Episode 10 Cowboys and Angels


Episode 10

Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. A family with plumbing problems think rats are running riot in the roof, but pest controller Ken has another theory.


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Transcript


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When a crisis strikes your home...

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-How can I help?

-I've got a bit of an emergency.

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..or you want major work done.

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-Who do you trust?

-I feel so stupid.

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You need one of the good guys.

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But you don't always get them.

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-Oh, my goodness!

-You don't ever think it's going to happen to you.

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We will hear the stories of devastation

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and despair left behind when building work doesn't go to plan.

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I don't want to look out here, I end up in tears.

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And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.

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You have always got the safety net of the building inspector.

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But most tradesmen are there to help.

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And we will follow the response teams who are

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there for you 24 hours a day...

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It's a nightmare, isn't it?

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Just have to make sure you don't fall through the ceiling.

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-..seven days a week.

-I think we might have to pull this out.

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It would have probably burnt the house down while they slept.

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From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths -

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we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.

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Coming up, the dodgy builder who covered up his dangerous

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work in a family house and wrecked a home full of memories.

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The house just doesn't feel the same as what it did before I had

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this builder.

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A cold snap and a broken boiler.

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Heating engineer Lee gets a warm welcome.

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Come in. The boiler is just in here.

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But can he fix it?

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So now we need to find out why it's overheated, basically.

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And, it could be a plumbing problem.

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The overflow from the cistern has actually broken away.

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But this family smells a rat.

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I know they are coming in because I've seen them...

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-Chew, chew, chew. Disgusting.

-..and they are quite big.

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When you need some work done on your house,

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follow Tommy's two basic rules.

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Number one, get a recommendation from somebody you trust.

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Rule two, check out anyone you're considering letting over

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the threshold of your home.

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Or this could happen...

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This is a prime example of dodgy, dangerous building work.

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The victims of this appalling bodge up are Paul and Brenda Lumley.

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And I'm on my way to Sunderland to meet them.

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They had never commissioned major building work before,

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and did their best to approach it in the right way.

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But they still came unstuck.

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Paul and Brenda's plans for a garden room

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and a bigger kitchen turned into two years of trauma which left

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Brenda wanting to move from the family home that they used to love.

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At the moment I feel that I just want to get it done

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and possibly to sell and move.

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The couple have lived in their house for 27 years,

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and it's where they brought their family.

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Their daughter, Charlie,

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has seen the impact that the shoddy work has had on her mum and dad.

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My mum is so house-proud and this is just not how the house was

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when I grew up.

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My mum is always just so upset about living here.

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But before the build started,

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the couple were full of ideas to update their home.

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We wanted a garden room because I love my garden and the fish.

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We wanted a bigger kitchen, so we wanted to open up the kitchen

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area and the dining room so we'd have that all as one.

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They researched builders.

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We used the Yellow Pages, people we know as well.

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So there were recommendations from people that we have known of.

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But we also used the internet.

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They compared quotes.

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-So I think we interviewed about...

-Six. Six quotes.

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Six actual quotes we had.

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We had about 10 builders actually come out to the house.

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And with prices ranging from 8,000 to 28,000,

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Paul and Brenda selected their builder.

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He also ran a window company

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and said he could do the work for £17,800.

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We paid an upfront deposit and then, as the build progressed,

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we would make payments at various stages.

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So once the brickwork was up,

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we would go to the next stage of payments.

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In total, they eventually paid out £10,800.

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The paperwork looked right. He had associations to various

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external companies. It had all the right clauses in it, as well,

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as far as we've seen from previous contracts.

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So it all looked above board.

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The builder got to work.

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It all went really quickly.

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They dug the foundations in record time,

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all of that seemed to progress really quickly.

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They put the foundations in. So initially, it seemed to go well.

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Yeah, he came every day.

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He came every day, he came on time, he came in the morning.

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They were there until late at night.

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Within a week, all the brickwork was up.

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It had started so well. But then things came to a sudden standstill.

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The building team were ordered to stop work on the main

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part of the structure.

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I've come to Sunderland to find out why, and to hear the whole story.

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-Hello, Tommy.

-Paul.

-Nice to meet you.

-And Brenda.

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Hello, yes, nice to meet you.

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I'm keen to know how, after such a good start,

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things went pear shaped.

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So, what went wrong?

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He informed us that we didn't need planning permission.

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Ah, first mistake. So in actual fact, you do.

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But you need a lesser type of planning permission than you

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do for your main house.

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But if you then make the conservatory or the orangery

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part of the building by taking out walls and doors,

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then that is subject to the same rules and conditions as a house.

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You still need building regs, whatever you do.

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Never assume your project will be allowed under the new

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permitted development rules.

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And don't take someone else's word for it. Check personally.

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It can take months for planning permission to come through,

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but the couple didn't want the work to stop completely.

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So what we decided to do was to do the internal work whilst

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-we were getting the plans approved.

-Makes sense, yes.

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It made sense, he was there, ready to do the work.

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The wall was down in a day. He put the beam in, everything looked fine.

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Put the walls in, put plaster on.

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That didn't look so fine,

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the plasterwork wasn't of a very good quality.

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The kitchen ceiling had a huge crack in it, as well.

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-There was a crack there.

-What, where the beam was? Yes. Was that like...

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-Flashing light.

-Yes. Floors upstairs dropped.

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Doors wouldn't close. Cracks on the landing.

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So we started getting some warning signs that perhaps things...

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Well, that's serious, that. And that quick, and all.

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It sounds to me like the new RSJ to support

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the weight of the house above it was bodged.

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Did he put a big concrete padstone in there?

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So he did say he had, he told me when I came in on the night

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and he had it all in and he was plastering up.

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And I actually asked him because I knew padstones needed to go in.

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What they do, when you put the weight on,

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a padstone like that will spread the weight of the building.

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Saves putting too much pressure on one area.

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So he said, yes, he had a struggle

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but he got padstones in both ends.

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He confirmed he'd done everything to regulations,

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no problem.

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He informed us that he'd taken pictures.

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He was going to take them down the council, everything was fine.

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Because he knew everybody at the council.

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"They are all my good friends. No problem.

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"I've fitted thousands of these. It isn't a problem. I'll get it done."

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Of course, he never did.

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Thank goodness Paul had the sense to call in a surveyor.

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The first thing the surveyor said was to open both ends

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so I can have a look and see what's really happened.

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-This send was just on ordinary brick.

-Not even engineering bricks?

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Because you can use engineering bricks instead of padstones.

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-Just ordinary bricks. And in this end it was on wood.

-Wood?!

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Wooden lintel of the build.

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He'd gotten a piece of the wood that the kitchen was made out of

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-and packed it.

-So it's packed out with kitchen Fomica.

-Chipboard?

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-That's all it is.

-MDF, yes.

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Next stage was to get the local council building inspector out.

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He asked to see the foundations because he hadn't seen them.

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I dug a pit and he had a look at them

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and he went, "No, they are no good."

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Other problems, he didn't put the foundations all the way round.

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-So the front bit didn't have any foundations at all.

-What?!

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The side didn't have any at all.

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He'd built on an old bit of concrete slab that was from years

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and years ago.

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Which was about two inches thick.

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What I found when I was digging the foundation was that

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whenever they came across a brick, they would stop digging.

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So the foundations were like this. So if they hit something hard...

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Yeah, they wouldn't bother taking it out.

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And it gets worse.

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-..Wasn't tied into the house, it was just cemented to the house.

-No ties?

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Wasn't tied into the house. I mean, you should've had Furfixings

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which are stainless steel plates that go on the wall

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and then there's hooks that go in that tie the new brickwork in.

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And you put a vertical damp course in

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and an expansion joint to allow it.

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-None of that.

-So, none of that.

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I mean, you're smiling now, but I bet you weren't smiling at the time.

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Absolutely not.

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Instead of a beautiful garden room, Paul

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and Brenda were left with a dangerous structure which

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threatened their safety and the fabric of the house.

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And of course, they were thousands of pounds out of pocket.

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It was a bit late

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but they finally did some thorough checks on their builder.

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Later, we'll hear what they discovered.

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I phoned up the agencies that he said he was affiliated with, all

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the kite marks and everything,

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and he wasn't registered with any of them.

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Gas engineer Lee Turton is having a very busy day.

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It's early doors on a late autumn morning

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and temperatures have started to drop.

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He is already on the road after an urgent

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call for help from a family whose central heating has packed up.

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They live in a remote farmhouse in Derbyshire

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and they have been without heating for five days.

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A bit out in the sticks, so it's actually run off LPG gas,

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not natural gas, so it can be a little bit more complicated.

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He's got no heating and hot water,

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his boiler is not working at all, apparently.

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So, I'll go and see what the problem is.

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Properties this far off the beaten track aren't connected to the

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mains gas supply.

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So liquid petroleum gas is a common alternative.

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It can be used to heat radiators and for hot water.

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It's stored in cylinders or in large tanks at individual properties.

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And obviously, they have to come and get that replenished every now and again.

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When he arrives, Lee has a quick look at the storage area.

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So you've got a store here of three bottles with a changeover

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valve in the middle.

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Once this one is getting low, it will move over to the other one.

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But obviously, eventually it will run out.

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So the customer needs to be aware of how much he's got.

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The householder feeling the cold is Mark Rathbone

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who lives in the house with his wife Hayley

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and three school-age children.

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-Morning, Gas Care.

-Hello, come in.

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The boiler is just in here.

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Mark and his family have lived in the house for two years.

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They have been without heating for five days and,

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although the Peak District is a beautiful place to live,

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it's a chilly place to be when the weather takes a turn -

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as they found out last winter.

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It dropped down to -15

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and we had snowdrifts in the field up there of about four or five feet.

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And a couple of times we were snowed in and couldn't get to work.

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No wonder Mark is concerned the heating has packed up.

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It's been about five days. I noticed it at the weekend.

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We used to have an issue with squirrels who used to eat the pipes,

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so I thought that might have happened, lost all my gas.

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So I checked all the pipes and it didn't work, so that's

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when I phoned Gas Care.

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The family have been making do with extra

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layers of jumpers to keep warm.

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At night-time, the kids would have onesies, bed socks on,

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electric blankets and occasionally hot water bottles.

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If I'm working in the dining room then

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I have to wear about three or four layers and sometimes a hat.

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So they are very keen for Lee to sort out their heating issues.

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-So what's the problem we've got?

-It just won't start.

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The gas is coming through, plenty of gas, electricity is getting through

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because you can hear it. But it just won't start.

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It's not kicking like it normally does.

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If Lee can't solve the problem today, the family have plan B.

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The wood-burning stove.

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We just tend to heat up one room and stay in there

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and put electric blankets on for the kids.

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Later, Lee turns detective to sort out the family's heating problem.

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Basically, what we need to check is that the pump isn't struggling.

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And Mark has a solution to the lack of hot water.

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The kids go swimming three times a week anyway!

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I'm visiting Paul and Brenda from Sunderland who wanted a major

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extension on their long-time family home.

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But thanks to a dodgy builder, what they got was a dangerous

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structure which could have brought down the entire house.

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They claim he even put the building inspector off talking to them.

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The builder had advised that we were of a nervous disposition

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and weren't able to talk to people, official people.

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So, for whatever reason, we didn't actually get to speak to the

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building inspector when he first came out and paid the first visit.

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But eventually the couple called a halt to the work, after cracks

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appeared in the walls and ceiling.

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And the upstairs floor began to drop.

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But now, a new builder is close to completing the work.

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So let's have a look at where they are with the project.

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Wow, this is big. This is great, isn't it?

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-It's rather panoramic as well, isn't it?

-It is, yes.

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We should have a nice view.

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How much will it cost you to get this complete?

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We paid him 11,100 and it's going to cost us 18,000 to put it all right.

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So that's about one-and-a-half times the cost, at least.

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Has it caused you much stress, I mean, how has it affected you

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and your family life?

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So it has been very stressful, hasn't it?

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-I hate being in the house. I don't sleep.

-It is extremely stressful.

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Do you think because you've been through that experience,

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you are less trusting than you were before?

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We are definitely less trusting.

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I know the people we've had to do the work so far, we've either

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taken time off work to be here when they've been here on the premises.

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I honestly think

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if you want a successful conclusion to a project, especially

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if you're not experienced with it before,

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you have to make the investment of being there to manage it, really.

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But you got in touch with trading standards, didn't you?

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-Yes, that's right.

-And what happened there?

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I started investigating and looked at the contract.

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I phoned up the agencies that he said he was affiliated with,

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he wasn't registered with any of them.

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So I thought trading standards would be interested and they came

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back to us and said it wasn't in the public interest to investigate him

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because they didn't have any further complaints about him,

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and plus he'd stopped trading.

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But then we later found out, delving into him a little bit more,

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-that he was still working.

-Of course, yeah.

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So I phoned the trading standards back up again and they said,

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yeah, they had gotten further complaints about his workmanship

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and he was cautioned, that was his punishment, he was cautioned.

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-Were you satisfied with that?

-No.

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I think he should have been made to pay you back the money

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he took from you and a portion of the cost towards rebuilding.

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He just had slap on his wrist.

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"Go away, don't be a naughty boy again."

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I can understand why you're angry,

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and I know that a caution may not seem much,

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but at least it's a start.

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And it may well prevent him doing to other people what he's done to you.

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-I wouldn't want anybody else to go through it again.

-No, no.

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It's been a real pleasure and you are well on the way to

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recuperating this space for yourself.

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Paul, it's been a pleasure

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and I hope it all goes swimmingly well for you.

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Good luck, anyway, for the future.

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-This will be wonderful when it's finished.

-I'll see you out.

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-Nice to meet you.

-Thanks.

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There are a few lessons to be learned from Paul

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and Brenda's experience.

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Number one, check whether you need planning permission.

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Have a look at the guidelines on the local council's website

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and if you're not sure contact the planning department.

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Number two, no matter how well you know the builder, be on-site

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when key moments are happening

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so you can check the standard of the work personally.

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Number three, make sure you talk to the building inspector yourself

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and that you see the signed-off paperwork.

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That way, you know the work is sound.

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Calls to pest controllers about rat infestation have nearly

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doubled in recent years.

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And newspaper headlines have highlighted so-called super rats,

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immune to normal poisons.

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Pest controller Ken Cattanach has just arrived to see

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a family in North London.

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They fear rats may have gnawed through cabling

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and pipe work in their loft

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causing a water leak which has then shorted out their electrics.

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Resulting in a loss of power.

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We're going to go and investigate and find out what animal is in there.

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Worst case scenario would be obviously rats.

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So, let's go and take a look and see what we can find.

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Vermin attacking cabling is not uncommon and it has been known

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to lead to house fires, so it is vital Ken tracks down the problem.

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Good afternoon. Lobat, isn't it? Hi, Ken, from Abacus Pest Control.

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Householder Lobat has been without power downstairs all day.

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And she's been forced to turn the water off, too.

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Last night, in the middle of the night, we heard the water

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leaking and then the whole way here was full of water.

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And then we had power cuts, we couldn't see anything.

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It was quite scary, you know, you don't expect such a thing.

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We thought it was raining.

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If it's been caused by a rat, Ken needs to find them.

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-In the bedrooms, have you got any cupboards going into the loft?

-Yes.

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-Right, and this is above the area...

-Yes.

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My daughter was sleeping here last night and she could hear the noises.

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She said buzzing noises.

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He'll have to get into the roof area to look for evidence of chewed

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cables or gnawed pipe work.

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It's likely that is where they've got in, giving them

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access to gaps under the floorboards.

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We need a Phillips screwdriver.

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I'm going to have to try and get my head in there.

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Lobat is worried because she thinks the ratty invaders may

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be somewhere near her eight-year-old daughter's bedroom.

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It has an en suite bathroom and is right above the downstairs bathroom.

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The water leak could be coming from pipes serving one or the other.

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-Rats under the floorboards could get at both.

-It is dangerous, yes.

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Especially as now I know it was right underneath my daughter's bed

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because the bathroom is right underneath her bed.

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Ken checks out the hallway again to try and trace the leak.

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It's obviously... for the water to have soaked through here,

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it's also permeated across the ceiling, I'd imagine.

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It might just be a tiny hole.

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If they chew again tonight, they could open the hole,

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and you get a deluge of water rather than a trickle of water.

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I have known of properties where the whole loft has gone.

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Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

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Now he has the loft hatch open, Ken embarks on his rat hunt.

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The first thing is we've got to find a leak,

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see what's causing the leak.

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I can't see any chewing at all on any electrics or anything and it

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may well be that it's the water that's caused the electrical fault.

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Lobat and her daughters fear rats are the issue

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because they've had them in the house before.

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Yes, we had rats last year in the kitchen.

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So we got rid of them, that was a long procedure.

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They tried traps first, it didn't work.

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Poison and then they managed to get rid of them.

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But about two weeks afterwards, we had a horrible smell

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-because they were dead underneath the house.

-It was all stinky.

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And then flies all over the house and it was a very bad experience.

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If the rats have returned, the family think they might know why.

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There have been problems with an empty house next door.

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The landlord left the country, apparently, that's all we know.

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And then people just came and started to just move in to live there.

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But Ken isn't totally convinced the loss of power has been

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caused by rodent raiders in the loft or elsewhere.

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I can't find any evidence of any rodent activity.

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What I have found is in the bathroom, the overflow from the cistern

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has actually broken away.

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The water has just been dripping down there

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and that's the water that's caused the problem.

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You've got chipboard flooring which has been having water on it.

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And if you look at your floor... Look.

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-That's your flooring. If you feel that, it's wet.

-Yeah.

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In Ken's opinion, it's plumbing and not pests that's the problem today.

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Lobat will have to get the overflow pipe replaced by a plumber.

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But she is still convinced that there are nightly

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visitors in the loft.

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I know that they are coming in because I've seen them

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in and out of our garden.

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You can hear them chewing something,

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like you can actually hear the chewing sound.

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-And they are quite big.

-Chew, chew, chew, chew. Disgusting.

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Ken isn't prepared to risk the fact that they might be right.

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So, despite not finding any evidence in the loft, he's going

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to put poison down.

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This is an aniseed flavoured bait.

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It makes their blood very thin, they get tired and die peacefully.

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Hoping it won't be touched.

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But, if it is, the unfortunate part about it is that they could

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die anywhere within the loft space.

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Before he heads off, he investigates the garden and the house next door.

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There's an obvious spot where a rat can get in. Straight away.

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They'll come up the inside of that drainpipe and get in there.

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I would phone the environmental health at the council

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and tell them that there are lots of rats and the neighbours do not appear

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to be doing anything about it

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and they are crossing over onto your land.

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And see if you can get them to take a stand for you.

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It's a nightmare for Lobat.

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I wish it was daylight and you could film the back garden,

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it's just full of rubbish.

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So, it's a good place for the rats and it's not really safe for me

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and my family.

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Ken can only deal with the problem on Lobat's side of the fence.

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She will need to call the local council to deal with

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the property next door.

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If you suspect you have vermin,

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get a professional in to lay poison and traps.

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You will need at least two visits, and it will cost between

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70 and £150. But if the problem is caused by a neighbouring

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property, ring the pest control department at your local council.

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They have powers to deal with the problem.

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Back in the Peak District, heating engineer Lee has been called

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out to deal with a boiler breakdown at a remote farmhouse.

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Homeowner Mark and his family have been without eating all week.

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It's been about five days, I noticed it at the weekend.

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We used to have an issue with squirrels who used to eat the pipes.

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I thought that might have happened when I lost all my gas.

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So I checked all the pipes and it didn't work.

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But Lee has been in the job for nine years,

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and he is pretty sure he knows what's wrong.

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The boiler has overheated.

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So in there there is a mechanical reset that you have to

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-physically push back in.

-You're having a laugh.

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So, in that hole there, push that up.

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The fan is running, let's see if it fires up.

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Mark is beginning to think that it is not as serious

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as he first thought.

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But it's not that simple.

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So it's fired up.

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So now we need to find out why it's overheated, basically.

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It's normally an issue with a pump or something like that.

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What we'll do is leave it on for five minutes and see

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if we start hearing any banging and clanging.

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Lee needs to do a number of tests.

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This is the central heating pump.

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This is what distributes the water around the system.

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Because the boiler has overheated, basically what

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we need to check is that the pump's not struggling

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because if the pump is struggling to disperse

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the heat around the radiators, then that will be probably

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the reason why the boiler has overheated in the first place.

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By doing that test that I've just done there is...

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the impeller that's inside there that spins to pump the water,

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you can physically feel how strong it is with a screwdriver.

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So if you put your screwdriver in,

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you can feel the resistance on the pump.

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I've just done that and the pump seems fine.

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The heating and hot water appear to be operating properly.

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But the weather has only just turned cold, so the heating hasn't been

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used much in recent months.

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It's only the second time it's been on since the summer.

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If you've had a central heating system off for a long while,

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you can get little pockets of air.

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And if a pocket of air rushes through the boiler

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the thermostat inside the boiler, the overheat stat, is designed

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so if the boiler gets over a certain temperature, it is

0:25:060:25:09

normally about 90-95 degrees, it will cut the boiler off.

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And that's what that manual reset is underneath the boiler.

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-I didn't even know it was there.

-You'd normally have a case on it, so you wouldn't even see it.

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It's not really designed for a customer to be doing anyway, really.

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It's for an engineer to come and have a look at.

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There is nothing obvious wrong with your system

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and it is all now working fine.

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It's pretty common for central heating systems to have problems

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when they have been off for a long period during the warm weather.

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But luckily for Mark and his family, theirs

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has only suffered a minor glitch.

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Make sure you get your gas boiler serviced

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regularly by a registered Gas Safe engineer.

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It should cost you about £80.

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Monitor it. If you get any further problems, just give us

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a call at the office and we'll pop back out and have a look.

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-Fantastic, thanks a lot. Cheers.

-Bye.

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Mark is glad that he has been able to identify the problem.

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I'm quite pleased that it's quite a simple job.

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Probably just a callout fee and labour time.

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There's no big job to do, so I'm quite relieved.

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And family life can now get back to normal.

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The kids can have a bath tonight

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and we will be wearing only one layer when we go to bed.

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It has been freezing, so the kids will be happy. Bath and bed tonight.

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A normal routine.

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Any one of us could be in a situation such as we've seen today -

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whether it be an emergency in our own home,

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or falling foul of rogue workmanship.

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So take note of my top tips and hopefully it'll be home sweet home.

0:26:340:26:38

We contacted Paul and Brenda's first builder and asked him

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about the dangerous state in which he left their property.

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He blamed the problem on the contractors he'd brought in

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and claimed he paid them a lot of money for terrible work.

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He is now bankrupt, has had his assets frozen

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and has ceased trading.

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In a statement to us he said...

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You won't be surprised to hear that Paul

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and Brenda feel exactly the same.

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In North London, Lobat contacted her local council's pest

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control department who dealt with the rat infestation next door.

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And she's had no problems since.

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And in Derbyshire, Mark is happy to report the heating is now

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working well.

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But the family have decided to try a cheaper option to get through

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the winter.

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The LPG is very expensive,

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so what we are going to do is get a wood pellet boiler.

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That works out a lot cheaper.

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And that's going to hopefully be fitted in the next few weeks

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and that should bring the price of the gas down which means

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we should be able afford to heat the house regularly,

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rather than intermittently

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which will help the house and help my kids have baths.

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Tommy meets Brenda and Paul, who hired a builder to erect an orangery and knock through their kitchen, but were left £10,000 out of pocket, with the work condemned by surveyors and building control. Will the builder get his comeuppance?

A family suffering plumbing problems think rats are running riot in their roof, but pest controller Ken has another theory.