'will accompany the team on their inspection.'

0:32:160:32:18

It might be boring. It usually is!

0:32:180:32:20

Smoke detection is one of the most important things here.

0:32:230:32:26

We're also looking at general facilities, kitchens,

0:32:260:32:28

bathrooms and access to everything that they need to do.

0:32:280:32:31

Just have a quick look at the windows.

0:32:310:32:33

It's high enough not to be an issue for anyone falling out there

0:32:330:32:36

and you've got a lock-open feature.

0:32:360:32:40

THEY DISCUSS

0:32:400:32:42

Can you just check the lights, please?

0:32:420:32:44

-Which light? These ones?

-Yeah, let's have a look. That's working fine.

0:32:440:32:47

'So, the honeymoon suite checks out. What about the bathroom?'

0:32:470:32:51

Internal bathroom. Got an extract fan. It's working fine.

0:32:510:32:55

There's no issue with damp in here, so I'm assuming it's sufficient.

0:32:550:32:58

Okey dokey. Check the toilet.

0:32:580:33:00

Voila.

0:33:000:33:02

What we're trying to see is if it's got enough facilities

0:33:020:33:04

for him and his family, as well as the owner's family,

0:33:040:33:07

because there will be shared use.

0:33:070:33:09

-Is there any children moving in at all?

-No.

0:33:090:33:12

-We haven't got any children. Two dogs only.

-Oh, that's fine.

0:33:120:33:15

-They're like kids, aren't they!

-THEY LAUGH

0:33:150:33:17

Things are looking good for chef Mr Ahmed so far.

0:33:170:33:20

We're going to share that kitchen.

0:33:200:33:22

We've got somewhere to eat, that's important.

0:33:220:33:25

Is it generally like a shared...

0:33:250:33:26

When you eat, do you all eat together, or is it separately?

0:33:260:33:29

-Yeah, they'll eat with us.

-Lovely. Thank you.

0:33:290:33:32

'It looks like the cooking arrangements will work well too.

0:33:320:33:35

'So, just one place to check.

0:33:350:33:36

Can we just double check that balcony, if that's all right?

0:33:360:33:39

Oops. Mind my head.

0:33:390:33:42

'And here there is a problem. The terrace wall is too low.'

0:33:420:33:46

The idea is that, if you come out here,

0:33:460:33:49

you don't want to slip and fall, you know.

0:33:490:33:51

As a rule, we look at roughly about a metre from the ground.

0:33:510:33:54

So, something about that high and that just stops it, perfect.

0:33:540:33:57

-What about if we put them?

-That would be fine.

0:33:570:34:00

It's just to stop someone if they did trip.

0:34:000:34:02

As you can imagine, if you did fall...

0:34:020:34:04

-Yeah, we'll fix that.

-..they'd fall in a bin there. Yeah.

0:34:040:34:08

We're just advising that the wall is a little on the low side.

0:34:080:34:12

So if someone was to go, they'd fall on to the hard,

0:34:120:34:14

and unforgiving surface below, which is concrete.

0:34:140:34:16

The last thing we want is that. Also, the gentleman's got a dog

0:34:160:34:19

so we don't want the dog jumping over there, either, do we?

0:34:190:34:22

We don't, indeed.

0:34:220:34:24

The low wall is a point of danger

0:34:240:34:26

and could count against the property.

0:34:260:34:28

So, we've seen his accommodation, we've seen his bathroom,

0:34:280:34:33

we've seen his kitchen, the communal kitchen.

0:34:330:34:36

We've seen the means of escape.

0:34:360:34:37

We've got a sufficient fire detection,

0:34:370:34:42

because it's only a single domestic, really, he's just a lodger.

0:34:420:34:45

So that's fine. The only slight issue we have is the height...

0:34:450:34:48

The height of this wall, yeah.

0:34:480:34:50

I mean we've not got a high-risk group living here.

0:34:500:34:52

-There's no children.

-Yep.

0:34:520:34:54

I mean, you could argue that down there,

0:34:540:34:56

if you was to trip and everyone else was working,

0:34:560:34:58

you may not be discovered in the winter for some time.

0:34:580:35:01

So that's why we definitely need to have that.

0:35:010:35:04

But the big question for Mr Ahmed,

0:35:040:35:06

will this issue cause problems for his wife's visa?

0:35:060:35:10

I don't think it's going to stop us approving someone living here.

0:35:100:35:12

-Lovely.

-All good for a change.

0:35:120:35:15

So, Rob and Ian will ask that the wall be raised to a metre height.

0:35:150:35:18

Other than that, their feedback to the Home Office

0:35:180:35:20

is going to be positive,

0:35:200:35:22

meaning Mr Ahmed's wife will be free to join him in Clacton.

0:35:220:35:25

It does feel more like a shared house

0:35:250:35:27

than maybe what we're used to sometimes,

0:35:270:35:30

where it is a clear separation between the owners and the staff

0:35:300:35:34

but it's like they've been invited into their home which is quite nice.

0:35:340:35:37

You can feel that when you were there.

0:35:370:35:39

There was no hazards.

0:35:390:35:40

It looks like they had no restriction

0:35:400:35:42

-on any of the facilities they could use.

-They were sharing the lounge.

0:35:420:35:46

You could see that, and see the standard was very high.

0:35:460:35:48

So I haven't got a problem writing that letter,

0:35:480:35:50

-and I don't think you have either?

-No.

0:35:500:35:52

You do wish they were all this easy, I really do.

0:35:520:35:54

But, hey, we wouldn't be in a job if they all were.

0:35:540:35:57

You have to take the rough with the smooth.

0:35:570:35:59

-We don't want to talk ourselves out of a job!

-No!

0:35:590:36:01

'It's great news for Mr Ahmed.'

0:36:010:36:03

-We'll get it out soon.

-Yeah, we'll get it out soon as possible.

0:36:030:36:05

You don't want to be away from your wife for too long, do you?

0:36:050:36:08

We'll send the letter saying we found no real issues.

0:36:080:36:12

-That's great.

-Excellent. Thank you very much for your time.

0:36:120:36:14

-Thank you.

-Take care.

-Bye-bye.

-Bye.

0:36:140:36:17

Yeah, I'm really excited, yeah.

0:36:210:36:23

I like her, she come in here and live with me.

0:36:230:36:26

It's nice, isn't it?

0:36:260:36:28

Even though Rob and Ian have given the all-clear at the property,

0:36:310:36:35

Mr Ahmed is having to wait a little bit longer

0:36:350:36:38

before his wife can join him at the restaurant.

0:36:380:36:41

The Home Office is still in the process

0:36:410:36:43

of considering the application but, hopefully, it won't be too long

0:36:430:36:47

before all the paperwork is cleared.

0:36:470:36:49

'Earlier in the north London, I joined housing officer Grace Briody

0:36:540:36:57

'as she was faced with the task of trying to deal with

0:36:570:37:00

'a very challenging case of antisocial behaviour.

0:37:000:37:03

'It proved that neighbourly disputes,

0:37:030:37:05

'like most human interaction, are rarely clear-cut.'

0:37:050:37:08

-I mean what would you do?

-Ha!

0:37:080:37:09

-This is the difficulty, what would you do?

-What would I do?

0:37:090:37:12

I don't know, you see, I honestly don't know what I'd do.

0:37:120:37:15

'Here in Newcastle, I've travelled up the M1

0:37:170:37:19

'to join housing officers Chris and Gary

0:37:190:37:21

'on a very similar and demanding case.

0:37:210:37:24

'Between them, these guys have seen more than their fair share

0:37:240:37:27

'of antisocial behaviour.

0:37:270:37:28

'But today's case is one that's proved tough to crack

0:37:280:37:31

'even for these seasoned professionals.'

0:37:310:37:33

Tell us about the place we're going to go to today, Chris?

0:37:350:37:37

A property where we have a number of victims

0:37:370:37:40

of a tenant who was moved in, who was previously with us.

0:37:400:37:45

He caused problems in the previous address.

0:37:450:37:48

The behaviour, I will explain, was excessively loud shouting.

0:37:480:37:52

Like very, very violent threats being made.

0:37:520:37:57

When speaking about it, he's saying that the threats

0:37:570:37:59

aren't directed at anybody,

0:37:590:38:00

it's him shouting at voices in his head that he's hearing.

0:38:000:38:02

Mental health issues are a growing concern in the UK

0:38:020:38:05

with one in four of us each year

0:38:050:38:07

expected to experience a mental health problem

0:38:070:38:09

and it sounds like this tenant's issues

0:38:090:38:12

are not only affecting his quality of life but also those around him.

0:38:120:38:16

We've got him help through a support worker

0:38:160:38:18

who was employed by Isos, because we have a support network as well.

0:38:180:38:22

So he was moved to a new address where it was felt

0:38:220:38:24

it might be a bit better for him

0:38:240:38:26

because he was literally city centre of Newcastle.

0:38:260:38:28

So he's moved further out of the city centre.

0:38:280:38:31

But recently his behaviour's started up again.

0:38:310:38:34

It's hard to know, isn't it, if somebody's going through that,

0:38:340:38:38

where can they live that's not going to affect people, scare people,

0:38:380:38:43

and change their lives.

0:38:430:38:45

How very tricky that is.

0:38:450:38:47

'This tenant sounds like he's really struggling

0:38:470:38:50

'but then so too are his neighbours.

0:38:500:38:52

'We're starting our trip at the adjoining flat.

0:38:520:38:55

'The tenant here, who doesn't want to be identified,

0:38:550:38:57

'has complained to the housing association

0:38:570:38:59

'about the disturbances next door.

0:38:590:39:01

'Our chat again illustrates how complex these cases can be.'

0:39:010:39:05

So that was really interesting.

0:39:090:39:11

We're talking to a guy there who himself has some issues,

0:39:110:39:15

mental health issues,

0:39:150:39:17

and the behaviour of his neighbour is affecting him.

0:39:170:39:22

-But he was really quite tolerant.

-He was.

0:39:220:39:24

And understanding of what the guy was going through,

0:39:240:39:27

even though it has deprived him of sleep.

0:39:270:39:29

Is that typical, do people get it that much?

0:39:290:39:33

-It's not typical.

-No, no.

-We have a wide range of different tolerances

0:39:330:39:37

between victims of antisocial behaviour.

0:39:370:39:40

I mean, he was genuinely very appreciative

0:39:400:39:42

of what you guys were doing, and the level of care and attention

0:39:420:39:45

that you're giving to this situation.

0:39:450:39:48

What I'd love to be able to do is talk to the gentleman

0:39:480:39:51

on the other side of this equation, or at least try to.

0:39:510:39:55

Is that something we should attempt? You should go and have a chat?

0:39:550:39:58

Yeah, we'll speak to him. We've spoken before,

0:39:580:40:01

so we'll definitely go and speak to him.

0:40:010:40:03

'Given the challenges already facing this resident,

0:40:030:40:06

'our cameras wait outside.

0:40:060:40:08

'The tenant, though, is more than happy to chat about

0:40:080:40:11

'what he's facing. And, once again, the experience is eye-opening.'

0:40:110:40:15

So, there we have a guy who, there have been plenty of reports

0:40:150:40:18

of him causing problems for his neighbours.

0:40:180:40:21

And we walk in, the most civil, polite, intelligent...

0:40:210:40:24

Yep, very well-spoken. Very polite.

0:40:240:40:27

He certainly said he felt like he was much more in control

0:40:270:40:30

of the things that were causing that than he has been for a long time.

0:40:300:40:34

The way he was expressing it, he seemed like he was happy here

0:40:340:40:37

and in this environment. That's got to be a good thing?

0:40:370:40:40

It is. It is. And I think it's because he's not as

0:40:400:40:43

city-centre based as he was, so it's a bit quieter.

0:40:430:40:46

There's not as much going on, not as much people about,

0:40:460:40:48

he can get away and just sort of get into his books

0:40:480:40:50

or get into his DVDs, his films, whatever he wants to do,

0:40:500:40:52

just lose himself to the world and just forget what's going on.

0:40:520:40:56

Having his own space where he could be

0:40:560:40:59

without coming into contact with people

0:40:590:41:00

-seemed very important to him.

-Yes.

0:41:000:41:03

And maybe, I mean, do you guys think that is the key

0:41:030:41:06

-to his continued recovery and improvement?

-I would hope so.

0:41:060:41:10

Where he is now with his continued support from his support workers,

0:41:100:41:13

that he should hopefully maintain his behaviour and his mental health

0:41:130:41:17

to a standard where it's not causing problems for anybody.

0:41:170:41:20

His behaviour affects himself, due to his mental health problems,

0:41:200:41:22

and his outbursts.

0:41:220:41:24

But of course, we've got people living next door

0:41:240:41:26

or people living in the surrounding areas who would be affected

0:41:260:41:28

by the outcome if he didn't have the support in place

0:41:280:41:31

and if he didn't have this work going on.

0:41:310:41:33

So if it can be managed, that's great for everybody.

0:41:330:41:36

'We've said it many times on this programme,

0:41:370:41:39

'everyone deserves a safe and secure place to call home.

0:41:390:41:42

'It is easy to say but, as cases like this demonstrate,

0:41:420:41:46

'it's much harder to put into practice.'

0:41:460:41:49

I do wish you could have joined me in those two households there

0:41:490:41:52

because they were really interesting.

0:41:520:41:55

The first one, the chap that we're calling for the sake of argument,

0:41:550:41:58

the victim, it was very dark, the shutters were down.

0:41:580:42:03

It was a very enclosed space and he was very nervous.

0:42:030:42:08

Very nervous indeed.

0:42:080:42:09

The second chap, we went in,

0:42:090:42:13

he was intelligent, confident I'd say to a certain extent.

0:42:130:42:18

They're sorting out their problems

0:42:180:42:20

but that is not going to happen without people like Gary and Chris

0:42:200:42:23

and without the support network that they've got,

0:42:230:42:26

trying to improve their lives for themselves

0:42:260:42:28

and everybody else around them.

0:42:280:42:30

That's what I think is happening there. It seems to be working.

0:42:300:42:33

Well, as we've just seen,

0:42:380:42:41

being a housing officer means a daily dose of tough choices

0:42:410:42:44

and difficult decisions

0:42:440:42:46

but it's all in a day's work for the men and women

0:42:460:42:49

fighting to ensure we can enjoy a safe place to call home.

0:42:490:42:52

That's it for today but join me again next time

0:42:520:42:56

when I'll be back on the front line with the housing enforcers.

0:42:560:42:59

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.