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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When a crisis strikes your home...
-How can I help?
-I've got a bit of an emergency.
..or you want major work done.
-Who do you trust?
-I feel so stupid.
You need one of the good guys.
But you don't always get them.
-Oh, my goodness!
-You don't ever think it's going to happen to you.
We will hear the stories of devastation
and despair left behind when building work doesn't go to plan.
I don't want to look out here, I end up in tears.
And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
You have always got the safety net of the building inspector.
But most tradesmen are there to help.
And we will follow the response teams who are
there for you 24 hours a day...
It's a nightmare, isn't it?
Just have to make sure you don't fall through the ceiling.
-..seven days a week.
-I think we might have to pull this out.
It would have probably burnt the house down while they slept.
From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths -
we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.
Coming up, the dodgy builder who covered up his dangerous
work in a family house and wrecked a home full of memories.
The house just doesn't feel the same as what it did before I had
A cold snap and a broken boiler.
Heating engineer Lee gets a warm welcome.
Come in. The boiler is just in here.
But can he fix it?
So now we need to find out why it's overheated, basically.
And, it could be a plumbing problem.
The overflow from the cistern has actually broken away.
But this family smells a rat.
I know they are coming in because I've seen them...
-Chew, chew, chew. Disgusting.
-..and they are quite big.
When you need some work done on your house,
follow Tommy's two basic rules.
Number one, get a recommendation from somebody you trust.
Rule two, check out anyone you're considering letting over
the threshold of your home.
Or this could happen...
This is a prime example of dodgy, dangerous building work.
The victims of this appalling bodge up are Paul and Brenda Lumley.
And I'm on my way to Sunderland to meet them.
They had never commissioned major building work before,
and did their best to approach it in the right way.
But they still came unstuck.
Paul and Brenda's plans for a garden room
and a bigger kitchen turned into two years of trauma which left
Brenda wanting to move from the family home that they used to love.
At the moment I feel that I just want to get it done
and possibly to sell and move.
The couple have lived in their house for 27 years,
and it's where they brought their family.
Their daughter, Charlie,
has seen the impact that the shoddy work has had on her mum and dad.
My mum is so house-proud and this is just not how the house was
when I grew up.
My mum is always just so upset about living here.
But before the build started,
the couple were full of ideas to update their home.
We wanted a garden room because I love my garden and the fish.
We wanted a bigger kitchen, so we wanted to open up the kitchen
area and the dining room so we'd have that all as one.
They researched builders.
We used the Yellow Pages, people we know as well.
So there were recommendations from people that we have known of.
But we also used the internet.
They compared quotes.
-So I think we interviewed about...
-Six. Six quotes.
Six actual quotes we had.
We had about 10 builders actually come out to the house.
And with prices ranging from 8,000 to 28,000,
Paul and Brenda selected their builder.
He also ran a window company
and said he could do the work for £17,800.
We paid an upfront deposit and then, as the build progressed,
we would make payments at various stages.
So once the brickwork was up,
we would go to the next stage of payments.
In total, they eventually paid out £10,800.
The paperwork looked right. He had associations to various
external companies. It had all the right clauses in it, as well,
as far as we've seen from previous contracts.
So it all looked above board.
The builder got to work.
It all went really quickly.
They dug the foundations in record time,
all of that seemed to progress really quickly.
They put the foundations in. So initially, it seemed to go well.
Yeah, he came every day.
He came every day, he came on time, he came in the morning.
They were there until late at night.
Within a week, all the brickwork was up.
It had started so well. But then things came to a sudden standstill.
The building team were ordered to stop work on the main
part of the structure.
I've come to Sunderland to find out why, and to hear the whole story.
-Nice to meet you.
Hello, yes, nice to meet you.
I'm keen to know how, after such a good start,
things went pear shaped.
So, what went wrong?
He informed us that we didn't need planning permission.
Ah, first mistake. So in actual fact, you do.
But you need a lesser type of planning permission than you
do for your main house.
But if you then make the conservatory or the orangery
part of the building by taking out walls and doors,
then that is subject to the same rules and conditions as a house.
You still need building regs, whatever you do.
Never assume your project will be allowed under the new
permitted development rules.
And don't take someone else's word for it. Check personally.
It can take months for planning permission to come through,
but the couple didn't want the work to stop completely.
So what we decided to do was to do the internal work whilst
-we were getting the plans approved.
-Makes sense, yes.
It made sense, he was there, ready to do the work.
The wall was down in a day. He put the beam in, everything looked fine.
Put the walls in, put plaster on.
That didn't look so fine,
the plasterwork wasn't of a very good quality.
The kitchen ceiling had a huge crack in it, as well.
-There was a crack there.
-What, where the beam was? Yes. Was that like...
-Yes. Floors upstairs dropped.
Doors wouldn't close. Cracks on the landing.
So we started getting some warning signs that perhaps things...
Well, that's serious, that. And that quick, and all.
It sounds to me like the new RSJ to support
the weight of the house above it was bodged.
Did he put a big concrete padstone in there?
So he did say he had, he told me when I came in on the night
and he had it all in and he was plastering up.
And I actually asked him because I knew padstones needed to go in.
What they do, when you put the weight on,
a padstone like that will spread the weight of the building.
Saves putting too much pressure on one area.
So he said, yes, he had a struggle
but he got padstones in both ends.
He confirmed he'd done everything to regulations,
He informed us that he'd taken pictures.
He was going to take them down the council, everything was fine.
Because he knew everybody at the council.
"They are all my good friends. No problem.
"I've fitted thousands of these. It isn't a problem. I'll get it done."
Of course, he never did.
Thank goodness Paul had the sense to call in a surveyor.
The first thing the surveyor said was to open both ends
so I can have a look and see what's really happened.
-This send was just on ordinary brick.
-Not even engineering bricks?
Because you can use engineering bricks instead of padstones.
-Just ordinary bricks. And in this end it was on wood.
Wooden lintel of the build.
He'd gotten a piece of the wood that the kitchen was made out of
-and packed it.
-So it's packed out with kitchen Fomica.
-That's all it is.
Next stage was to get the local council building inspector out.
He asked to see the foundations because he hadn't seen them.
I dug a pit and he had a look at them
and he went, "No, they are no good."
Other problems, he didn't put the foundations all the way round.
-So the front bit didn't have any foundations at all.
The side didn't have any at all.
He'd built on an old bit of concrete slab that was from years
and years ago.
Which was about two inches thick.
What I found when I was digging the foundation was that
whenever they came across a brick, they would stop digging.
So the foundations were like this. So if they hit something hard...
Yeah, they wouldn't bother taking it out.
And it gets worse.
-..Wasn't tied into the house, it was just cemented to the house.
Wasn't tied into the house. I mean, you should've had Furfixings
which are stainless steel plates that go on the wall
and then there's hooks that go in that tie the new brickwork in.
And you put a vertical damp course in
and an expansion joint to allow it.
-None of that.
-So, none of that.
I mean, you're smiling now, but I bet you weren't smiling at the time.
Instead of a beautiful garden room, Paul
and Brenda were left with a dangerous structure which
threatened their safety and the fabric of the house.
And of course, they were thousands of pounds out of pocket.
It was a bit late
but they finally did some thorough checks on their builder.
Later, we'll hear what they discovered.
I phoned up the agencies that he said he was affiliated with, all
the kite marks and everything,
and he wasn't registered with any of them.
Gas engineer Lee Turton is having a very busy day.
It's early doors on a late autumn morning
and temperatures have started to drop.
He is already on the road after an urgent
call for help from a family whose central heating has packed up.
They live in a remote farmhouse in Derbyshire
and they have been without heating for five days.
A bit out in the sticks, so it's actually run off LPG gas,
not natural gas, so it can be a little bit more complicated.
He's got no heating and hot water,
his boiler is not working at all, apparently.
So, I'll go and see what the problem is.
Properties this far off the beaten track aren't connected to the
mains gas supply.
So liquid petroleum gas is a common alternative.
It can be used to heat radiators and for hot water.
It's stored in cylinders or in large tanks at individual properties.
And obviously, they have to come and get that replenished every now and again.
When he arrives, Lee has a quick look at the storage area.
So you've got a store here of three bottles with a changeover
valve in the middle.
Once this one is getting low, it will move over to the other one.
But obviously, eventually it will run out.
So the customer needs to be aware of how much he's got.
The householder feeling the cold is Mark Rathbone
who lives in the house with his wife Hayley
and three school-age children.
-Morning, Gas Care.
-Hello, come in.
The boiler is just in here.
Mark and his family have lived in the house for two years.
They have been without heating for five days and,
although the Peak District is a beautiful place to live,
it's a chilly place to be when the weather takes a turn -
as they found out last winter.
It dropped down to -15
and we had snowdrifts in the field up there of about four or five feet.
And a couple of times we were snowed in and couldn't get to work.
No wonder Mark is concerned the heating has packed up.
It's been about five days. I noticed it at the weekend.
We used to have an issue with squirrels who used to eat the pipes,
so I thought that might have happened, lost all my gas.
So I checked all the pipes and it didn't work, so that's
when I phoned Gas Care.
The family have been making do with extra
layers of jumpers to keep warm.
At night-time, the kids would have onesies, bed socks on,
electric blankets and occasionally hot water bottles.
If I'm working in the dining room then
I have to wear about three or four layers and sometimes a hat.
So they are very keen for Lee to sort out their heating issues.
-So what's the problem we've got?
-It just won't start.
The gas is coming through, plenty of gas, electricity is getting through
because you can hear it. But it just won't start.
It's not kicking like it normally does.
If Lee can't solve the problem today, the family have plan B.
The wood-burning stove.
We just tend to heat up one room and stay in there
and put electric blankets on for the kids.
Later, Lee turns detective to sort out the family's heating problem.
Basically, what we need to check is that the pump isn't struggling.
And Mark has a solution to the lack of hot water.
The kids go swimming three times a week anyway!
I'm visiting Paul and Brenda from Sunderland who wanted a major
extension on their long-time family home.
But thanks to a dodgy builder, what they got was a dangerous
structure which could have brought down the entire house.
They claim he even put the building inspector off talking to them.
The builder had advised that we were of a nervous disposition
and weren't able to talk to people, official people.
So, for whatever reason, we didn't actually get to speak to the
building inspector when he first came out and paid the first visit.
But eventually the couple called a halt to the work, after cracks
appeared in the walls and ceiling.
And the upstairs floor began to drop.
But now, a new builder is close to completing the work.
So let's have a look at where they are with the project.
Wow, this is big. This is great, isn't it?
-It's rather panoramic as well, isn't it?
-It is, yes.
We should have a nice view.
How much will it cost you to get this complete?
We paid him 11,100 and it's going to cost us 18,000 to put it all right.
So that's about one-and-a-half times the cost, at least.
Has it caused you much stress, I mean, how has it affected you
and your family life?
So it has been very stressful, hasn't it?
-I hate being in the house. I don't sleep.
-It is extremely stressful.
Do you think because you've been through that experience,
you are less trusting than you were before?
We are definitely less trusting.
I know the people we've had to do the work so far, we've either
taken time off work to be here when they've been here on the premises.
I honestly think
if you want a successful conclusion to a project, especially
if you're not experienced with it before,
you have to make the investment of being there to manage it, really.
But you got in touch with trading standards, didn't you?
-Yes, that's right.
-And what happened there?
I started investigating and looked at the contract.
I phoned up the agencies that he said he was affiliated with,
he wasn't registered with any of them.
So I thought trading standards would be interested and they came
back to us and said it wasn't in the public interest to investigate him
because they didn't have any further complaints about him,
and plus he'd stopped trading.
But then we later found out, delving into him a little bit more,
-that he was still working.
-Of course, yeah.
So I phoned the trading standards back up again and they said,
yeah, they had gotten further complaints about his workmanship
and he was cautioned, that was his punishment, he was cautioned.
-Were you satisfied with that?
I think he should have been made to pay you back the money
he took from you and a portion of the cost towards rebuilding.
He just had slap on his wrist.
"Go away, don't be a naughty boy again."
I can understand why you're angry,
and I know that a caution may not seem much,
but at least it's a start.
And it may well prevent him doing to other people what he's done to you.
-I wouldn't want anybody else to go through it again.
It's been a real pleasure and you are well on the way to
recuperating this space for yourself.
Paul, it's been a pleasure
and I hope it all goes swimmingly well for you.
Good luck, anyway, for the future.
-This will be wonderful when it's finished.
-I'll see you out.
-Nice to meet you.
There are a few lessons to be learned from Paul
and Brenda's experience.
Number one, check whether you need planning permission.
Have a look at the guidelines on the local council's website
and if you're not sure contact the planning department.
Number two, no matter how well you know the builder, be on-site
when key moments are happening
so you can check the standard of the work personally.
Number three, make sure you talk to the building inspector yourself
and that you see the signed-off paperwork.
That way, you know the work is sound.
Calls to pest controllers about rat infestation have nearly
doubled in recent years.
And newspaper headlines have highlighted so-called super rats,
immune to normal poisons.
Pest controller Ken Cattanach has just arrived to see
a family in North London.
They fear rats may have gnawed through cabling
and pipe work in their loft
causing a water leak which has then shorted out their electrics.
Resulting in a loss of power.
We're going to go and investigate and find out what animal is in there.
Worst case scenario would be obviously rats.
So, let's go and take a look and see what we can find.
Vermin attacking cabling is not uncommon and it has been known
to lead to house fires, so it is vital Ken tracks down the problem.
Good afternoon. Lobat, isn't it? Hi, Ken, from Abacus Pest Control.
Householder Lobat has been without power downstairs all day.
And she's been forced to turn the water off, too.
Last night, in the middle of the night, we heard the water
leaking and then the whole way here was full of water.
And then we had power cuts, we couldn't see anything.
It was quite scary, you know, you don't expect such a thing.
We thought it was raining.
If it's been caused by a rat, Ken needs to find them.
-In the bedrooms, have you got any cupboards going into the loft?
-Right, and this is above the area...
My daughter was sleeping here last night and she could hear the noises.
She said buzzing noises.
He'll have to get into the roof area to look for evidence of chewed
cables or gnawed pipe work.
It's likely that is where they've got in, giving them
access to gaps under the floorboards.
We need a Phillips screwdriver.
I'm going to have to try and get my head in there.
Lobat is worried because she thinks the ratty invaders may
be somewhere near her eight-year-old daughter's bedroom.
It has an en suite bathroom and is right above the downstairs bathroom.
The water leak could be coming from pipes serving one or the other.
-Rats under the floorboards could get at both.
-It is dangerous, yes.
Especially as now I know it was right underneath my daughter's bed
because the bathroom is right underneath her bed.
Ken checks out the hallway again to try and trace the leak.
It's obviously... for the water to have soaked through here,
it's also permeated across the ceiling, I'd imagine.
It might just be a tiny hole.
If they chew again tonight, they could open the hole,
and you get a deluge of water rather than a trickle of water.
I have known of properties where the whole loft has gone.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Now he has the loft hatch open, Ken embarks on his rat hunt.
The first thing is we've got to find a leak,
see what's causing the leak.
I can't see any chewing at all on any electrics or anything and it
may well be that it's the water that's caused the electrical fault.
Lobat and her daughters fear rats are the issue
because they've had them in the house before.
Yes, we had rats last year in the kitchen.
So we got rid of them, that was a long procedure.
They tried traps first, it didn't work.
Poison and then they managed to get rid of them.
But about two weeks afterwards, we had a horrible smell
-because they were dead underneath the house.
-It was all stinky.
And then flies all over the house and it was a very bad experience.
If the rats have returned, the family think they might know why.
There have been problems with an empty house next door.
The landlord left the country, apparently, that's all we know.
And then people just came and started to just move in to live there.
But Ken isn't totally convinced the loss of power has been
caused by rodent raiders in the loft or elsewhere.
I can't find any evidence of any rodent activity.
What I have found is in the bathroom, the overflow from the cistern
has actually broken away.
The water has just been dripping down there
and that's the water that's caused the problem.
You've got chipboard flooring which has been having water on it.
And if you look at your floor... Look.
-That's your flooring. If you feel that, it's wet.
In Ken's opinion, it's plumbing and not pests that's the problem today.
Lobat will have to get the overflow pipe replaced by a plumber.
But she is still convinced that there are nightly
visitors in the loft.
I know that they are coming in because I've seen them
in and out of our garden.
You can hear them chewing something,
like you can actually hear the chewing sound.
-And they are quite big.
-Chew, chew, chew, chew. Disgusting.
Ken isn't prepared to risk the fact that they might be right.
So, despite not finding any evidence in the loft, he's going
to put poison down.
This is an aniseed flavoured bait.
It makes their blood very thin, they get tired and die peacefully.
Hoping it won't be touched.
But, if it is, the unfortunate part about it is that they could
die anywhere within the loft space.
Before he heads off, he investigates the garden and the house next door.
There's an obvious spot where a rat can get in. Straight away.
They'll come up the inside of that drainpipe and get in there.
I would phone the environmental health at the council
and tell them that there are lots of rats and the neighbours do not appear
to be doing anything about it
and they are crossing over onto your land.
And see if you can get them to take a stand for you.
It's a nightmare for Lobat.
I wish it was daylight and you could film the back garden,
it's just full of rubbish.
So, it's a good place for the rats and it's not really safe for me
and my family.
Ken can only deal with the problem on Lobat's side of the fence.
She will need to call the local council to deal with
the property next door.
If you suspect you have vermin,
get a professional in to lay poison and traps.
You will need at least two visits, and it will cost between
70 and £150. But if the problem is caused by a neighbouring
property, ring the pest control department at your local council.
They have powers to deal with the problem.
Back in the Peak District, heating engineer Lee has been called
out to deal with a boiler breakdown at a remote farmhouse.
Homeowner Mark and his family have been without eating all week.
It's been about five days, I noticed it at the weekend.
We used to have an issue with squirrels who used to eat the pipes.
I thought that might have happened when I lost all my gas.
So I checked all the pipes and it didn't work.
But Lee has been in the job for nine years,
and he is pretty sure he knows what's wrong.
The boiler has overheated.
So in there there is a mechanical reset that you have to
-physically push back in.
-You're having a laugh.
So, in that hole there, push that up.
The fan is running, let's see if it fires up.
Mark is beginning to think that it is not as serious
as he first thought.
But it's not that simple.
So it's fired up.
So now we need to find out why it's overheated, basically.
It's normally an issue with a pump or something like that.
What we'll do is leave it on for five minutes and see
if we start hearing any banging and clanging.
Lee needs to do a number of tests.
This is the central heating pump.
This is what distributes the water around the system.
Because the boiler has overheated, basically what
we need to check is that the pump's not struggling
because if the pump is struggling to disperse
the heat around the radiators, then that will be probably
the reason why the boiler has overheated in the first place.
By doing that test that I've just done there is...
the impeller that's inside there that spins to pump the water,
you can physically feel how strong it is with a screwdriver.
So if you put your screwdriver in,
you can feel the resistance on the pump.
I've just done that and the pump seems fine.
The heating and hot water appear to be operating properly.
But the weather has only just turned cold, so the heating hasn't been
used much in recent months.
It's only the second time it's been on since the summer.
If you've had a central heating system off for a long while,
you can get little pockets of air.
And if a pocket of air rushes through the boiler
the thermostat inside the boiler, the overheat stat, is designed
so if the boiler gets over a certain temperature, it is
normally about 90-95 degrees, it will cut the boiler off.
And that's what that manual reset is underneath the boiler.
-I didn't even know it was there.
-You'd normally have a case on it, so you wouldn't even see it.
It's not really designed for a customer to be doing anyway, really.
It's for an engineer to come and have a look at.
There is nothing obvious wrong with your system
and it is all now working fine.
It's pretty common for central heating systems to have problems
when they have been off for a long period during the warm weather.
But luckily for Mark and his family, theirs
has only suffered a minor glitch.
Make sure you get your gas boiler serviced
regularly by a registered Gas Safe engineer.
It should cost you about £80.
Monitor it. If you get any further problems, just give us
a call at the office and we'll pop back out and have a look.
-Fantastic, thanks a lot. Cheers.
Mark is glad that he has been able to identify the problem.
I'm quite pleased that it's quite a simple job.
Probably just a callout fee and labour time.
There's no big job to do, so I'm quite relieved.
And family life can now get back to normal.
The kids can have a bath tonight
and we will be wearing only one layer when we go to bed.
It has been freezing, so the kids will be happy. Bath and bed tonight.
A normal routine.
Any one of us could be in a situation such as we've seen today -
whether it be an emergency in our own home,
or falling foul of rogue workmanship.
So take note of my top tips and hopefully it'll be home sweet home.
We contacted Paul and Brenda's first builder and asked him
about the dangerous state in which he left their property.
He blamed the problem on the contractors he'd brought in
and claimed he paid them a lot of money for terrible work.
He is now bankrupt, has had his assets frozen
and has ceased trading.
In a statement to us he said...
You won't be surprised to hear that Paul
and Brenda feel exactly the same.
In North London, Lobat contacted her local council's pest
control department who dealt with the rat infestation next door.
And she's had no problems since.
And in Derbyshire, Mark is happy to report the heating is now
But the family have decided to try a cheaper option to get through
The LPG is very expensive,
so what we are going to do is get a wood pellet boiler.
That works out a lot cheaper.
And that's going to hopefully be fitted in the next few weeks
and that should bring the price of the gas down which means
we should be able afford to heat the house regularly,
rather than intermittently
which will help the house and help my kids have baths.
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.