Consumer programme. Matt Allwright joins the ranks of Britain's housing officers. In this episode Matt meets some young men whose home is a potential deathtrap.
Browse content similar to Episode 3. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The law says everyone has the right to a safe place to live.
We want to get your problem sorted out.
But for thousands of people across Britain,
the reality can be more hovel than home.
-That gulley pan was up to the top with
This is not right, this.
'In the battle between tenants and landlords,
'it's local housing officers who are on the front line.'
This is a really dangerous place to be living.
'I'm Matt Allwright, and I've been training hard,
'ready to join the ranks of the housing enforcers.'
The fire's in here, you're in there.
-You can't get out. 'Tackling problem properties.'
In the walls, I hear scratching.
It's a bit of a death trap.
'Dealing with the consequences of nightmare neighbours.'
-Urine running down the wall.
-'And everything in between.'
-We want to pass, nothing gets done.
-I'm so pleased for you.
-I feel like I've won the lottery.
-You're looking like a bad landlord.
'Coming up, I meet a lady whose passion for pests
'has pushed the neighbours and the council to take action.'
The rats were here before I came here.
She has put chicken carcasses out on the bird table.
Take care, Pat.
One family's complaints about poor housing conditions may have backfired.
That's really, really damp.
We just wanted the stuff to be fixed and we could carry on living here.
And poor plumbing leaves a tenant overflowing with disgust.
It is coming through into here, and it is all around there.
A solid puddle of stinky poo and I'm not dealing with it.
That's fair enough.
What do you do if you're living near someone who is making your life
an absolute nightmare?
The sensible option is to get your local authority involved
and let them sort it out.
In Lowestoft in Suffolk, housing officer Sandy Campbell
is on the case of a homeowner
whose feeding of wildlife in her back garden
has resulted in her neighbours' homes being infested with rats.
After repeated warnings from the council,
the case is now going to court.
So what we're applying for
is a criminally related Antisocial Behaviour Order.
I don't want the defendant to be fined,
I want her to stop causing the problem
that's so badly adversely affecting these neighbours.
I'll be meeting Sandy and the team from the council
at the woman's property a little later on.
'But first, I'm keen to find out from neighbour Nicky
'how the rat infestation has affected her and her family.'
Hello. Nicky? I'm Matt.
Over by the pampas grass there, we've got a huge nest,
like a big dome, where they all go in.
They're walking all around our garden.
-So you see these regularly, do you?
-Yeah, they come out during the day,
we've got plenty of pictures with them walking around the garden.
And we've got holes all along the fence.
-So these are coming from next door?
-We know that for certain?
Yeah, because she has put chicken carcasses out on the bird table.
She thinks she's doing good by feeding the birds.
Well, it sounds like the neighbour, Patricia Ann Symonds,
is running some kind of restaurant for rats. If that's not bad enough,
the infestation is having a serious impact on Nicky's kids.
This is my son's room,
he has actually been sleeping on the floor in our room
because he's worried about the rats getting in
and under the bed.
He don't feel safe in his home any more.
-It's not great, growing up with that fear already there.
It's the sort of thing you keep with you for a while, isn't it?
Yeah, I mean, he's nearly ten,
and since he's been here that's all he's known.
You've always got that fear
that there are going to be rats on the doorstep.
Yeah. It's annoying that you've got a garden
and you can't use it.
-Are you all right?
Maybe this time, she will listen.
She will listen.
It's no wonder Nicky's so upset -
not only are her kids terrified,
but rats can spread all sorts of dangerous bugs.
Things are now so bad, she's considering selling up.
It's a shame that you should have to think about moving.
Yeah, just through somebody. Cos it's a lovely road.
I mean, we even asked the council to buy our house,
but whether they would, I don't know.
Last straw with it, I think.
It's clear that Nicky and her family are really suffering here,
but they're not on their own.
On the other side of the infested property is Jane.
-You are convinced that that's where they're coming from?
What makes you so convinced?
I've actually witnessed next door putting food out in the gardens,
and we've spoke to her numerous times, you know,
"Can you stop putting it down?"
But she just can't see that she's causing the problem.
Show me your rat holes.
Rat holes, welcome to my world.
We'll shut the door,
cos I'm learning to do that in this neighbourhood.
-As you can see, they're down there.
-So that's right under the patio?
Yeah, as you can probably see, my patio has collapsed.
Oh, my God, look!
So they go right underneath that, totally undermine it.
If you look at that end, as you can see, and here, they just...
So is that where they are?
Are they under there now, do you think? Hiding away.
I don't know about that.
Oi, get out, come and eat this poison.
'It's looking pretty bad for the neighbours on both sides.
'The question now is,
'will being served with a criminal Antisocial Behaviour Order
'stop Patricia from her feeding activity?
'Before Sandy and the team arrive to inspect the property again,
'Patricia has agreed to meet with me.'
What your neighbours are saying,
and other people are saying, is you're putting food out
and that is encouraging rats to come in to your back garden.
OK, so I put food out to feed the birds,
but it's not on the ground, as they have insisted.
As far as I'm concerned, the rats were here before I came here.
You know, they just don't appear out of nowhere, Matt.
'Well, that might be true, but putting food out can't help.
'Despite Patricia not having the tidiest back garden,
'it's not the rat run I might have been led to expect.'
What we haven't got here is any food that I can see.
No, you can have a look, and you can see.
And I can't see any rats, OK?
-So I'm not walking in here and seeing rats scatter.
-How often do you see rats in your back garden, Pat?
I haven't. I haven't seen one
for a long, long while.
But it's true, Matt, I'm not out here that often.
'Well, Pat might not be,
'but Nicky's kids haven't been able to play outside for months.
'However, Pat's adamant that it's not her fault.'
'Coming up, council officers find some damning evidence.'
There's fresh rat droppings down here,
so we're going to need to bait up the back garden.
In St Helens, Merseyside housing officer Pam Coppock,
and her colleague Chrissy Nevitt are investigating a complaint.
We're going to have a look at one of the houses
that appear to have issues about possible sewage
and blockages in the main sewer.
We can have a general look around the area
and have a look around the house and see what's going on, really.
It's Pam's job to assess any hazards in the property,
using the Housing Health And Safety Rating System.
It sounds like tenant Dave has plenty to complain about.
Well, the electrics, for a start, keep shorting
and going out
and, if it happens on a night, me freezer defrosts.
Plus the drainage round there,
I have been complaining about since December,
it's all just been flooded,
and it's all blocked up with, well, poo.
I'm not going to be the one doing it
when the landlord's promised to do it, you know?
Dave isn't alone.
Over half of the 7,000 rental properties in St Helens
would fail what's known as the Decent Home Standard
applied to council-owned properties.
Let's hope this isn't another one.
Hello, is it David? Hi, David.
-Is it all right if we come in?
-Thank you very much.
Just to explain why I'm here and what happens,
when we receive a complaint,
and we know there's a private tenant in the house,
we have a statutory duty
to come out and do an inspection, OK?
That inspection includes
any risks that you might be aware of
that might compromise your health, safety or welfare.
You've got that sewer out there, no lights working,
and the lights keep tripping as well
and I have to go down there in the dark and flip the trip switch,
I just don't like electricity.
No, I don't blame you.
Do you know what's gone on, do you know who the new tenant is...
-The new owner, do you know anything?
It seems the identity of the landlord is a mystery,
so Pam will need to track him down.
But first, there's the matter of Dave's unusual flatmate.
-Have you really got mice?
-I've called him Kaiser,
cos he disappears like that,
and he's got a funny back leg.
His back leg's a bit wonky
so I don't want to kill it or catch it.
I just leave it. He doesn't like chocolate,
so I give it bit of cheese.
You really don't need to encourage it!
If you put it in a cage and call it a pet, that's different,
but if you let it run around, ten-to-one it'll be 600 mice
at the end of the year.
If you see one mouse, they're not on their own, you know.
This one is, though, and I even heard it digging in.
It took, like, three days to scratch its way through
from under the stairs.
-Is that where it's come from?
Mm, it sounds like Kaiser the mouse
has met very little resistance on this invasion,
and even got collaborator Dave to serve up his favourite meals.
I'm just going to have look under the stairs
to see if I can find any holes
or any points where the mice
or any other pests can get into.
There's a little bit of rubble,
and I think he might be dropping in through there,
cos there's some plaster and concrete on the floor.
Go on, what do you feed him?
A little cheese, he likes bits of toast with cheese on,
and ends of pizzas and that, he finishes them.
Don't like chocolate, though.
Everyone told me mice like chocolate.
It's good chocolate, nice, dark Belgian chocolate.
He won't touch it.
He's probably feeding a nest-full, you know that, don't you?
It's not good.
I'm sure Kaiser the mouse enjoys a fine and varied menu,
but if the tenant is found to be causing the infestation,
they could be liable for pest-control costs,
so encouraging him probably isn't a good idea, Dave!
You can't have mice running around, it's not good.
Dave's hungry housemate is just one thing
on a list that also includes a broken oven and dodgy electrics.
As soon as you open it, this doesn't work.
Smoke, it's burning, whatever it is,
the smoke keeps setting the smoke alarm off.
We'll be finding out later on
that these could be the least of Dave's problems.
It was just like a porridge,
-big pudding of
Back in Lowestoft,
Patricia leaves food out for the wildlife in her garden,
but refuses to believe it's attracting rats.
As far as I'm concerned, the rats were here before I came here.
Following years of complaints from her neighbours,
she's been given a criminal Antisocial Behaviour Order,
and now housing officer Sandy Campbell is here
with the council pest controller
to try to deal with the rat infestation once and for all.
Obviously I will be coming on the land,
the warrant is with private-sector housing,
I'll come on the land with you.
I want it dealt with as sensitively as possible.
The whole point is we eradicate the rat problem
and make as big of a headway into that as we can.
I spoke to Pat earlier on.
I went in there and I said, "Let's have a look,"
and she showed me the back garden. I couldn't see any rats,
I couldn't see any evidence of food.
Now, it may be that she's had a tidy up
because she knows everyone's coming today.
I've been visiting this property so much.
I'm seeing rat holes open, rat holes closed,
and shovelling earth over them doesn't get rid of them.
'As this issue seems to have come to a head,
'Patricia has requested that the police are present.
'But Sandy's known Patricia for five years
'and has her best interests at heart.'
I will still try and deal with this in the most sensitive manner.
I'm still making choices that are actually benefiting her
and trying to make the situation as easy as possible.
'Well, Sandy's certainly right
'about the need to get this problem sorted,
'for everybody's sake.
'Pest controller Steve is going to lay some new traps
'and, being an expert, it's not long before he spots the classic signs
'that kind of passed me by.'
'Don't forget, I am a trainee.'
Faeces. And smearing, as they come over.
That brown mark is as they come round...
So where would they be right now, then?
Rats are nocturnal.
Generally you would find them
at dusk and sunrise, peak activity,
but generally that would be at night that they would be active.
You've got gnawing there, you see.
There is gnawing there, Steve,
and also this earth has been relatively freshly disturbed.
There are rat holes here, under this earth which has been kicked over.
It looks like a chicken bone in that corner.
There are certainly plenty of signs that rats are here,
and you can't ignore that.
'Holes are one thing,
'but there's another key sign
'that the rats are still active in these gardens.'
There's fresh rat droppings down here...
..so we're going to need to bait up the back garden.
Steve, what's your verdict?
Obviously she hasn't been feeding here for a while,
probably because she knew this was happening,
but there's been a lot of feeding going on
and that's the problem.
That's basically why we've reached this point today -
you're not going to get the bait take
as long as the food keeps going down.
There are different ways to feed animals and feed cats
in your own home
without leaving it out there
to cause an attraction for rats.
-That's what I don't...
That's the bit I still can't get my head around.
I think the lady thinks, if she stops feeding the animals outside,
in some way they may starve.
They won't. I have been here at length
and spoken to her about how she could continue feeding the birds
whilst not attracting the rats,
and none of that has ever been put in place.
She has not wanted any intervention, she's very private,
but unfortunately that privacy has impacted very badly
on the neighbours.
What I have done, I have put three boxes in your front garden.
Don't feed the birds,
because what we want to do is get the rats in the boxes
to get this situation under control.
I'm hardly ever feeding the birds.
Nope, but we'll be coming back, probably in about ten days.
Well, hopefully people will be satisfied then.
Well, I hope so too, Pat.
Find out later if the plan works.
Here in Britain you only have to look out of the window
to work out why so many of the calls that come into housing departments
concern damp homes.
Sometimes it's not always obvious
how the water's getting in.
That's when you need skill and experience -
the skill and experience I don't have.
In Tendring Council in Essex,
Housing officers Ian and Grant
are off to see a family who believe their health is being affected
by their damp home.
This came out of housing allocations, didn't it, this one?
Well, it says here, "Property in disrepair,
"ongoing problem with damp and mould issues.
"Glen from allocations visited the property in December
"and told her to contact us."
Damp affects almost 1 million properties across the UK,
so it's not surprising it's one of the most common calls
housing officers get.
-It's here, mate.
-Whoa, yeah. Well done.
Looks like it's this little bad boy.
Hello. Tendering District Council.
One of our housing allocation officers came to see you
back in December, is that right?
That's right. We've got damp, mould, virtually everywhere,
-near enough everywhere in the house.
And it's affecting my partner's and my son's health.
-He's severely asthmatic.
I'm affected a lot more in the winter
because, obviously, our roof leaks as well,
and as you'll see up the stairs.
You still got a roof leak, have you?
Well, the guy said...
The landlord said he fixed it
and sent someone to fix it, but the wall's still damp.
You can see new patches where new damp has come.
-Right, OK. Do you want to sort of run us through?
-Where do we start?
-You start knocking on the wall...
Areas of blown plaster.
There's all blown plaster all the way.
That's all right, I think, that bit.
Yeah, that sounds a bit more...
It's all... Pretty much all this whole section here.
This is where you can see it's starting to come damp again.
Even my relatively untrained eye
can see that the damp marks on the walls
show there has been a major leak.
But as a housing officer,
I'm starting to learn
everything isn't always as it seems.
IAN: Do you know when this was painted outside?
They did paint it...last year.
They came and put a little bit of filler in there.
-Well, that's interesting to hear.
Where did they fill it, did they fill it at the back here?
Pretty much 90% of the house they filled.
Right, OK, because that tells me again
that, potentially, because this is solid...
I don't know if you can see these lines?
They're like blocks.
Now, probably what's happened is the water's sheeted against it.
Where the cracks are, the water gets behind it,
it has seeped into the structure.
You have then got a situation where you paint that structure.
-It's sealed the water in...
-So what's the water going to do?
-That's it, it's got nowhere to go.
And it's going to go one way.
It's starting to look like
the landlord has made repairs to the outside walls,
but that these may have trapped the damp inside.
It also looks like the damp could be affecting the family's health.
-Is that your boy?
-That's me stepson.
In that back room. How old is he?
He's 13, he's got asthma the same as me.
And in the winter, it gets on his chest
and it gets on my chest a bit as well. He gets very wheezy.
Nobody knows for certain
if living in a damp house can cause asthma,
but experts are agreed that the mould that grows in damp
produces spores that can make it worse.
The dampness in the house, it hasn't been fixed.
He's done a couple of bits of work, the problem still hasn't been fixed,
and it is just... It's an ongoing problem
and it's not great for my kids or my partner.
Their health is deteriorating
because of the mould and the dampness is in the house.
Cor, that's really, really damp, innit?
You move your hand and it just... You got covered in paint.
'In the winter, I hate it.
'I hate it so much.'
It's so cold, and the expense to try and warm that house up...
You wouldn't believe me if I told you!
GRANT: Crikey, yeah.
-The white stuff isn't actually mould,
that's actually salt.
So when the water comes through the brick work,
it brings salts out of the brick with it as well,
and that's the white stuff you can see.
So it's not going to be harmful to your health, just wipe it off.
The tenants in this house are doing what they can
to keep the mould at bay.
But the salt coming through the walls is another clue
that the problem may not be a current leak.
Have you actually seen water on there or has it just appeared?
No, it's just appeared from the damp...
It could be historic, if they've done those flashings,
it could be what's in the structure coming out.
Now, I've been to enough damp houses by now
to know that there is one more check that needs to be done.
And unfortunately for Ian, it involves a ladder.
I have gone up on ladders before. It has been known,
but I don't relish the prospect, I have to say.
It's not something I enjoy doing.
-We'll stitch you up, don't worry.
Coming up, the cause of the damp is confirmed,
but tenants Chris and Elizabeth discover
that it only makes their problems worse.
I received a letter
saying I have to vacate within a month.
It's the job of housing officers up and down the UK
to defend your right to a decent place to live.
-You're not sleeping here, are you?
-Oh, no, no, no.
'I'm going to be working alongside the men and women who do just that.
'It is just room after room of devastation.'
It's just every room you go in.
'I'm hitting the streets, I'm learning on the job...'
That is just soaking up all the water
and bringing it straight into the house.
'..to find out what it takes to make your house'
is fit to be called a home.
People here are at risk.
I'm not happy about this property.
Your tenant is still living here and is still paying her rent.
We just wanted the stuff to be fixed so we could carry on living here.
Next, I'm heading to the town of Smethwick in the West Midlands
to join housing Hercules Roy Nicholls
en route to yet another problem property.
It's a complaint from the occupants,
who basically have said that the landlord...
They've asked the landlord on numerous occasions
to carry out some repair work,
and basically he's not doing anything at all for them.
'Since house prices soared,
'this area has seen a huge surge in the number of landlords
'converting homes into bedsits.
'Although they may be cheap,
'this way of living can be far from cheerful,
'as Roy and I are about to discover.'
So one of the problems that you can have, if you've got bedsits,
is that sometimes the gas meter or the electricity meter
is in one person's room.
And when you've got that, of course,
it means that if that person is out,
when the meter runs out,
everybody else in the house is without a supply.
So that is a problem.
'All we have to do now is hunt down the hidden gas meter,
'which is not necessarily as simple as it might seem.'
It's like hide-and-seek, this is.
There seem to be quite a lot of extension leads across the floor,
which would make me think
that there maybe aren't enough plug sockets.
Use your eyes, Matt.
Everything that we do is visual.
So it's whatever we see.
So here's your gas meter.
'OK, not only is the meter in a bedroom behind a lockable door,
'it's also buried deeper than King Solomon's mines.
'And I've got a theory as to why no-one else can get access.'
So when he's away, the gas runs out,
nobody else in here gets gas...
You know, they haven't got anything - no hot water, no heating, nothing.
So, again, it's a situation
where it's in a room, and it's in a locked room.
And they haven't got access to it.
They can't get in to give themselves a bath or a shower
or just heat the house.
But even more hazardous than the hidden gas meter
are a whole host of fire risks
spotted by eagle-eyed Roy.
Any door that comes onto the escape route
must be able to shut from any angle on its own.
You can't rely on somebody shutting the door
if there's a fire in the place.
You look here...
That closes the door.
The problem is that is not strong enough.
It's a heavy door -
one chain isn't going to be sufficient
to shut that door into the frame.
'And there's worse to come
'when we spot-check the smoke alarms.'
Yeah, that doesn't work.
And yet there's a green light on it.
The mains, which is on the base, is showing that it's connected,
but because it's damaged, as you've just said,
you press it, and it isn't working.
So even though we've got - or we think we've got - detection,
That's not the only room where the smoke alarms are out of action.
That's two out of two, and as I said, they're all linked.
So I would think, if we tested every one on this circuit,
I wouldn't expect one to work on this.
-Not a sound.
-Not a sound,
and this is the most likely source of a fire in the house, isn't it?
The kitchen's got to be your top risk.
Beyond the blatant fire-safety hazards,
Roy and I also uncover a host of serious sanitary problems.
You've got what looks like an open drain down there
in this really unpleasant wet room
that they've created.
So that means... yes, the water goes down there,
but anything that happens to be in your drain
-can come back into this room as well.
I mean, I wouldn't want to come and have a shower in here.
The tenants sharing this bedsit
certainly aren't living a life of luxury,
but the problems here are far more than just cosmetic.
It's got kind of covered over with a paper thing -
is that the workings of the...?
-That just is wrong, isn't it?
That's wrong on so many levels.
'Later on, we'll meet tenant Wayne,
'and Roy's determined to make his home a better place.'
You know what they call him in the office?
They call him the Rottweiler.
'Back in St Helens, housing officer Pam
'is inspecting a property with a plethora of problems -
'including ravenous rodents...'
What do you feed him?
He doesn't like chocolate but a little cheese and that.
You really don't need to encourage it!
'..and dodgy electrics.'
As soon as you open it, this doesn't work.
Smoke, just... It's burning, whatever is burning,
that keeps setting the smoke alarm off.
'But there's an even more pressing issue,
'in the form of tenant Dave's drains.'
When it rains, right, it's coming up here,
it's coming through into here, and it's all round there,
a solid puddle of stinky poo. And I'm not dealing with it.
It's actually leaked into the main rainwater gully, hasn't it?
I unblocked some of it myself at first,
-and me mates are like,
-don't touch it, like,
"get them to do it."
-And it was, it was all
It's quite interesting - you've got one, two, three...
..four, five, six feed-ins on one drain.
It's just going to cause everything to rise up.
Leaving sewage and drainage defects like that is...
Well, it's unforgiveable, really.
It should have been tended to,
but the house has been up for sale
and there is a little bit of problem, contentiousness,
with who the actual owner is,
so I think it's got lost in the sale.
Worried about the waste,
Pam has put a call in
to St Helen's resident sheriff of everything smelly -
Nothing is too gruesome for Glyn.
Hiya, Glyn, you all right?
Have you come to see our sewage puddle?
-We've got a nice bit of sewage for you.
I don't know why it's coming up there,
because that's...rain water.
First things first, they'll need to check the flow.
I think it's the sink, and I'm going to try the bath now.
Leave that one upstairs running for a minute, please.
-The cold water.
-Right, you can turn it off now.
Ooh, that's no good, is it?
Luckily, Glen soon gets to the bottom of the blockage -
armed with a very useful stick
and what sounds like his own personal bleeper.
-That gulley pan there was up to the top with leaves and
-It was just like a porridge, a big pudding of
-Yeah, that's what I
to be honest with you, I'm not cleaning that up.
The landlord's... They're the one to do that.
As I say, I've just done that now, the drain's unblocked -
if you want to chase your landlord up, by all means,
-but I've got down there now and it's not even my
Well, fair enough, no-one asked you to,
but I'm not cleaning out that.
Anyway, I'm done, I'll see you later.
Because it looks like
Glyn's cleared it out of the gulley,
fingers crossed, that'll be the end of it.
If it's not, you phone me straightaway
and I get back on to the landlord for you.
But, in the meantime, when I do a notice on the landlord
for all the faults that we've seen today,
that's going to be included to be cleaned up.
Pam and the team will now attempt to track down the landlord
and advise them to sort out the issues
or face a hefty fine.
It's one of those things where it's a rented property
so it's not attention to detail, it's just rented out.
And also, just because you're renting a property
doesn't mean that you can live in absolutely anything,
you've still got a standard,
And that's what the Housing Act and the Housing Act Health And Safety Rating System does -
it ensures the tenant has a minimum standard of accommodation.
Coming up, we find out what happened to Dave's dirty drains.
Back in Tendring, housing officers Ian and Grant
are out to discover why Chris and Elizabeth's home is damp.
The dampness in the house,
it hasn't been fixed.
It's an ongoing problem
and it's not great for the kids or my partner.
Today, our damp-finding duo are on their way back,
this time equipped with a ladder for some final checks.
And Ian is feeling nervous.
-I'm not looking forward to going in the
-loft. I hate it.
You're going up, mate, I tell you.
-You're going up first.
I'm behind you, so you'll be all right.
Well, at least I'll have something large and spongy
to break my fall, won't I?
The landlord had recently carried out extensive work
to both the walls and roof of the property,
but unwanted water still seems to be seeping in to the house.
Grant and Ian won't rest until they have their answer.
Come on, then, supersonic.
Let's have a look, then.
I hate ladders...
-Look at him...
If you look along the top there,
you'll just see what I think are sort of a few crumbly, soft reds.
I reckon it's historic.
You going up a ladder is like you doing your typewriting at work -
one foot at a time, innit?
The roof inspection proves to Grant and Ian
the repairs are good
and no more water is getting into the property,
which means there can only be one cause of the problem.
Looking at this, we've got cracking against the exterior here,
which obviously has allowed penetrating damp,
rain ingress into the structure.
This has now, well, sort of been filled
and it's painted,
so it's sealing in any moisture that was in the structure.
Plaster and render will have to come off, brickwork treated, dried out,
and then re-rendered and set.
But it's ideal now, cos the summer weather's coming
so we can get it dried right out.
It looks like the landlord's done everything he can
to stop more water coming into the property.
But it's not solved the problem,
and the extra work the landlord needs to do
means very bad news for Chris and Elizabeth.
Since contacting the health environment,
they have contacted my landlord
and we had the visit on the Tuesday and the Wednesday.
On the Thursday, I received a letter
from my estate agent,
saying that I have to vacate within a month.
The family's tenancy is up for renewal
and the nature of the building work that needs to be done
means the landlord's decided not to let them renew their contract,
so the house can be empty while he carries out these vital jobs.
Although he's entirely within his rights to do so,
of course this will have consequences for the family.
The kids may have to change schools, which is going to disrupt them.
Especially with my oldest, Kieran, he's autistic and ADHD.
-He doesn't like change.
-He don't like changes.
Wow! Careful, young lady...
With the council's help, they now have just a few weeks
before they have to find a new home.
They possibly might put us in a B&B
or sheltered accommodation,
or temporary accommodation.
But I don't want to do that, cos it's not fair on my children.
It disrupts everything in the household, with routine,
and with my older son I have to have a routine,
because it just disrupts him...
and he just don't like changes,
and that's when he kicks off.
Come back later,
when we'll discover what happens
to this family who are facing homelessness.
'Next, it's back to Smethwick in the West Midlands,
'where I'm on duty with housing officer Roy Nicholls,
'responding to tenant complaints about a dangerously dodgy bedsit.'
-It's got kind of covered over with a paper thing, hasn't it?
That's wrong on so many levels.
'Tenants here say the landlord has refused to address the issues,
'which include a top-up gas meter they can't access.'
You know, no hot water, no heating. They haven't got anything.
'During our inspection, we've also discovered
'that none of home's fire-detection systems seem to working.'
Here we go. They've all got a hole in them in the same place.
-Has someone disabled them?
That is a possibility on this one.
If they keep going off in different people's rooms
and they keep doing that...
They stick a screwdriver through the front of it.
-And disable it.
'With tenants clearly smoking in the house,
'the chances of a fire starting is significantly increased.
'But, according to Wayne Healy, who's lived here for over a year,
'the landlord couldn't care less.'
You know, it's cold in here,
and the landlord is not cooperative
in any way whatsoever.
Any faults, it's all our faults.
He doesn't take responsibility for anything.
He's bringing me down, literally,
and I've been putting up with this for over a year now.
Yeah, because you don't really know
how long you're going to be able to be here.
No. I'm trying to move, but it's not that easy,
because it's just lack of money.
I've just been stuck here, going through it all.
With Roy, I feel like I'm getting very close to the source,
to the oracle, the source of all wisdom.
He's got such a lot of experience.
His action, could, in a worst-case scenario,
save the life of five, possibly eight, people.
We don't know how many are living there.
But it's very real results,
and could make a very real difference to people's lives.
Listen, Wayne, thank you for letting us in
and letting us have a look round.
-You know you've got the best guy you can have with Roy, don't you?
-Yeah, Roy has helped out a lot.
Do you know what they call him in the office?
-I'm going to find out now, aren't I?
-They call him the Rottweiler.
Rottweiler! I would've called him the Pit Bull.
He is too big for a pit bull.
Having "doggedly" carried out his inspection - ugh! -
Roy the Rottweiler can now start barking at this landlord
to get his bedsit in shape, or risk a serious fine.
I will tell him that there is going to be a schedule of works coming,
but I'm going to see if I can have a meet with him.
I'll try and mediate between the two
and see if we can get this sorted in one way or the other, OK?
-Is that all right?
-That's fine, thank you.
The good news is that since our visit
the council have served a Hazard Awareness Notice
on the property
to fix all the problems we discovered on our inspection.
Roy and his team are working closely with the landlord
to make sure he complies.
I've seen enough housing cases now to realise that no two are the same,
and I'm also starting to realise that,
no matter how much housing law I learn,
sometimes the best way to get a result
is to try and get everyone to use a bit of common sense.
At Suffolk Coastal Council,
there isn't much that housing officer Theresa Howarth
hasn't seen in her 20 years in the business.
But even for the most experienced housing officer,
every case presents its own unique set of circumstances.
We're going to a rented property now
where the tenant has lived in the property, I believe,
for about 70 years, and is in her 90s.
At some point in the past, her husband built a lean-to porch,
and, unfortunately, this porch structure
is now in a very poor state of repair.
The home's long-term tenant
is 96-year-old Olive Wilson.
I have lived in this house ever since I married.
That was a long, long time ago.
This dispute situation
is causing a lot of distress to her,
and I understand that,
but sometimes people's expectations
of what the council can actually deliver
are greater than what we can.
To complicate matters,
Olive's landlady isn't your typical property tycoon.
She's also in her 90s,
so she's responsible for a property
and really hasn't got the ability
to carry out the management that's required.
To help find an amicable resolution to this long-running feud,
Theresa's enlisted the aid of local councillor Tony Cooper.
Hello, Mrs Wilson?
-Yes, I'm Theresa Howarth.
We met before, some months ago. And you know Tony, don't you?
This is one...
Yes, I know you have got a problem there.
-And that's how my carpet all gets wet.
Clearly, water is getting in.
So, the reason this structure was put up in the first place was...
This, at the time, was the only toilet,
so, rather than come outside
in the wet and the cold,
they built this structure to give them a dry route to the WC.
Now, probably about 25 years ago or so,
the council gave a grant
to put an internal bathroom in the property.
So, because that's not the only toilet,
this structure is less critical to us than it would have been in the past.
Olive's problem-porch may be redundant,
but simply tearing it down isn't that straightforward.
If they demolished it, they would have to,
as part of the demolition,
re-route the gas pipe, because it's actually fixed to this structure
and not to the wall.
So they would have a more major job to do than just take it down.
This isn't a very nice way for an elderly lady to live her life.
I think she finds it really distressing
that the water is coming in.
Every time she tries to open the door,
it sticks and it's in danger of falling apart.
It's really not something that you would want her to put up with.
It is a worry to a certain extent,
but there's nothing I can do about it.
The best the council can do for me
is to get this all sorted out
so that I don't have any rain coming in
and my carpets don't get wet.
Because carpets are not things you buy every week.
But unfortunately for Olive,
resolving this problem isn't simple.
If this porch was, as history seems to suggest,
put up by the tenant,
then repair of it may be the tenant's responsibility,
and that's the issue that is in contention.
So, yes, bit of a problem one, really.
Although it seems Olive is liable for the work,
Theresa can still let her landlord, also a widow in her 90s,
know what problems her tenant's having.
I'm just taking some photos, Mrs Wilson.
-I'm taking some photos.
-Not of me?
-No, not of you, dear!
No, don't worry!
These snaps will be sent to the landlady and her family.
So, hopefully, these pictures will tell a story,
so they can envisage exactly what Mrs Wilson
is having to put up with,
and hopefully that will help them understand
that it's something that just can't be left
to go on for ever.
So, that's my aim.
-Cold hands, warm heart.
Absolutely, cold hands and warm heart.
-Bye, Olive, take care, dear.
-Bye, thank you.
As it was Olive's late husband who built the porch,
the structure isn't the responsibility of the landlord.
For housing officers up and down the UK,
the law is most often a last resort.
We're not all about enforcement,
we're about trying to solve problems for people,
and that's primarily why I like my job.
You come along and you have a problem,
you need to find a solution, and, wherever possible,
we do that without resorting to the law.
Another housing officer who's mediated between landlord and tenant
is Pam in St Helens.
She discovered maintenance in Dave's home had stopped
because of a legal dispute the landlord found himself in.
This is now resolved
and Dave's drains have been cleaned.
I just hope he's stopped feeding Kaiser the mouse.
In Tendering, Elizabeth and Chris were facing homelessness
after their landlord decided not to renew their tenancy
so he could fix a damp problem.
Happily, the family has found a nice new home nearby
and have settled into a damp-free life.
Sandy Campbell's ongoing case
involving Patricia Ann-Symonds attracting rats into her garden
seems at last to be improving.
Ah, dead rat.
Pest controller Steve Warne went back to Pat's garden
and, lo and behold, his traps seem to be doing the job,
although it remains to be seen
if Pat will uphold her side of the bargain.
Hello, young man.
We've checked your garden
and there had been take of bait
in two of the boxes by rats.
We found a dead rat this time, so that all looks good.
-OK, thanks very much.
For neighbours Jane, Nicky, and the kids,
the future is suddenly looking a little bit brighter.
Hopefully, it's all starting to get a bit better.
And hopefully we'll be able to use my garden in the summer holiday.
So, especially for the kids, it will be nice for them.
At least it's getting sorted now.
That's it for today.
Join me next time on the front line
with Britain's housing officers.
In this episode Matt meets a woman who has been given a criminal antisocial behaviour order for feeding rats, a man who is given a warning for feeding mice and some young men whose home is a potential deathtrap.