Episode 13 Cowboys and Angels


Episode 13

Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Maggie calls for help to deal with squirrels squatting in her loft, but pest controller Paul can smell a rat.


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Transcript


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-'When a crisis strikes your home...'

-How can I help?

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'I've got a bit of an emergency...'

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-'..or you want major work done...'

-To my mind, nothing had been done.

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The roof itself was on the verge of collapsing.

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'..you need one of the good guys, but you don't always get them.'

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You need to get a plumber in straightaway to fix that.

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He has destroyed our dreams.

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We'll 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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-He's damaged my house.

-It's just basically shoddy workmanship.

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

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You still need building regs, whatever you do.

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'But most tradesmen are there to help.

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'And we'll follow the response team who are there for you 24 hours

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'a day...'

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Yes!

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'..seven days a week.'

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We had a lot of carbon monoxide issues.

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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, a householder suspects squirrels.

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The noise was quite...unsettling.

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-But pest controller Paul can smell a rat.

-Something's been chewing.

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There are some rat droppings. Quite fresh ones.

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An unusual offer for an apprentice plumber.

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-And he only came to fish the phone out of the loo.

-Beautiful young man.

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Would you marry my daughter?

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But no-one's laughing about what happened to Claire.

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Ripped off by someone who was meant to be a mate.

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Because he was a friend, we trusted him that he would do right by us

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and do a good job.

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The relaxation of planning regulations for small extensions

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means lots of us are considering adding extra space to our homes.

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And that's what Claire Watson from West Yorkshire was after

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when she opted for a single-storey extension to her house.

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The new build was to house a home gym and a fun space to relax,

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dedicated to her late grandmother,

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whose legacy would fund it.

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She decided to ask around people she knew, looking for recommendations.

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Word got out and an acquaintance made contact.

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Claire hoped hiring someone they knew of was a good

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safeguard against being ripped off.

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The builder in question actually contacted my partner via text

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message to offer his services.

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Having had a good experience with a friend doing work for me

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previously, I expected the same.

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Things started well.

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But she wasn't to know that first text was

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the beginning of a major deception.

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He seemed to be all professional, the quotes looked professional.

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The figures that he was quoting seemed to be legitimate.

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Because he was a friend, we trusted him that he would do right by us

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and do a good job.

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Her friendly builder said he could get the job done in four to

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five weeks, at a cost of £13,000.

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Including everything from digging the foundations to putting

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the roof on, to plastering, electrics,

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everything like that, which we thought was very reasonable.

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Claire gave him £10,000 upfront for materials.

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But he didn't give her a breakdown of what was ordered

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and the payment arrangements were downright suspicious.

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We agreed we'd pay him £800 per week in lieu of work done on the build.

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The planned four to five week build turned into six weeks

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and Claire began to have doubts about the quality of the work.

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Then the builder just stopped turning up.

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Claire did exactly the right thing

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and went straight to the building inspectors at her local council.

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He wasn't happy with the cavity.

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They'd not built it to the right specification.

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The insulation was insufficient. The concrete floor hadn't been put down.

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Also, the roof - rafters hadn't been installer correctly,

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so that was also dangerous.

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Claire sought legal help and wrote to the builder, giving him

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an opportunity to put things right and gave him a deadline.

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When I came home from work that evening,

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a hand-delivered letter had been pushed through my door.

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He was accusing the building inspector of lying. Um...

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Which was unbelievable, really.

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I also gave him a final opportunity to rectify the issues

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and if he failed to contact me, I would take that as his refusal.

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Claire's legal advice was spot on.

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If you find yourself battling a builder,

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get the council's building inspector to come and check the work.

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Contact your builder in writing, giving them

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a chance to fix what's gone wrong.

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And set them a clear deadline to get back in touch.

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And if you're still not getting anywhere, consider mediation.

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The Federation of Master Builders offers a free service.

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Unfortunately for Claire, that just wasn't an option

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and her situation was all the more upsetting because the £13,000 she'd

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handed over to her so-called mate had all come from her gran's legacy.

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My mother had kindly given me the money my gran had left her

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when she died in October 2013, so it was obviously very emotive.

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Felt like my mother had been robbed.

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It's a sorry tale, but what happened next was a real shocker

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and it left poor Claire reeling.

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It shocked me, particularly about his company because it just

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feels now that he made out to deceive us right from the beginning.

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Luckily, most tradesmen want to make things

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better for their customers and in South London, pest controller Paul

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Mason is on his way to see a worried householder who fears

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she has vermin in the roof.

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We've had a call and a report to say that she's got rats or

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squirrels in the loft.

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Worst case scenario is squirrels, cos squirrels are more disruptive

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than rats.

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They do cause a lot of damage.

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It's crucial Paul deals with the problem straightaway.

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Invading squirrels regularly gnaw through electrical cables

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and have been known to cause fires, totally destroying homes.

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When we get up there, we'll have a good look around the loft.

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Obviously, talk to the customer, find out what the problem is.

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No-one likes the idea of rats in the house.

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They're responsible for spreading all kinds of infectious

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diseases, including TB, salmonella, E.coli and Weil's disease,

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all of which can be fatal.

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Getting rid of them can cost you anywhere between £70 and £150.

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Local councils have pest control departments and will usually

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charge you, although there may be help if you're on benefits.

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We've got some break back traps.

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We'll see what the situation warrants,

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cos each situation is different.

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Rats are becoming immune to some of the more common poisons used

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to control them.

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And overflowing waste and illegal dumping of rubbish

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in our cities means they have a ready food source.

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It's just a takeaway for rats and for foxes.

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Anything that wants something to eat has got somewhere lovely

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to have a bit of a pig out, really.

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Paul's first thought

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when he sees the property is bushy-tailed invaders.

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Possibility of squirrels is kind of increased, cos you can see

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all of the foliage at the front.

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Once we get inside and get up in the loft, we'll see and explore further.

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But rats are also good climbers, often using electrical cables

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or overhanging branches to get into loft spaces.

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And they can squeeze through the smallest of gaps.

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RINGS BELL

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-Hi. I'm Paul, come to have a look...

-Hiya, Paul.

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Hiya. Cheers.

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Householder Maggie and her daughter Kate are hoping Paul can

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discover what's keeping them awake at night.

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I started hearing scratching noises above my bedroom.

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So we thought there's some kind of creature,

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which I quite want to get rid of, cos it was quite scary.

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Yes, the other night, Kate appeared in my bedroom and decided

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she wanted to sleep in my bed with me, rather than stay in her room.

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When we heard the noise... The noise was quite...unsettling.

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-Lots of scraping.

-Immediately, I didn't think it was a pest.

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Sounds like we're haunted. It's haunted! Mum was like, it's probably a rat or a squirrel.

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They were quite noisy, so it was clearly more than a mouse cos it was quite a sort of...scratch, which is

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-why it was quite spooky because it could have been...a person.

-Yeah, it was like knocking, as well.

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But Maggie and Kate can't work out where the noise is coming from.

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I'm not sure how they're above her bedroom

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because there's another bedroom above that.

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-So, it's not actually in the loft. It's going underneath.

-I'll show you.

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Yeah, if we go and have a look and then we can go from there.

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It's all a bit of a mystery.

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Paul will need to trace the route of the unknown raiders through

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the upper floors.

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-This is above where I am.

-Yeah.

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Basically, I'm not sure there's any sort of entrance...

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-I could hear it like around here, as well.

-Really?

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He begins his investigation by crawling into the loft hatch.

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Every night... It's not constant, but it sort of like moves around.

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Knocking, scratching. It's horrible.

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-Are you hearing it...?

-Kind of round here.

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Yeah, basically, there's an entrance that you can see that goes all

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the way down and it goes all the way to the end of the wall over

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-there, so that's why you can hear it running along here.

-Oh.

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Later, Paul reveals he's not a rat catcher...

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..but a rat dispatcher.

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It's very, very effective.

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When you book trades people to work inside your home,

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you hope that they'll do a good job. And generally, they do.

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But sometimes, you're unlucky and things go horribly wrong.

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In West Yorkshire, Claire's been left with a half-finished,

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substandard build,

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after giving £13,000 of her gran's money to a so-called mate.

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Even after building control said the work wasn't up to scratch,

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he refused to return any money or finish the job.

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But that's not even the worst of it.

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I received a letter from the Insolvency Service,

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advising me that he'd declared himself bankrupt.

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It came as a complete shock to me because he never mentioned this

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to me or my partner and continued to take money from my mother.

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Anyone who is bankrupt shouldn't be trading

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and taking money for work relating to that company.

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Claire's builder started work at the end of April,

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but filed for bankruptcy just four weeks later without telling her.

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He continued to work and take her money for another two weeks.

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The money was going into a bank account in another name,

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meaning it couldn't easily be traced by the courts.

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That should have set alarm bells clanging from the start.

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The builder's bankruptcy pretty much guaranteed Claire would not

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get a penny of her money back.

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She was left with a dangerous half-finished,

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badly constructed shell that would cost thousands to put right.

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Claire's invited me

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to West Yorkshire to hear the full story because she wants to

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help others avoid getting themselves into the same situation.

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-Hi. You must be Claire.

-Hiya. Come in.

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It's clear that despite her nightmare with the builder,

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she's now managed to sort things out.

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I looked at the new extension and I thought that was quite pukka.

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Doesn't look anything wrong with that to me at all. It looks very well built.

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That's because another builder's built it!

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I was going to have a bit of trouble finding fault with that one!

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No, it's all been demolished and rebuilt.

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So, you had the building inspector involved.

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Yes, and he said he would have to demolish it.

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The foundations were inadequate, they weren't deep enough or wide enough.

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-Oh, no! So, they had to come out, as well?

-Yes.

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Now we are getting in to tough territory.

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What about drainage?

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There was a sewerage pipe within the excavation, which

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the building inspector said he wanted moving.

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And when we dug down, we found it had been moved,

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but not properly, and the seals hadn't been put in,

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so it was actually sewage leaking into the ground.

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Even worse.

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Let's have a look at some of the work this chancer did.

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And remember, Claire paid him £13,000 for this.

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That is some of the building brickwork that they did.

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Oh, my goodness! That is very, very poor.

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These little bricks, they're supposed to be accurately cut

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and the right way round. That one's back to front. What's that one?

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That's the doorframe outside.

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They'd actually screwed in to the doorframe to get

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the lines for the brickwork.

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-You're joking.

-So, they're all still there.

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There's actually still screws in the doorframe, as well.

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I can see why he demanded it to be demolished.

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-Mm.

-This is pretty shocking, all round.

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This guy shouldn't have even been building a Wendy house.

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Quality of the work I've seen is really, really poor.

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So, how did this come to an end?

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I came home from work and he'd handed a letter through the door,

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basically accusing the building inspector of lying.

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-He accused the building inspector of lying?!

-Yes.

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-That's a bit rich, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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Never again offering to come and remedy any of the works,

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so I wrote back to him and said that I took his letter to be his refusal.

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-Termination of work.

-Yeah.

-And then you had to set about rectifying...

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Yeah, start demolishing it.

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-Which was heartbreaking.

-Yeah, I'm sure it was.

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Claire, her partner Andy, and other family members,

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including her mum, set to work knocking down the build themselves.

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But finally, Claire's luck changed.

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An old friend who had given her some advice

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when things had gone wrong organised some other trades people

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he knew to get together and help with the rebuild.

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Claire had spent £13,000 already, but the new builders gave a lot of

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their time free and putting things right only cost another £6,000.

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You've had the building done properly and according to the

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way you wanted it done for less than half the money that he

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charged to do it badly.

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-Yeah.

-I know these people did a lot of it for no profit, but even so...

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-Yeah.

-So, can I come and have a look?

-Yes, of course.

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This is an extension with a difference.

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-Oh, and a bar!

-Yes.

-I think you're a bit of a party girl!

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-This is like a disco room, isn't it?

-It is. It's my woman cave.

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I also noticed as we came in, above the door, it's Flo's Bar -

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-Never To Be Forgotten.

-That's my gran.

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She died last year, just before her 99th birthday.

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-So she would have been 100 this year.

-Aw, bless.

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So I just wanted something to remember her by, really.

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That's great. Would she have approved?

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-She liked a good knees up, yes!

-I bet she did. Look at this!

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-A disco ball an' all. Does it work?

-It does. Do you want me to show you?

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Yeah, yeah. Put it on.

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Oh, look at that! The old legs are going here, look! Yeah!

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Ha-ha!

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As well as the bar, there's a mini gym.

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But before we relax in Flo's Bar, I've got some

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news for Claire about the original builder.

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His company was dissolved in January 2010.

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Yet he was still using that paperwork when you contacted him.

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Yes.

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The Insolvency Service told us, once he was made bankrupt,

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he should not have taken any more money from you.

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He also should not have traded under his company name

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and the official receiver at the local office in Leeds is

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currently investigating this and they will be keen to talk to you.

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Now, we've also contacted your builder on four occasions,

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-giving the right to reply. Surprise... Guess what.

-He hasn't.

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We are still awaiting his response.

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It's shocked me, particularly the bit about his company because it

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just feels now that he made out to deceive us right from the beginning.

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You can find out if someone's gone bankrupt by checking

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the insolvency register online.

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You can also find out a trader's history by doing an online

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check with Companies House,

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through trade organisations or Citizens Advice Bureau.

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But it's a lovely place and you've got a fish tank.

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-My fish tank, yeah, nice and relaxing.

-Yeah. I could chill out in here,

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Claire's had a good result in the end.

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It cost her, but the build is finished and she loves it.

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She even got it sorted in time for her mum's 70th birthday

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and they had a bit of a party.

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Despite all our attempts to contact the contractor who let

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Claire down so badly, we've still heard nothing from him.

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And neither has Claire,

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but she's passing on details of his actions to the official receiver.

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In London, a large plumbing firm is dealing with a customer whose

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call of nature has resulted in an inability to make

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calls of a different sort.

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Great-grandmother Polly, who lives just around the corner from

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the plumbing firm, has accidentally knocked her phone down the pan.

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She can see it, she can reach it, but it's wedged tight.

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I put my phone on top of the toilet cistern, went to get it

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and it dropped in the toilet.

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And it's stuck, I can't get it out.

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For Polly, the drowning mobile is a disaster.

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My brother in Jamaica, his phone number is on it.

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My family's phone number is on it.

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What's more, she's had the handset for a long time.

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It's one of the best phones. All these phones they got now is rubbish.

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It's one of he best phones. When it dropped, I saw it bounce.

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Polly has used the plumbing firm for other work

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and she's convinced they can help.

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Cos they've done a couple of things for me already,

0:19:120:19:15

so I said - let me phone them and see what they can do.

0:19:150:19:18

Coming to her rescue are Glenn Rutledge and apprentice

0:19:180:19:21

Ashley Mullins, grandson of the plumbing firm's owner.

0:19:210:19:25

It depends where the phone is.

0:19:260:19:30

If the phone's close to us, then first of all, I'm going

0:19:300:19:34

to get my apprentice Ashley to put his hand down there and see

0:19:340:19:38

if he can get it out.

0:19:380:19:39

Cos they're the types of things I had to do

0:19:390:19:42

when I was an apprentice, so I don't see why he shouldn't!

0:19:420:19:46

KNOCKS ON DOOR

0:19:490:19:51

-Hello, plumbers.

-Come in.

-OK.

0:19:510:19:53

-Hello. How are you?

-Hello.

0:19:550:19:57

-I've got this phone stuck in the toilet.

-OK. We'll crack on.

0:19:570:20:02

-Ashley's going to...get involved here.

-You can fix that?

-We can try.

0:20:020:20:07

But even before getting stuck in,

0:20:070:20:10

it's clear Ashley's made a bit of a splash with Polly.

0:20:100:20:13

-And this beautiful young man. Would you marry my daughter?

-Yeah.

-Yeah?

0:20:130:20:18

-Are you sure?

-Definitely.

-There we go! It's done!

-Shake on it!

0:20:180:20:23

-You're a beautiful young man.

-Thank you.

0:20:230:20:25

-Very beautiful.

-His head's too big as it is.

0:20:250:20:29

LAUGHTER

0:20:290:20:31

Well, he looks the part, but has he got the stomach for the job?

0:20:310:20:34

-Come on, pretty boy.

-I'm about to put my hand down a toilet.

0:20:340:20:38

It's a big phone.

0:20:410:20:44

-Is it stuck?

-I think there's tissue at the back of it...

-Wedging it in.

0:20:440:20:49

Yeah.

0:20:490:20:51

It's like a brick!

0:20:510:20:54

Ashley struggles to get a grip of the wedged-in mobile.

0:20:540:20:58

If they can't free it,

0:20:580:21:00

they'll have to disconnect the pipe work at the back of the toilet.

0:21:000:21:03

I can feel it.

0:21:030:21:04

Yeah, I can see the bottom of it.

0:21:040:21:07

-It might be stuck in the U-bend.

-Yeah.

0:21:070:21:11

But a bit more jiggling about and he fishes it out.

0:21:110:21:14

Have you got it? Oh, well done.

0:21:140:21:17

Well done.

0:21:180:21:20

But Ashley's flabbergasted by the phone.

0:21:200:21:23

He's never seen one like it before. It might even be older than he is!

0:21:230:21:27

It's even got like a little antennae.

0:21:270:21:30

LAUGHTER

0:21:300:21:32

It probably still works.

0:21:320:21:34

Actually, I've never seen a phone like it. Not this thick anyway.

0:21:340:21:39

Where do you put the charger in?

0:21:390:21:43

-Does it run off battery?

-It's wind up.

0:21:430:21:47

Ain't even got a combo.

0:21:490:21:52

No chance of taking a selfie on that, Ashley.

0:21:520:21:56

Glenn rinses off the handset before delivering it to Polly, along

0:21:560:22:00

with a useful bit of advice about how to try and get it working again.

0:22:000:22:04

OK, there you go. Put a towel on top of a radiator.

0:22:040:22:08

I would probably leave on there for a couple of days.

0:22:080:22:12

-Or even put it in a bowl of rice.

-A bowl of what?

-A bowl of rice.

0:22:120:22:16

-Dry rice. It will...

-It absorbs. It sucks all the...

-Yeah?

0:22:160:22:19

-He's not just pretty. He's clever, as well.

-He's a beautiful young man.

0:22:190:22:24

-Beautiful.

-Well, we're going to go and write an invoice out for you.

0:22:240:22:27

-You're going to come back?

-Yeah, come back with the invoice.

0:22:270:22:30

-You'd prefer he comes back to me, wouldn't you?

-Why?

-Cos you like him.

0:22:300:22:34

-He's a pretty boy!

-No, that's my daughter. I'll have you for myself!

0:22:340:22:39

LAUGHTER

0:22:390:22:43

-Take care of yourself anyway.

-All right. I've got to put this...

0:22:460:22:49

-Bowl of rice.

-A bowl of rice.

-All right. All right, my baby.

0:22:490:22:54

-You're a handsome man.

-Thank you.

-You take care of yourself.

0:22:540:22:57

See you later.

0:22:570:22:58

That's one happy customer,

0:22:580:23:00

but the lads wish they could have done more for Polly.

0:23:000:23:04

We've got the phone out. I wish we could make the phone work.

0:23:040:23:08

We're not magicians, you know?

0:23:080:23:10

Ashley's surprised it ever worked in the first place!

0:23:100:23:13

In South West London,

0:23:200:23:21

pest controller Paul is still searching for clues to identify the

0:23:210:23:26

noisy nightly visitors to the home of mum Maggie and daughter Kate.

0:23:260:23:30

He's squeezed into the loft space to investigate.

0:23:300:23:34

There are some rat droppings, quite fresh ones,

0:23:340:23:38

right over the other side.

0:23:380:23:40

Right. So, what we're going to do now is lay some traps and some poison.

0:23:400:23:44

And we'll go from there.

0:23:440:23:47

It's definitely rats, but it's not surprising.

0:23:470:23:51

Experts estimate there are 60 million rats in the UK

0:23:510:23:55

and London has more than anywhere else.

0:23:550:23:59

Maggie is not happy,

0:23:590:24:00

now she knows what sort of rodent has taken up residence.

0:24:000:24:04

-It does appear like there is a nest in the loft...

-A rat's nest.

-Yeah.

0:24:040:24:09

-Oh, God! That's disgusting!

-In the lagging.

0:24:090:24:12

Obviously, the lagging's nice and warm for them

0:24:120:24:15

and you can see the holes where they've gone through it.

0:24:150:24:17

-So we'll put some...

-How do they get in there? How have they arrived?

0:24:170:24:21

On the outside of your property, you've got a very lovely bush

0:24:210:24:24

and it goes all the way up and they've climbed up there

0:24:240:24:26

and then there are holes in the brickwork where obviously cement and

0:24:260:24:29

everything like that's fallen out

0:24:290:24:31

and then there's where your fascia boards and your brickwork meet,

0:24:310:24:35

there was gaps, so they've climbed in through there.

0:24:350:24:39

Evicting the unwelcome guests in her loft isn't possible,

0:24:390:24:43

so Paul will have to dispatch them in a more direct manner.

0:24:430:24:47

Right. So these are the break back traps.

0:24:470:24:50

And they're called break backs because that's what they do.

0:24:500:24:53

Obviously, you put some bait on the circular centre bit

0:24:530:24:58

and that's...an instantaneous kill. No suffering involved.

0:24:580:25:02

We've also got some poison and we'll put maybe five,

0:25:020:25:06

maybe eight trays out with some of these as well

0:25:060:25:09

and then obviously, we'll come back and check them.

0:25:090:25:12

Paul needs to bait the traps, but he's not using cheese.

0:25:120:25:17

We're going to put a bit of peanut butter in there.

0:25:170:25:20

Peanut butter is a favourite treat for rats.

0:25:200:25:24

But those who succumb don't live to tell the tale.

0:25:240:25:27

That's that. I'll just put a key in and I'll show you.

0:25:280:25:32

It's very, very effective.

0:25:320:25:35

Paul thinks he knows how the scurrying critters

0:25:350:25:37

are moving around the house.

0:25:370:25:40

We find this a lot on properties where builders haven't sealed

0:25:400:25:45

holes up, so then that allows the rodents to get in

0:25:450:25:50

and then they've got the run of the whole of this property

0:25:500:25:53

and then access into the floorboard below.

0:25:530:25:56

He places the traps around the loft space...

0:25:560:26:00

Put one trap along here...

0:26:000:26:02

..followed by the poison trays.

0:26:020:26:04

Put one this side, we'll put another one over that side.

0:26:060:26:09

And then move back a little bit further

0:26:090:26:12

and maybe put one over there.

0:26:120:26:15

And he thinks he's found the entry point, too.

0:26:150:26:19

There are two quite large holes in what looks to be like an old chimney.

0:26:190:26:24

Obviously, you've got the big bush that

0:26:240:26:27

runs along the front of the property.

0:26:270:26:29

That's what's happening.

0:26:290:26:31

Paul's pretty certain the traps and poison will do the trick,

0:26:310:26:35

and it's just as well.

0:26:350:26:38

One female rat and her offspring in a year will produce 2,000 rats.

0:26:380:26:43

And before you know it, you are overrun.

0:26:430:26:46

But prevention is better than cure. Rats need shelter, water and food.

0:26:460:26:50

So, make sure you deny them all three.

0:26:500:26:53

Don't leave waste or pet food around. Keep food in containers.

0:26:530:26:58

And gardens free of debris, so they have fewer places to hide.

0:26:580:27:02

Paul will be back in a week or so to see the results of today's work.

0:27:020:27:06

If you start noticing any smells, any flies,

0:27:060:27:10

between now and when we come back, ring us, all right,

0:27:100:27:13

and we'll come back up and we'll start looking around for bodies.

0:27:130:27:17

-All right?

-All right, lovely.

-See you later. Cheers. Bye.

-Take care.

0:27:170:27:21

-Bye.

-Bye.

0:27:210:27:22

Mum and daughter are grateful to Paul

0:27:220:27:24

and looking forward to having the house to themselves again.

0:27:240:27:28

I want to be able to sleep in my own room.

0:27:280:27:32

He was really nice.

0:27:320:27:33

Any one of us could be in a situation such as we have

0:27:390:27:42

seen today, whether it be an emergency in our own home or falling

0:27:420:27:45

foul of rogue workmanship.

0:27:450:27:47

So, take note of my top tips and hopefully,

0:27:470:27:49

it will be home sweet home.

0:27:490:27:51

When the pest control firm returned to Maggie and Kate's,

0:27:530:27:56

there were no rats in the traps,

0:27:560:27:58

but the late night noises in the skirting have stopped.

0:27:580:28:02

Polly's phone didn't recover from its dunking,

0:28:020:28:05

but she did track down her brother's number from other family members.

0:28:050:28:10

And Claire's enjoying relaxing in Flo's Bar.

0:28:100:28:14

But her builder never returned our calls.

0:28:140:28:17

Tommy Walsh travels to West Yorkshire to meet Claire, whose legacy from her beloved nan was wasted after a friend agreed to build her extension but left it half-finished when he disappeared with her inheritance. And Maggie calls for help to deal with suspected squirrels squatting in her loft, but pest controller Paul can smell a rat.