Consumer programme. Matt Allwright is in Liverpool, where he discovers a single mum facing eviction from a house that is already unsafe for her and her kids.
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You could be down there for a while without anybody knowing.
Everyone deserves a safe place to live.
If your home is falling apart, you're going to fall apart.
But with rents rising and demand increasing,
it's getting harder and harder to find a secure place to call home.
-It's a stinky little hole.
-It is indeed.
I'm Matt Allwright, and I'm back with the housing enforcers.
-Poo! It stinks.
-If I'm honest with you, I'm not sure whether
I would want Grace going into that house.
I'm on the front line with those fighting for
the right to decent housing...
Oh! This place is a bit of a mess.
Is there anyone in there?
..as local councils and housing associations battle problem
properties and slum conditions...
The smell in there, everything just reeks.
..as they deal with dodgy landlords...
And probably here is about as far as it's safe to go.
-What, she's been kicking you?
..and everything in-between...
..to help those in need of a happy and healthy home.
Behind every door is a little bit of a detective story.
Today, I help a grandfather with a new move that proves bittersweet.
It must be quite sad in a way because that was your family home.
I'm very sad to leave it because the every time you're in there
you remember the kids when they were small,
running up and down the stairs.
In Lewisham, one housing association is helping residents tackle
a significant blot on their landscape.
When we first come to live here it was beautiful.
It was...you know, good.
I meet a mum and her family facing eviction from a property
that's already a health hazard.
Do you get damp on the walls at all?
-Yeah, on that wall.
-Up in that corner?
-It's really bad.
And one man's antisocial behaviour forces
the council into direct action.
I'm about to serve an injunction, so he's not allowed in the area.
He will get arrested if he's seen in the area and we'll go from there.
Finding a suitable place to call home for you and your family
has never been harder, especially for those on a restricted budget.
But low rent shouldn't mean your house doesn't live up to
the same basic standards as everyone else's.
Fortunately, there is a group of men and women
who are out on the front line battling on your behalf
against bad and dangerous living conditions -
they are the housing enforcers.
Whether you call it the occupancy charge, spare room subsidy,
or bedroom tax, its introduction in 2013 was supposed to free up
social housing space for families.
Controversially, it also left those tenants with spare bedrooms
having to downsize or lose some of their benefits.
But, in Somerset,
the tenant of this rambling home is more than ready to move.
I'm on the way to meet him,
with housing association officer Belinda Eastland.
The house is so big that he's just using a fraction of the rooms
and the others are just shut up.
So we've spoken to him about his wish to move
and a property has come up,
which we're going to meet him at today to show him around.
So he's made the decision himself, then?
It's his idea.
You know, he wants fewer rooms to heat,
fewer rooms to manage and, you know,
-wants a cosier home to spend the rest of his life in.
-Hopefully this is going to be the one then.
-I hope so.
After the death of his wife, and his kids leaving home,
I'm not surprised 70-year-old Greek Cypriot Michalis
-is ready for a change.
Good to see you. Hi, I'm Matt. Nice to meet you.
This recently refurnished two-bedroom house
has now become available.
Let's just hope it's the sort of thing he's looking for.
Tell me how this compares to where you've just come from.
Actually, the other one is very, very lush. It's about 12 rooms.
It was fantastic when we first moved in, when the kids were small.
It was a family home. I was left on my own.
Susan died. She left me with the kids.
My son joined the Royal Marines, so he was off to Iraq and Afghanistan,
my daughter went to study and it's a big house.
And, to tell you the truth, first of all,
a big house with one person is very, very lonely place.
It's also not very ethical
because you've got one person and you've got 12 rooms.
The place now is deteriorating
and, the whole thing, you just cannot catch up.
It sounds like Michalis has had a really tough time of it,
but leaving the home he's raised a family in can't be easy.
It must be quite sad, in a way, because that was your family home.
It was. And, I mean,
I will be very sad to leave it because every time you are in there
you remember the kids when they were small,
running up and down the stairs, so you remember that.
But, on the other hand, it's also sad memories.
You know, the death of Susan.
You remember all the goings on.
You remember... So, it is a mixture.
It can be pretty sad.
So, it's a good thing. But I think the best thing,
is it's a big house and it needs a family in there.
I'm pleased to hear that, despite his situation,
Michalis is still thinking about the needs of others.
Shall we see the rest of the house?
I think it's important.
'I'm hoping this new place will provide him
'with everything he needs.'
This is great. Split level.
-It's really nice.
From what you're saying,
it sounds like you appreciate quite simple things in life.
Yeah. Yeah, of course.
The more things you add to your life
and the more things you want,
the more pressure you put yourself under.
In actual fact, the more stressed you get.
The fact is you can live quite nicely with the simple things.
Upstairs, there's no shortage of space.
And that's a really lovely bathroom.
Look at the size of that. You've got loads of space.
Luckily there's also a spare room
for when Michalis' children come to stay,
but he's well aware not every tenant is so lucky.
As you're getting older...
..you put so much work, as they say in England, you know,
sweat and tears, to raise a family
and it comes to the age where you're actually
the age where you're going to enjoy the family.
And what they did with the bedroom tax, they actually deprived
the very people that need to enjoy the fruit of their labour
of those years raising their family.
They deprive them now cos they said,
"If you have more than one bedroom, we're going to tax you."
The argument against that is, of course,
if you've got a resource, if you've got capacity,
trying to allocate that to the people that need it most.
So, if people are overcrowded,
you've got to free up those properties.
Yeah, but you've got to think also, an old man, say 70 or 75, or 65,
or whatever, sitting all alone in that one-bedroom house...
..you know, he might have three or four kids with grandkids,
but he cannot have them to come and stay with him to keep him company,
to see his family, I think it's wrong.
So to have your family around you, you're saying a necessity,
-not a luxury.
-No, no, it is a necessity.
Be surrounded by the offsprings of the fruits of your labour.
The spare room subsidy is certainly controversial,
but there's no denying the desperate need for social housing
that can accommodate families.
For family man Michalis though,
the extra room here will prevent him from feeling quite so isolated.
It's time to let Belinda know the verdict.
You've seen the property. What do you think?
-Are you happy to take it?
-This is the tenancy agreement for you to take.
-Just a sample one.
So it's an assured tenancy,
so it's a lifetime tenancy.
The assured tenancy means Michalis is free to enjoy this property for
the rest of his days,
but it looks like he's not wasting any time making himself at home.
Now, Michalis hasn't signed the tenancy agreement yet
-and yet his cooker is outside the back door.
Is it too soon or can I give him a hand bringing it in?
No, let's put it in.
It doesn't take...
-How can I say no? I shouldn't really allow...
I know. Like I said, we're not in the middle of a city
-with people we don't know.
-It won't be insured.
To tell you the truth, it doesn't really matter to me at all.
Let's go and grab your cooker.
This is very important, actually.
Well, you know, I like to help out where I can. Bend the knees!
Yeah, he's done a proper job. Yeah.
-Yeah, they've done a proper job.
Just don't tell anyone I let you put it in
-before you signed the tenancy agreement.
That's right. Like I said, you know...
It's very hard to refuse Michalis anything.
What can you do?
How could you possibly say no? Seriously. Poor old Belinda.
The cooker's in.
I have a feeling Michalis' life here
will be a happy and fruitful one,
in a property that now, I think, suits him perfectly.
Michalis has really expressed there very quickly
a lot of the things that have run through
every series we've done so far of Housing Enforcers,
just how important a good home can be,
the difference that it's made to him through his life
and why he feels it's right now to step away from a house
that's not right for him and find somewhere that is
so he can live simply but well.
That seems to be the essence of what he was saying there.
What a lovely chap. What a pleasure.
Fly-tipping - unsightly, dangerous and on the increase.
Illegally dumped waste presents a health hazard for local residents
and a huge and costly headache for councils
and housing associations across the UK.
You have to feel for tenants when your room with a view
ends up like this.
Here in Lewisham, London,
these challenges can land on
the desk of housing officers like Grace Briody.
This is a problematic area.
Probably once a week I'm having to arrange
quite large hoards of fly-tipping to be removed.
As soon as one lot gets removed, there's a new lot
immediately within two or three days.
And every time we get this removed it's going on the service charges,
which is obviously really unfair for those that aren't fly-tipping
because they're the ones paying for it.
Grace has been tipped off that one of her estates
has become a target for fly-tippers
and, as there are families living there,
getting it cleared is a high priority.
We need to get it done as quickly as possible.
Fly-tipping, obviously, it's going to attract rats,
but also it's a massive fire risk, particularly when it's furniture,
and it's right next to residential houses,
so need to take quick action. I was notified yesterday,
so obviously get out first thing this morning, take some photos.
Grace is keen to get to the scene of the crime as quickly as she can.
She knows what can happen if the problem isn't nipped in the bud.
One person will start the fly-tipping,
then other people think, "Well, do you know what?
"Fine if they're doing it, I'll do it.
"We're going to have pay for it anyway."
And it just creates a bit of a problem, and I think for those
that really want to take pride in their estate and look after it,
it's really frustrating for them.
There's not a lot they can do to stop it.
When she arrives, she can see the problem is much worse than expected.
These bins are for resident use only,
meant for the disposal of household waste.
I'm not sure how or where those sofas
and furnishings would fit into that description.
Furniture seems to be the biggest problem -
I'm not entirely sure why. But I would say that I find
a new set of table and chairs that have been thrown out
probably at least every two weeks at the moment.
So, this has obviously come out of somebody's house.
Somebody's taken the time to very neatly stack their fly-tipping,
which is really convenient.
It's almost funny when people actually stack it all nice
and neatly because that doesn't change
the fact that's still fly-tipping, that is still illegal
and that is something now that we're going to have removed.
And, again, somebody has to pay for this to be done.
And it's sad because a small number of residents impact
the whole estate.
Grace suspects the waste hasn't come from residents here and,
open the door, look at that, the bins are overflowing.
The items that are in here, as you can see, that's a suitcase.
We've got a lot of household items.
I'm going to have a quick look in the next one.
I think this one's even worse.
So, again, as you can see, we've got... I'm not sure what that is.
We've got drawers.
We've got wooden...cardboard boxes,
household garden waste,
all these things, none of which are meant to be in the rubbish.
This illegal build-up of waste is not only dangerous,
it's having a serious impact on the quality of life for residents here -
for long-term tenants like Alice.
It smells...I mean, shocking.
We're... This is what we're trying to get on top of.
This bin shed seems to be the worst for some reason.
My husband's dead,
but when we first come to live here, it was beautiful.
It was...you know, good.
The thing is they can't get into the bin shed
because there's so much rubbish in there,
so we need to get on top of the rubbish issue first.
I only had the fly-tipping removed five days ago and it's back again.
These sofas are new. They were only there since yesterday.
I'm going to take some photos of the rubbish
and try and get it removed in the next couple of days, OK?
-Oh, that would be good.
-That would be good.
Alice shouldn't have to put up with this eyesore
and the authorities have promised to get tough
with fly-tipping offenders. It's a criminal offence,
punishable with a prison sentence or a £50,000 fine and Lewisham Council
has been handing out fixed penalties of £250 for even minor offences.
Grace is keen to do her bit to track down the perpetrators,
even if it means getting her hands dirty.
Quite often you'll find, if there's bits of paperwork hanging out...
I'm going to do it more so in this one.
But, no, it's not uncommon for me to have a nosey through
and see if there's letters here.
Often... I'm not going to obviously do it right this second
because I've not got any gloves on me,
but you will find, if you open these bags,
that there'll be something with people's addresses on.
And if she does find a lead,
Grace is in little doubt what her message will be.
These are items that you could ask the council to come and collect.
The cost of which would be minuscule
compared to what we're going to have to pay a contractor
to get these items removed.
Maybe £20 out of their own pocket to have their furniture removed
from their home. Instead, they've dumped it in a communal bin,
which is really not fair and you can understand
why people get so frustrated.
The risk of it is that, when some neighbours start doing this,
other neighbours think, "Fine, they're doing it,
"I'm just going to do it as well."
And it spirals, becomes a bit of a snowball effect
and then pride in the estate is completely lost.
Tackling fly-tipping costs local authorities in England
£50m a year -
that cost has to go somewhere.
We're going to have to pay our contractors to come and remove
all of this, to get the bin at a level where it can be emptied.
I would imagine, to get this removed,
we're looking at about £500-£600 just for this bin shed,
just for this bit that I'm looking at right now.
What's actually really upsetting as well is I can see a lot of recycling
in here and we do have recycling bins on the estate,
so I can see cans, bottles,
plastic things that could easily go into recycling -
things that, in theory, probably make up half of this waste.
And then if you take off the furniture and the garden goods
that shouldn't be in here as well,
the bins would be as full as you would expect them to be
this close to collection.
So, when the binmen arrive and they look at this,
they're going to close the door again
and drive on to the next bin shed, and sadly they're going to do that
for every bin shed on this street by the looks of it today.
This is the worst I've seen it.
And if you think of just for today,
that's now six bins I need to get cleared,
three lots...four lots of fly-tipping
and this bin shed cleared.
You're talking a couple of thousand pounds, potentially,
just from today, just to get all of this removed.
I'm pleased to say that, after that visit,
Grace arranged to the fly-tipping to be removed by contractors.
But she's continuing to keep an eye out for any more unsightly
and illegal dumping, as fly-tipping continues to be an on going problem
and the work to educate and inform all residents on
the correct ways to dispose of their waste continues.
It's been estimated that every 15 minutes a family in England
becomes homeless - it's a staggering statistic
and an illustration of the desperate situation facing both tenants and
housing providers as the nation's housing crisis continues to bite.
Often cases can become so desperate they can end up at places like
Shelter, who look to confront homelessness in all its forms.
Today, I'm with Gill from Shelter Merseyside,
who's particularly worried about a single mum who,
along with her four children,
is facing the real possibility of eviction.
The case that we're going to look at, the referral that we've had,
where did it come from and what are the details?
It was referred through to us from children's services...
..because the landlord has told the family
they need to leave the property by the end of July.
-Right. So, he said out by the end of July.
-I mean, it is now the end of July.
So...this feels a bit urgent then,
but we realise that this is a family that could be homeless very shortly.
Very shortly. The end of the week.
The landlord says he can no longer afford to repair the property,
so the family has to go.
With time running out, it's Gill's job to advise them on
the best course of action
to help prevent them becoming part of that very worrying statistic.
But when we arrive, there are even bigger problems.
You can see where the plaster's fallen away
and then you can actually see the floorboards.
It looks very wet underneath,
as though there's water getting through,
which would have brought all this we can see.
It's all black round there,
so it would have brought it all down with it.
With four children living in this property,
it's no wonder the tenant is worried.
I'm concerned how she's coping with the stress,
not just of the hole in the floor,
but the prospect of losing the roof over their heads.
She's asked for her identity to be concealed.
So, you've been living here since April last year?
-Have you ever been evicted from a property before?
-Do you have any rent arrears from any of the other properties?
-OK. Do you have any rent arrears for this property?
But money is still tight,
even more so after this mum lost her job.
So, what are your prospects for finding work now?
All right. OK. Would you go back to doing the same thing?
Not clear what the reason is right now though.
It will be very clear later, at some point. So, in your mind,
are you just trying to get through this year
until you can start work again? Is it just surviving, effectively?
Until you can get back to work again
and then get back to that steady...
that routine you had before?
But with the landlord unable to afford the repairs on the property
and wanting to sell, the tenant
and her four kids could find themselves homeless within days.
When did he tell you that?
And did he just come to the property and tell you?
They've been living here for over a year and,
by the looks of it, in pretty cramped conditions.
-It's really small.
How do you do that, then? How does that work?
-You can't use the oven.
-You've got a cocker.
You can't really use the cooker, can you?
To get in there to cook, round the fridge...
How does this work with...?
So every time you have to cook, you push the fridge into the...?
You move that big fridge by yourself?
So you wiggle the fridge out towards the back door,
cook and then, when you're finished cooking, push the fridge back in.
OK. How is that working for you?
Not only is the kitchen cramped, it's potentially dangerous, too.
You've got a plug, the plug's in here, it goes outside...
-Oh, is it?
This one here...?
Oh, is it?
So, that wire that's hanging out there, it just sticks out,
that's for the drier?
Cooking anything in here would be hard enough,
but with four kids it must be near impossible.
As a home for a family of five,
it's clear this place leaves a lot to be desired.
Later on, I find something potentially even more dangerous in
the kids' bedroom.
Do you get damp on the walls at all?
In that corner?
Defending our right to a safe place to live is
the job of housing officers right across the UK.
This is how they live.
It's almost like he's declared war on everybody
that's living here, it's not just you guys.
I'm working alongside the men and women that do exactly that...
It looks like whoever was here had their last couple of parties
and then decided to give it up.
..hitting the streets,
finding out what's happening on the front line...
This is a good example of a good old waste of council time.
..as we make sure a house is a fit place to call a home.
There's a strong smell of damp
and you can notice it as soon as you come in the property.
We're going to have no choice but to take them to court.
Job well done.
With the number of people sleeping rough in the UK rising
by a third in the last year alone,
it's an issue that continues to challenge housing professionals.
And, in Havering, it's community wardens
Gael Gateson and Liam Knight who are on the front line.
For the past couple of years, they've been trying
to get rough sleeper Max off the streets and into accommodation.
But since walking out of a hostel,
he's been sleeping in this housing block and now his drinking
and antisocial behaviour are pushing things to breaking point.
This is evidence of Max, where he's yanking the door,
he's breaking the magnets.
These magnets have been replaced many a times.
This is the stuff that we have to deal with, where he's damaging,
criminal damage, just to get in the block.
Criminal damage like this is bad enough, but Max's activities
are also causing distress for other residents.
Max is not just a problem on the street.
Obviously, he's a problem in our blocks
because our residents will then call us out
if Max is laying on the floor.
He usually sleeps under here over night-time,
if he can get in the block, and he usually urinates in that corner.
Every day, we always...
the caretakers come in on a daily basis just to clean up his mess.
This is where, as you can smell, it's not the nicest of smells!
We've tried to help him for the past two or three years,
but I don't know if he just doesn't want any help, really.
We've tried really hard to help him.
We did give him a hostel for five weeks and he just left.
He doesn't actually like staying there,
so don't really know what to do with him.
We need to get him off the streets.
We'll try to get Max into a hostel, first of all,
but it just depends how many times we can keep taking him there,
taking him there, taking him there.
But we're going to really try and get an order
to keep him off this particular estate.
It's a very difficult situation.
Because Max constantly refuses the housing he's offered,
he's slipping further down the council's priority list.
For Liam and Gael, it's now becoming an enforcement issue
to ensure he's no longer a nuisance to other residents.
They're heading into town to find him.
We're going down there on a daily basis now speaking to him,
seeing if he's sober, what he's up to,
then we're going back and reporting back to the ASB team.
It's a shame, but we have to do what we have to do in this job, so...
He'll probably be in front of us, outside the toilets,
or down towards the right, towards the off-licence,
that would be his normal hang-out spot.
Oh, there he is, look.
Liam and Gael will have to thread carefully.
Because he's lived on the streets so long,
often under the influence of alcohol,
they're not sure quite how Max will react.
-Hello, Max. How are you?
You OK? How you doing?
Just sitting here.
You ain't causing no nuisance, no? You being good, yeah?
Keeping yourself out of trouble.
No worries. You not been drinking today, no?
You staying off it? For how long?
-You ain't drunk for three days? Really?
Trying to slow down?
You need to. You need to.
You need to slow down. It's no good for you, you know?
It's estimated that nearly half of all rough sleepers
have a dependency on alcohol in some form,
but Liam needs to be clear about the impact Max's drinking is having
on other members of the community, too.
Being here, you're causing trouble, you know.
You get drunk, and when you're drunk,
you know what you're like when you're drunk. You do things.
At the end of it, you won't be able to come here no more
because the police and the council are getting to a point where
they don't want you here,
so you need to think about moving and getting somewhere to live.
Despite the antisocial behaviour,
Liam and Gael are still keen to try and help Max however they can.
Winter's coming now, Max, isn't it?
It's nice when you've been sitting out here
and it's been lovely and sunny.
But the winter will be coming and you'll be cold.
Ain't you thought about doing anything, no?
Ain't you got nothing, nothing at all?
You got just what you're wearing now? It's all you have?
Would you like to go back into a hostel...
..for the winter?
But you went before and then you left, didn't you?
You didn't want to stay there.
But you've got to work with us, Max.
You can't, you know, if we're going to help you,
you've got to help us as well.
We really need to help you, Max,
get you sorted out.
It's a difficult line for Liam and Gael to tread.
You have to admire their patience.
Right, Max, see you soon.
Don't forget, we're going to sort out, you help us,
we help you.
-OK? See you soon, Max.
-Speak to you soon, Max.
Later on, we'll see what happens when that patience wears thin.
You are not allowed here no more, in this area.
Back on Merseyside...
Have you ever been evicted from a property before?
..a landlord claims he can't afford to repair a property
and so a mum and her four kids are now facing eviction.
I'm with support officer Gill from housing charity Shelter Merseyside,
who are trying to help. But after the mum lost her job,
the family's options have got a lot narrower
and the poor state of the property is adding to the misery.
Well, this plaster's falling away
and then you can actually see the floorboards.
Must be the floorboards of the bathroom there.
Upstairs, the condition of the bedrooms is even more depressing.
So that's where the roof's been leaking.
And even though you decorate it, it keeps coming through?
Oh, yeah. Do you get damp on the walls at all?
In that corner.
Damp and mould in a house can have serious effects and it's kids who
are amongst the most susceptible.
Nobody wants to be evicted, but I'm beginning to think
the quicker this family can get out of here, the better.
It's a lot, isn't it, three kids in here?
Do they get on?
Yeah. Three together, when there are
quite big differences in the ages, it's quite tricky, isn't it?
When he gets to ten,
it's recommended that he has his own bedroom -
but you've got a year to wait for that, really.
You'll be eligible for four bedrooms.
So you can share up till ten.
Then it's recommended for opposite sexes to have their own rooms.
Things don't improve in the mum's room,
which she shares with her youngest daughter.
It must be coming from the loft.
Have you been up in the loft at all?
So you don't know whether there's...
-You can't see daylight or anything.
What's your plan going to be then? Would you like to move from here?
You don't like the area?
It's hardly surprising.
This house is no place to raise a family
and a recent altercation with a local resident means the mum
is now worried for her safety.
She was shouting at you or physically attacking you?
What, she's been kicking you?
Have you got a chain on the door?
Whatever their circumstances,
everyone has to right to a safe place to live,
so I'm keen to hear what Shelter Merseyside can do to help.
In terms of bad luck...
-I know, you couldn't get much worse.
-..she had a bucket full, didn't she?
It feels like homelessness is just one of the risks that
that family is facing at the moment.
What's the first step then?
What's the first thing you're going to do?
Getting the landlord's details and getting the section notice,
or finding out what the situation is with that,
and addressing the property pool
to find a new property within a housing association for her.
It feels to me as though the right house for that family could start to
solve a lot of their problems, so she's back with her main family,
-She's got a support network around her.
-Close to that.
Actually achieving that might mean that a lot of the other problems...
go away. You know, there's childcare then,
and when she does go back to work, eventually,
-she's got that family network.
Well, since that visit, unfortunately the tenant
and her family are still continuing to face the prospect of eviction,
as the landlord still wants to sell the property.
But the family have now been matched to a housing association property in
the area of their choice and Shelter Merseyside is continuing to support
them to resettle. Returning to the job she loves remains a goal
for the mum once she and her children are settled
in their new home and community.
Back in Havering,
rough sleeper Max's public drinking and serious antisocial behaviour
has been causing problems for the borough's residents.
He usually sleeps under here over night-time,
if he can get in the block,
and he usually urinates in that corner, like, every day.
Max has resisted numerous attempts to get him off the streets
and into a hostel, and now there's been new reports that he's been
drunkenly harassing shopkeepers and members of the public.
That's forced the council into a difficult decision
that community warden Liam has to deliver personally.
I'm about to serve an injunction, so he's not allowed in the area.
He'll get arrested if he's seen in the area
and we'll go from there.
The injunction is a last resort,
but reports of Max drunkenly harassing shopkeepers
and members of the public have left the council with little choice.
Now all Liam has to do is to find him.
Check and see if he's in the block.
If he's going to be anywhere,
he could be round the back, sitting around.
Sometimes he sits on the sofas or...
The thing is, usually he's here, like, every day.
I could tell you just, like,
we'll turn up and he'll be here, guaranteed.
Trust my luck, today is the day,
when I've got the injunction, he'll go missing.
Once the injunction is served on Max,
it will make it an offence for him to be in this area,
but Liam's beginning to wonder
if Max may have already got the message.
It's usually that block. I don't usually go in the other block.
We're still trying to hunt down Max.
He's not to be seen in the area - first time in months.
I can't find him today, for some reason. It's just my luck.
But I wanted to speak to him sober,
but by the time we see him he'll probably be drunk,
but there's nothing I can do about that.
I still have to serve it, so I'll serve it drunk or sober.
It looks like Liam's quest is about to end without a result.
But just as he's about to give up and return to the office...
Max, I need to speak to you.
Come here. I need to speak to you.
This is... You've got an injunction here.
You're not allowed to be here no more.
This here is a court case.
You need to read this. This is yours. Look, it says your name.
This is for you.
You need to read this.
You're not allowed to be here no more.
You'll get arrested. This area - no more.
No, no, you have to listen.
Truthfully because the police will come and arrest you.
Listen, court case,
it's gone to court. It's been to court, today.
You are not allowed here no more, in this area.
You have to go to court if you want to appeal against it.
You are not allowed in the area.
Look, you need to read this. This is yours.
I've just come to give this to you.
What do you mean, "No"?
Look, it says your name on it.
Look, read it.
Yeah, it is you. I'm telling you the truth,
you need to leave the area now.
If you don't leave the area, you'll get arrested.
You're going to get arrested.
You need to take this.
-It's a difficult job for Liam,
but being faced with someone who's refused help for so long
and is causing so many problems for other residents,
it seems things have simply come to the end of the line.
Well, Max has denied the paperwork.
He won't take it. I can't force it upon him.
Now we have to go down the route of just waiting.
We'll go to court in seven days' time.
Wait to see if he appeals.
I very much doubt he'll appeal.
From then onwards it will be enforceable,
so they will be able to arrest him if he's in the area.
Well, sadly, Max has continued to breach the injunction
that was intended to keep him from causing problems in the area.
The council now, as a last resort, has gone back to the courts
for the power to arrest him for any further breaches.
With 1.2 million households on the waiting list for a social home
in England alone, one of the most important jobs for housing officers
is to get unused properties back into use as soon as possible
and, with figures showing more than 600,000 homes
standing empty in England, you can see the scale of the problem.
It's a frustration felt by councils and housing associations as they
battle to provide safe and secure homes for those who need them.
On the south coast,
housing officers Corinne Clark and Laura Bond
are on a mission to investigate a number of
empty properties on their patch.
The idea is to try and get these homes back in action,
but the former tenants don't always make it that straightforward.
Sometimes they move counties, districts and they just think that
they don't need to give notice and just
leave the keys, put the keys through the letterbox and go.
There can be personal reasons that they've just taken off and just
forgotten or chose not to give notice - one or the other.
The first property on the list is vacant not because it was abandoned,
but due to the tenant's ill health.
I've got this property in Chichester,
on one of our estates there.
Tenancy of a gentleman who unfortunately had an accident
and was unable to return to the property.
There's a lot of belongings in there still,
so we need to go and do a full inventory - as we've done previously.
OK, and then we pass it back to Boyds.
And once that's done, Boyds will go in and do the clearance
and it will be passed over to be re-let, as per the housing register.
A tort notice is a legal document that allows landlords to sell
or dispose of goods once reasonable efforts to trace the owner fail.
This allows the property to be cleared as soon as possible
and there's no shortage of people looking to find a home.
We don't control the waiting list,
it's controlled by the local district council,
so they send lists through.
People bid on the properties on a fortnightly basis.
If they're interesting in moving to that particular property,
they'll place a bid on it.
The lists come through to our lettings team and they process
that in order of priority for homes, for how long,
what their need is for a home
and also how long they've been waiting for.
Before anyone gets the chance to bid for this flat,
Laura and Corinne need to check on its condition.
The property doesn't seem to be in too bad a condition.
But looking around at the items left behind,
it's hard not to think of the tenant who once called this place home.
Another Christmas tree.
It's clear the former tenant looked after the property -
that's good news for what comes next.
-Great. All done.
-That wasn't too bad at all.
The property was quite clean, wasn't it?
Very few belongings left...
especially taking into account the circumstances.
So, yeah, I think it will be a quick turn around getting this one back
into the advert cycle so we can get a new resident in quite quickly.
This first property was vacated due to ill health.
Sadly, at the next property on the list,
the possessions left behind are due to a personal tragedy.
We're here today as one of the residents has sadly passed away
and the property is empty, but there are some belongings in there,
so we have to serve a tort notice,
along with an inventory of any goods left in the property,
to enable anyone who has a claim to those goods to notify us
and collect the belongings.
It's a poignant scene.
This flat was once someone's cherished home and these belongings
are the reflection of a life that was lived here.
Laura and Corinne must be respectful of the former tenant's possessions
while making a property ready for the next tenant.
-Start from that side.
The tenant's family have already
removed the most treasured possessions.
The rest will be logged and then prepared for removal.
Smaller items like this, we can identify as miscellaneous items.
We don't have to itemise every single thing because
they wouldn't have any monetary value.
-What's in this room? Microwave?
-Microwave and a small fridge.
Although the list doesn't present too many surprises,
for experienced professionals,
the usual rules of investigating an empty property still apply.
Sometimes there can be a lot worse.
This is quite clean.
And just don't open the fridge.
I done it once and that was the biggest mistake I've ever done.
It was hideous!
The smell just went through the whole house.
The role of the housing officer presents many varied challenges,
but ultimately all leading in the same direction,
helping to find homes for people in need -
a home like this one.
OK, so the team will come in and just clear all that.
OK. Put the tort notice on the door again.
Take a picture of it in here.
Right, perfect. Done.
-That wasn't too bad...was it?
-No. That was OK.
So, we'll hand it over, get it sorted.
Now the tort notice has been served, hand it back over to Boyds.
It won't take long for this property
to begin its new life with a new family.
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 is in Liverpool, where he discovers a single mum facing eviction from a house that is already unsafe for her and her kids. In Havering, London, one man's antisocial behaviour is causing huge headaches for the council. In Wiltshire, a grandfather's move to a smaller property proves bittersweet. In Lewisham, London, housing officer Grace comes face to face with a fly-tip mountain.