Episode 4 The Housing Enforcers


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Episode 4

Consumer programme. Matt Allwright joins the ranks of Britain's housing officers. In this episode Matt meets a young mum who is frightened to cook for her kids.


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Transcript


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The law says everyone has the right to a safe place to live.

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We want to get your problem sorted out.

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But for thousands of people across Britain,

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the reality can be more hovel than home.

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-That gulley pan was up to the top with

-BLEEP!

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This is not right, this.

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In the battle between tenants and landlords,

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it's local housing officers who are on the front line.

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This is a really dangerous place to be living.

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'I'm Matt Allwright and I've been training hard,

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'ready to join the ranks of these housing enforcers.'

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-The fire's in here, you're in there.

-Yes.

-You can't get out.

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'Tackling problem properties.'

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In the walls, I hear scratching.

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It's a bit of a death trap.

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'Dealing with the consequences of nightmare neighbours.'

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Urine running down the wall.

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'And everything in between.'

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Months pass and nothing gets done.

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-I'm so pleased for you.

-I feel like I've won the Lottery.

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You're looking like a bad landlord.

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Today, I'm getting to the bottom of a young mum's problems.

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It was really cold in there, we all had to wear coats.

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-That's hard.

-It is, very hard.

-When they're that little.

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How did that happen, how did you let that slip?

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Housing officer Beccy has a re-homing mission on her hands.

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Because you've got mobility issues, you're struggling with the stairs.

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Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.

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And we're on a mission to stop the rot.

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They've been unhappy for some time and it's where the damp problem's

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coming from that really needs addressing.

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They say an English person's home is their castle,

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but if it's a rented castle,

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then it falls under the watchful eye of our housing officers.

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They're there to make sure that a growing army of private landlords

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stick to the rules and make sure

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their properties meet some pretty basic safety standards.

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We're on our way to Sleaford in Lincolnshire to visit a young mum

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who says her landlord is letting the most vital of those standards slip.

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Jade Horne has been having major problems

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with the gas appliances in her rented flat.

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It started with my boiler being faulty.

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I contacted the landlord saying that the pilot light didn't work

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and I had no hot water, I had no central-heating.

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I said to him about a year ago that the oven didn't work.

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Although the boiler's since been fixed,

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Jade still has no working oven.

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Do you want to see how I turn it on?

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It's now started to click,

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so that means only the gas is coming through.

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There's no flame coming through.

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Jade's landlord has been fined £2,000

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for not having an up-to-date gas safety certificate

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and she still hasn't got the right paperwork.

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Without it, the oven's gas supply should have been capped

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to ensure Jade and her kids don't come to any harm.

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It's a bit of a death trap,

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which will then cause health problems for me and my children.

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I just feel really distressed with him at the minute.

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Very stressful.

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Carbon monoxide can come from almost any gas appliance,

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even if there's a minor fault.

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With symptoms including nausea and dizziness.

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Jade's case needs investigating

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and it's down to housing officer Chris Gallimore to do the job.

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I, meanwhile, am along for the ride.

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Talk to me about gas safety certificates.

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When do they come onto your radar?

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It's normally a tenant will make a complaint to us

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and say they've got a gas certificate, but it's out of date

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and the landlord hasn't got somebody in to get the gas test done again.

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So this is like Landlord 101.

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This is the prime requirement, before you get anyone in

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-or do anything else, that's a piece of paper you should have.

-Yep.

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'Around 200 people are poisoned by carbon monoxide

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'or natural gas leaks each year.

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'No certificate means the oven is illegal and potentially dangerous.

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'And it's the landlord's duty to get it sorted.'

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It started off with the boiler not working.

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I asked him to get it fixed.

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He still wasn't doing anything.

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And it's taken for him to go to court

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to then get the boiler sorted.

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But the oven is still faulty.

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At the moment, I can't cook a hot meal for my children

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because I still haven't got an oven.

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So, what was happening with the boiler?

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Was it not working at all, or was it intermittent?

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The hot water wouldn't come on.

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I'd gone about three months without any gas, heating or hot water.

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I had to go down to my mum's to wash my kids.

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To wash up, I had to boil the kettle.

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It was really cold in here.

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We all had to wear coats and wrap up in blankets.

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-That's hard.

-It is.

-When they're that little,

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trying to explain to them why they're cold.

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'This is not an ideal situation for anyone,

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'but especially a young mum with kids.

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'To make matters worse,

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'Jade's landlord also claims she's in rent arrears.

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'She denies this.'

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And so, those rent arrears, how much is that up to now?

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He's now saying that it's over £1,000.

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What do you want to happen next?

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I just want an oven to cook my kids' food in and that's it.

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So, Chris...this is complicated, isn't it?

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Because you've got two sides to this story, really,

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and it's kind of one word against the other.

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Primarily, what I'm looking at are the housing issues

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and the safety of the tenant.

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Arrears, rent, is another issue.

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OK, it is an issue, but the primary issue

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is that the property doesn't reach the standards that it should do.

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-So, he's been to court, there's been a fine?

-Yep.

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And still you haven't got the documentation

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to prove that this is gas safe.

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We have been provided with a gas safety certificate,

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but the date on it, it's from 2013.

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-We know that this cooker has not been safe for over a year.

-Yep.

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And we can also assume

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that the boiler that's stated on here as safe to use isn't

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-because this is over 12 months.

-Right.

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So basically, those appliances aren't safe to use.

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They have to look at it as a worst case.

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If there was an incident in this property related to the gas

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where there was an explosion or a carbon monoxide leak,

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it potentially could have fatal consequences,

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which would come back on the landlord then.

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'Well, if he doesn't respond to the council's latest enforcement notice,

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'Jade's landlord could be looking at another court appearance

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'and another hefty fine.

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'I'll be getting his side of the story a bit later on.'

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How did that happen? How did you let that slip?

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Today, we're in Ramsgate in Kent.

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Tenant/landlord relationships can be difficult.

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When they break down, they can leave a landlord with no choice

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but to serve an eviction notice.

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These evictions put a strain on the team at Thanet Council.

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Housing officer Beccy Pavlou has a case like this to deal with today

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and she's anxious to find out exactly what the problem is.

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Today, we're going to see a gentleman

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who has received a notice to quit from his landlord.

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Concerns have been raised that the property in question

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has become cluttered and is now so bad

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that it's becoming a health and safety risk.

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From what Social Services have advised me,

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I think it could be that maybe he's struggling

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to remove rubbish from the property

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and perhaps it's just a build-up, an accumulation of those things.

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I've spoken to him on the phone a few times,

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but I've not met him face-to-face or seen the property yet.

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The tenant is Ray Twyman.

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He's living in chaotic conditions on the top floor of this house,

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but he says he's not a hoarder.

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I've let the rubbish collect up

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because I can't get it down the stairs

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because of my disability issues.

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The paranoia of falling down the stairs

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when I'm carrying objects down the stairs.

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I do not want to stay in this flat.

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As soon as the council sort me out, I'll be happy.

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Five years ago, when he first moved in,

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things were very different.

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A former Army serviceman, Ray was a picture of health.

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When I moved into this property, I had no health issues whatsoever.

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I was active, fit, cycling everywhere I went every day.

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Averaging between 20-25 miles a day with no problem.

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But a cycling accident two and a half years ago

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changed his life completely.

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My wheel goes in the hole and won't go no further

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because the hole was at least six to seven inches deep, like a dish.

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And I face-plant in the ground.

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Bike followed me over and clouted me on the side of the head.

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Since the accident, damage to Ray's spinal cord

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has caused his health to steadily decline.

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And the consequences have been devastating.

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I am virtually numb from the neck down.

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You could stab me in the leg with a drawing pin

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and I wouldn't know you'd done it.

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I have balance problems, sensation problems

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and movement problems.

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My brain is saying there's nothing wrong,

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but my body's saying, "No. Don't compute."

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To add to his troubles, Ray's poor health

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has meant it's difficult to find a job.

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If I can't feel what I'm doing or whatever I'm holding in my hand,

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who's going to employ me? Nobody.

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Because they can't cover me on their liability insurance.

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Cases like this are tough.

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On the face of it, I can see

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the landlord has every right to feel exasperated.

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I completely sympathise with landlords

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and if you are in the position where you have tenants

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that are breaching their tenancies for whatever reason,

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or just need some extra support,

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I think sometimes you do become a counsellor

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or a social worker more than a landlord.

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But with the threat of eviction looming for Ray,

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Beccy needs to see for herself if some mediation

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between tenant and landlord might be enough

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to put his tenancy back on track.

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I don't know what the future holds for me. I hope it's a good one.

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Because it's about time a little bit of karma come back my way.

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Hello, Mr Twyman. I haven't met you.

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I've spoken to you over the phone, so I wanted to meet you.

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As you know, the landlord has served a notice,

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two months, Section 21, for you to vacate the property.

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Because the landlord served the notice,

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normally, what we would do is we look to see

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if there's anything we can try to resolve the situation.

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What's the main issue with the rubbish, would you say?

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The way I get down the stairs.

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You can see marks down the stairs, I'm holding on to the banister

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and sliding my shoulder down the wall.

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It's the only way I can get down the stairs,

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which is why I've got issues carrying stuff down.

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Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.

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And then trying to go down a ski slope

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with no skis when I'm going down in the morning.

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Ray's problems getting around aren't the only things

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causing the rubbish to build up.

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He's having very practical issues in the flat as well.

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I can't cook. I'm forever cutting myself

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and I don't know I've cut my hand until I see blood on the floor.

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Unless it's really deep and it hits bone.

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Microwave meals, I can handle.

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But I haven't got a very big kitchen,

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so I can't do a full week's shop and freeze it.

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Ordering takeaways is the easiest option for me.

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I just wish they was a little bit cheaper.

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Especially with the amount of money they're having off me,

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averaging £22 a night.

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I need the council to give me a ground-floor flat.

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I mean, the property is in a dreadful state.

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You can understand why the landlord's had enough.

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But it's clearly not going to be a straightforward case.

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For now, Beccy needs to find an immediate solution

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to halt the eviction proceedings.

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It seems to me it's evident because you've got mobility issues,

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you're struggling with the stairs.

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-It's not coming up, it's going down that's the problem.

-Right. OK.

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-So to me, it's probably not suitable for you long term.

-No.

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The landlord's got concerns

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and understandably in a way that he's got concerns

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because he would be worried about fire risks.

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And I think that's a fair comment

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because any landlord would have those concerns.

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So we need to be looking at what we can try and do,

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or you can do initially

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to try and clear as much of it as possible.

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Because I can then liaise with the landlord

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to see hopefully if we can extend your time.

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And then it gives us extra time to be looking at

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what's available for you through social housing.

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It might be that we're able to help you

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find somewhere else to rent privately.

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If Beccy can convince Ray

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to have a clearout over the next couple of weeks,

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she might be able to persuade the landlord

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to let him stay for the time being

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and buy everybody a bit of breathing space.

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Thank you for letting us come in. I appreciate it.

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Otherwise, we just hear what the landlord's saying.

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And it's always good to hear what you're saying, as well.

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We'll contact you and arrange an appointment

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that's suitable for you. We'll come back in a couple of weeks.

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I do fully appreciate the fact that he might have mobility issues,

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but there is a bit of a lifestyle issue that needs to be addressed

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and he must make sure that hopefully with support,

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that he addresses those issues

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to improve his own living arrangements, really.

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Not only to see if the landlord will extend his stay,

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but for himself, really.

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If he does a good clearance and we go back and inspect,

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at least that's positive news we can go back to the landlord with

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and we'll go from there, I think.

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Beccy can't help but appreciate the landlord's concern

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with the state of the flat.

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It's not an easy job to be a landlord.

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There's a lot of stress involved a lot of the time

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and there's always a lot of issues to deal with.

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We'll be back later to see if Ray manages to clear up

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and if Beccy's work pays off.

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The purpose of the visit was to see how you've been getting on.

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I have spoken to your landlord.

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Back in Sleaford, young mum Jade

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has been living in a rented flat with a faulty oven

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and no gas safety certificate

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to prove that any of the appliances are fit to use.

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Only the gas is coming through, which will then cause

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health problems for me and my children.

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Jade's landlord Sam has agreed to meet me

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at another of his properties next door.

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OK, so this looks like a very tidy...

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It's immaculate, actually, this place.

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-Yes. Absolutely new, innit?

-OK.

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It's two years old, this one is.

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-And gas safety certificate?

-Everything is there.

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These are two very different flats. OK.

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And I can see how the person inside the flat can change things,

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but she's not responsible for the gas safety certificate.

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How did that happen? How did you let that slip?

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The guy was here twice, sat outside her house.

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She was inside the house, she would not open the door.

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And put the letter through,

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there's somebody coming to get the gas checked.

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She did not open the door again.

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You came twice to try and renew the gas certificate

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and try and get everything the way it should be,

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but she wouldn't let you in the flat?

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She wouldn't let me in the flat.

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Because she owes me nearly two and a half months' rent,

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plus £550 on top.

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But Jade's got a different take on what's happened.

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If anybody knocked on the door, if I wasn't in or didn't answer

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then I'd have a

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card put through my door when I could contact them to make

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another arrangement for them to come round, but there was no card

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on my floor, when I walked through the door and

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I've not heard anybody knock on the door when I've been in.

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Then the council get involved, you get the notification,

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the court process as well which you don't go to,

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at that point you're looking like a bad landlord.

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I had the certificate for about a month or two,

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it was taking the time off to go to the council to hand over the...

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-And that certificate is out of date.

-That certificate.

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And that certificate is out of date, that certificate is old.

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-No, it wasn't.

-Yeah, it is.

-No, it's not.

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It's January 2013.

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It's just done recently, again...

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In that case for some reason he may have put down the wrong year,

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cos the next thing that happens, Sam, is that they go in

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and do the work and you get charged for it. As well.

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It's... I don't know wh-what's going on, but it was done,

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I handed the certificate over.

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Sam, thank you very much for talking to us, giving your side of the story.

0:17:100:17:14

No, that's fine, whatever you're doing is very good, I appreciate that.

0:17:140:17:18

There goes Sam the landlord, who, to give him credit, turned up,

0:17:220:17:25

explained the situation

0:17:250:17:27

and gave both sides of the story, yes,

0:17:270:17:30

he didn't supply a gas safety certificate

0:17:300:17:34

in time to avoid his fine

0:17:340:17:36

and there still isn't one, but there is an explanation for it

0:17:360:17:40

and he seems keen to do the right thing.

0:17:400:17:44

So, there you go, one story with two sides.

0:17:440:17:47

But sometimes things are not quite as they seem.

0:17:500:17:53

Come back later and I'll put you in the picture.

0:17:530:17:55

The more experience

0:17:590:18:00

I'm getting in this job, the more I'm finding that

0:18:000:18:03

it involves helping people who've fallen on really tough times.

0:18:030:18:07

And for some of those people a housing officer can provide

0:18:070:18:10

a much-needed lifeline to start turning things round.

0:18:100:18:14

In Lowestoft, in Suffolk, housing officer Fern Lincoln

0:18:150:18:20

has been doing just that.

0:18:200:18:21

She's spent the past seven months working with a family

0:18:230:18:26

paralysed by health and financial troubles.

0:18:260:18:30

We're now on our way to see the Leigh family, Mr and Mrs Leigh.

0:18:300:18:35

They have five children, ages 12 all the way down to one.

0:18:350:18:39

For the past two and a half years, Lisa, Dan and their children

0:18:400:18:44

have been privately renting this three-bedroom house.

0:18:440:18:48

In reality, it was far too small for them,

0:18:480:18:50

but it was all that they could afford.

0:18:500:18:53

The Leigh family are very overcrowded

0:18:530:18:56

and they have been for quite some time.

0:18:560:18:59

It wasn't ideal, but then Lisa and Dan found that their benefits had

0:18:590:19:03

been capped and it became impossible to make ends meet.

0:19:030:19:07

Unemployed and in rent arrears, the family's predicament hit Dan hard.

0:19:070:19:13

Because Daniel suffers with severe mental health,

0:19:130:19:15

he wasn't engaging very well.

0:19:150:19:17

They were in a very dark place when I first started working with them.

0:19:170:19:22

The thing is with mental health,

0:19:220:19:24

it's very hard to keep a roof over your head.

0:19:240:19:28

Dan was waiting for a disability claim to be sorted out.

0:19:280:19:32

It's not that he could just go off and get a job.

0:19:320:19:35

He's a self-harmer, he's on a very heavy medication schedule

0:19:350:19:39

as well which makes him quite tired

0:19:390:19:42

and he has to be medicated that way for the time being.

0:19:420:19:46

Because the family could no longer afford the rent,

0:19:460:19:49

their landlord was forced to act.

0:19:490:19:52

Not only they had emotional problems, there was

0:19:520:19:54

financial issues and, of course,

0:19:540:19:56

their housing was making things worse.

0:19:560:19:59

When we found out about the eviction,

0:19:590:20:01

it put my partner in a very bad place and he actually stabbed

0:20:010:20:06

himself in the chest because he felt worthless and like a loser.

0:20:060:20:12

Lisa knew they couldn't carry on like this,

0:20:120:20:14

so she made a plea to the council for help.

0:20:140:20:17

It's sink or swim at the end of the day, not many people are forthcoming

0:20:170:20:21

when it comes to mental health and Fern from housing has been fantastic

0:20:210:20:26

and, at the time, she was the only person that would listen to us.

0:20:260:20:30

Fern has managed to get them the support that they desperately

0:20:300:20:34

needed and, now, for this family it's time to move out and move on.

0:20:340:20:38

We just wanted to have a chat,

0:20:400:20:42

just to make sure that you're all OK.

0:20:420:20:44

That you're happy with the move and, really, just have a look because

0:20:440:20:47

I haven't had a chance to actually speak to all of you together

0:20:470:20:50

at once and, certainly, I think now you're in a better place all around.

0:20:500:20:54

-Yes, definitely. Most definitely. Yeah.

-I can see that on your face.

0:20:540:20:57

-Yes.

-That's really good.

0:20:570:20:59

In a couple of days' time, the Leighs are moving to Ipswich.

0:20:590:21:03

But while today marks the end of an unpleasant chapter for the family,

0:21:030:21:07

Fern's work here continues, with a few unresolved maintenance issues.

0:21:070:21:12

Is that water?

0:21:120:21:13

Ah.

0:21:130:21:14

-This is where the boiler's leaking.

-Oh. Is that the water there?

0:21:140:21:18

It's not on at the moment but you get a...

0:21:180:21:21

-you get a stream of water that comes down.

-Yes.

-And this is where

0:21:210:21:27

accidents take place sometimes which is right near a step as well.

0:21:270:21:32

I think what I'll do, regardless of the fact that you're moving,

0:21:320:21:35

it is going to be a problem for the next tenant.

0:21:350:21:38

-It definitely is...and that was my concern.

-So we need to report it.

0:21:380:21:41

And just to make sure that we inspect again, just so that the

0:21:410:21:44

private sector officers are aware of the problem and it can be resolved.

0:21:440:21:49

Lisa and Dan's new home will be in a different local authority area,

0:21:490:21:53

so Fern will be handing the responsibility for the family

0:21:530:21:56

over to a new team.

0:21:560:21:58

How is your mental health now, are you happy with how you're going?

0:21:580:22:01

Um, well, it's...

0:22:010:22:04

still sort of...

0:22:040:22:06

It's taken a bit of a knock

0:22:060:22:08

because now I know that we're moving to Ipswich, I've now got to

0:22:080:22:11

restart therapy, I've got to be back on a waiting list for that

0:22:110:22:16

but I'm going to try and keep myself busy, which is

0:22:160:22:18

why I'm glad we've got a bit of a house that needs

0:22:180:22:21

a lot of work doing to it.

0:22:210:22:22

I did speak to the mental health team

0:22:220:22:25

and they've done everything they can as far as I understand it to

0:22:250:22:28

transfer your case as smoothly as possible.

0:22:280:22:31

And, hopefully, that's going to pay off once you start again.

0:22:310:22:33

-But I'm sure...

-Like I say,

0:22:330:22:35

we're very thankful for where we are now and if it wasn't for you

0:22:350:22:40

we wouldn't have nowhere to go.

0:22:400:22:42

And it's people like you that help people like us.

0:22:420:22:46

You told me what your problems were,

0:22:460:22:48

you said, "Well, this is where we're at." And at the end of the day you've

0:22:480:22:51

done what you had to do and you've fought for it.

0:22:510:22:54

-Bye, everybody.

-Bye.

-Bye, kids,

0:22:550:22:58

lovely to see you all.

0:22:580:23:00

'I think for Mrs Leigh, it's been really, really hard

0:23:000:23:02

'and, I think she's a very strong person going through

0:23:020:23:05

'the things that she's gone through.

0:23:050:23:06

'It must have been very hard for her to keep her family together,

0:23:060:23:09

'especially when Mr Leigh was going through the very, very bad

0:23:090:23:13

'stages of his mental health and really struggling.

0:23:130:23:16

'They will be moving on Sunday.

0:23:160:23:19

'And I'm hoping that the move will go smoothly and there aren't any problems in between.'

0:23:190:23:23

So am I.

0:23:230:23:25

Find out later if their new home is living up to everyone's expectations...

0:23:250:23:30

A proper table and dining room will be the making of us, really.

0:23:300:23:34

It's the job of housing officers across the UK to make sure

0:23:370:23:41

that people have a decent place to live.

0:23:410:23:44

I am really concerned about what you are living in here,

0:23:440:23:46

and I want to get it fixed for you.

0:23:460:23:48

'I am going to be working alongside the men and women who do just that.'

0:23:480:23:52

There is a thing down in the corner, growing out of the skirting,

0:23:520:23:55

it looks like a sea sponge.

0:23:550:23:57

'I am hitting the streets,

0:23:570:23:59

'I am learning on the job...'

0:23:590:24:01

We call that flash banding.

0:24:010:24:03

That's like a temporary fix, isn't it?

0:24:030:24:05

'..to find out what it takes to make sure'

0:24:050:24:07

that every house is fit to be called a home.

0:24:070:24:10

I know I've only been in the job for a bit, but this is a shocker.

0:24:100:24:13

You've got three boys? Where does everybody sleep?

0:24:130:24:16

You seem to get very angry.

0:24:160:24:17

I've had too many people mug me off.

0:24:170:24:20

Next, I'm in Oldbury in the West Midlands.

0:24:240:24:27

This being the 21st century,

0:24:270:24:29

you'd think that the UK's 4 million private renters

0:24:290:24:32

could expect at least a reasonable standard of accommodation.

0:24:320:24:35

But over a third of homes just aren't up to scratch -

0:24:370:24:40

with 60% of tenants reporting maintenance issues

0:24:400:24:44

such as damp and mould.

0:24:440:24:46

I'm working with Sandwell Council housing officer Laura Mahiques.

0:24:460:24:50

We're going to a property where there's been reported damp

0:24:530:24:56

and mould in the property

0:24:560:24:57

and there's a ceiling partially collapsed from a shower leak.

0:24:570:25:01

There's issues in the property so it's an initial inspection

0:25:010:25:04

that we've been made aware of by the tenant.

0:25:040:25:07

OK, and what do you need from me? What can I do?

0:25:070:25:10

Well, you can assist me, you can... I want your opinion as well.

0:25:100:25:13

Erm, cos sometimes you'll find damp and mould can be behavioural,

0:25:130:25:16

it can be structural, so, see what your opinion is, erm...

0:25:160:25:19

I might need you to help me in the loft space

0:25:190:25:21

cos I'll be looking at the lofts, er, so...

0:25:210:25:23

-So, all the dirty jobs, basically.

-Yeah!

-OK, that's fine!

0:25:230:25:27

Sadly, this type of complaint is all too common.

0:25:270:25:32

Natasha and Liam have been sharing a house for two years

0:25:320:25:35

but their living conditions are far from ideal.

0:25:350:25:38

We've got loads of damp and mould. Soon as you go upstairs there's

0:25:380:25:43

the black mould, you can just taste it in the air.

0:25:430:25:45

It's not very nice at all.

0:25:450:25:47

The shower's leaking, as well,

0:25:470:25:49

which is causing a lot of problems downstairs.

0:25:490:25:52

Liam and Natasha say they've both suffered

0:25:520:25:55

from repeated throat infections

0:25:550:25:56

since the damp problems started.

0:25:560:25:59

A number of medical studies have linked damp and mould

0:25:590:26:02

to infections of the sinuses, throat and lungs but it

0:26:020:26:05

seems the landlord hadn't been able to fix the issues causing the damp.

0:26:050:26:10

For a year and a half we've told him about these problems

0:26:100:26:13

and he just doesn't seem to want to fix them.

0:26:130:26:15

We'll give him the rent on time and everything and it seems like

0:26:150:26:19

he'll get his rent, go away, say he's going to address the problem,

0:26:190:26:22

don't hear off him for the whole month then he'll come back

0:26:220:26:25

again to get his rent, address it again, it's an ongoing problem.

0:26:250:26:29

At the end of their tether, Natasha and Liam have contacted

0:26:290:26:32

the council, which is where Laura and I come in.

0:26:320:26:35

Have you noticed the top of the chimney?

0:26:350:26:37

It's just lead flashing on the top of the chimney stack.

0:26:370:26:40

We call that flash banding.

0:26:400:26:41

That's like a temporary fix, isn't it?

0:26:410:26:43

It's a temporary fix, it certainly wouldn't be a long-term fix.

0:26:430:26:46

Erm, but we'll see if there's anything going on inside.

0:26:460:26:49

-Let's take a picture of that.

-Yeah.

0:26:490:26:51

So, we've found some flash banding but it's inside where things

0:26:510:26:55

get really interesting.

0:26:550:26:56

-Hello!

-Hello, is that Natasha Parker?

0:26:570:27:00

Hi, this is Laura I'm from Private Sector Housing.

0:27:000:27:02

I'm here to do your full house inspection,

0:27:020:27:04

-regarding the damp and mould.

-Yeah, come in.

-Thank you very much.

0:27:040:27:07

As you can hear...

0:27:080:27:09

It's blown.

0:27:090:27:10

Feel the difference...

0:27:100:27:12

It's really rotten,

0:27:130:27:15

and it will keep spreading. Once it's saturated it will go to the next

0:27:150:27:18

point where it's not saturated,

0:27:180:27:20

so it will keep working away along this wall.

0:27:200:27:23

'Penetrating damp like this usually occurs when water is getting

0:27:230:27:26

'into the fabric of the building but the question is where?

0:27:260:27:31

'Despite numerous requests,

0:27:310:27:32

'the landlord still hasn't fixed Natasha and Liam's leaking shower.

0:27:320:27:36

'And now it's affecting much more than just the bathroom.'

0:27:360:27:40

I can actually put my pen into the wood.

0:27:400:27:43

What you're concerned about here is that the rot will then start

0:27:430:27:46

to spread which could then,

0:27:460:27:47

obviously, cause the floorboards to collapse.

0:27:470:27:49

'And it gets worse.'

0:27:490:27:51

My biggest concern is it's right near the electrics, as well.

0:27:510:27:54

'Electricity and water don't mix.

0:27:540:27:57

'And there are strict regulations for any electrician carrying out

0:27:570:28:00

'work in or near a bathroom.

0:28:000:28:03

'This needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.'

0:28:030:28:06

We're trying to now establish where that leak's come from.

0:28:060:28:09

That feels like it just goes through.

0:28:090:28:11

You can see moisture coming out of it, it doesn't feel very secure.

0:28:110:28:15

-Do you think we could turn it on?

-Yes.

-Sure.

-And have a look?

0:28:150:28:18

I'm going to run it down the plug to start with.

0:28:180:28:21

Oh, yeah.

0:28:210:28:22

You can see it, it goes straight through.

0:28:240:28:26

I'm presuming there was a floorboard there

0:28:260:28:28

and that's probably gone completely through.

0:28:280:28:30

It's clearly been every time you've had a shower that it's happened.

0:28:300:28:33

Yeah.

0:28:330:28:34

The problems in this house are now

0:28:350:28:37

so bad it seems some of these rooms are almost uninhabitable.

0:28:370:28:41

-Carry on.

-..into the rear bedroom.

0:28:410:28:45

When you saw this, what did you initially think?

0:28:450:28:47

It can't be surface condensation because it's so localised,

0:28:470:28:50

-around that little chimney stack.

-Absolutely.

0:28:500:28:53

And that's the one that we saw outside that had all that

0:28:530:28:56

-flash banding, that temporary fix on the top.

-Yep.

0:28:560:28:58

So...

0:28:580:29:00

It looks to me, Laura, that there are lots of different

0:29:000:29:02

-sources of damp in this house.

-Yes.

-Not just one!

0:29:020:29:05

And that can be a difficulty,

0:29:050:29:07

It's trying to actually differentiate.

0:29:070:29:09

Is it tenant behaviour, is it damp,

0:29:090:29:10

is it penetrating damp, is it structural issues? Here,

0:29:100:29:13

you're right, there are multiple issues are causing damp and mould.

0:29:130:29:16

You know, your natural instinct is to say that you're not getting all the rooms

0:29:160:29:22

you pay for, and as a tenant you're natural instinct is

0:29:220:29:26

"I want to withhold some rent."

0:29:260:29:28

Where are you in your mind? Would you like to move out of this place now

0:29:280:29:31

or are you happy to be here as long as the problems get fixed?

0:29:310:29:35

If the problems get fixed but if they don't get fixed,

0:29:350:29:37

we'd rather move to somewhere that's more suitable.

0:29:370:29:41

'It looks like it's make or break for Natasha and Liam.

0:29:420:29:45

'We really need to solve the mystery of where the

0:29:450:29:48

'damp is coming from.

0:29:480:29:49

'There is one final place to inspect.'

0:29:490:29:52

-Oh, yeah.

-Can you see daylight?

0:29:550:29:58

You can see daylight coming in through the roof, any kind of...

0:29:580:30:01

any kind of gap means the water will be straight into the loft.

0:30:010:30:06

And then into the...into the structure, as well.

0:30:060:30:09

Over a prolonged period of time, potentially, a lot of water

0:30:090:30:12

getting into that roof space and cause rotting to the timbers.

0:30:120:30:15

-It's an old roof, isn't it?

-Yes.

0:30:170:30:20

And you've got to then ask the question...

0:30:200:30:22

-You know, how much, how much can you do to it?

-Hmm.

0:30:220:30:27

It looks like there's probably some loose ridge tiles,

0:30:270:30:30

and that just needs...it's a simple job,

0:30:300:30:32

but could have, obviously, an important effect in preventing the problem.

0:30:320:30:36

What I'll do now is contact the landlord again, I'll send him

0:30:360:30:40

a hazard awareness notice, which is a notice that outlines all

0:30:400:30:43

the deficiencies and all the hazards that we've found today.

0:30:430:30:46

Why has he left it for so long?

0:30:510:30:53

-Why not come in at some point before the housing officers arrive...

-Absolutely.

0:30:530:30:58

..to remedy it?

0:30:580:30:59

The problem in there now is that the cost of it has probably escalated. If it had just been

0:30:590:31:03

sorted at the very beginning when it was notified that there was a leak.

0:31:030:31:07

It could be a nice little semi, on a quiet street, really nice, two good tenants,

0:31:070:31:12

it wouldn't take a lot of effort to get that up to scratch.

0:31:120:31:16

No, no, it wouldn't. And, hopefully, their health will improve as well,

0:31:160:31:19

-there'll be a difference...

-It's miserable, isn't it?

-Absolutely.

0:31:190:31:22

'Coming up, the landlord agrees to come clean about the damp.'

0:31:220:31:26

They've been unhappy for some time and it seems a shame

0:31:260:31:28

when they are good tenants not to be able to make sure they're

0:31:280:31:31

completely happy with the property.

0:31:310:31:33

Back in Ramsgate, housing officer Becky Pavlou has been helping

0:31:370:31:41

a tenant who's facing eviction from his home.

0:31:410:31:44

After being badly injured in a cycling accident two and a half

0:31:440:31:48

years ago, Ray Twyman's been struggling with the practicalities

0:31:480:31:52

of life in a top-floor flat.

0:31:520:31:54

Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.

0:31:540:31:58

But the landlord says that Ray's untidiness is a health

0:31:580:32:01

and safety risk.

0:32:010:32:02

Until a new home can be found, Becky needs to convince them

0:32:020:32:06

to let Ray stay.

0:32:060:32:08

So we need to be looking at what we can try and do,

0:32:080:32:10

or, you can do, initially to try and clear as much of it as possible.

0:32:100:32:14

Because, I can then liaise with the landlord

0:32:140:32:17

to see, hopefully, if we can extend your time.

0:32:170:32:20

Two weeks on from her last visit, it does look like Ray's been busy.

0:32:200:32:25

Well, in the last couple of weeks this flat has gone through

0:32:250:32:30

a transformation, from a rubbish tip to something resembling a home.

0:32:300:32:36

Luckily, Ray's been able to call on some help from his old mate George.

0:32:370:32:42

It was in a bit of a mess so I said I'd come round and give him

0:32:420:32:45

a hand. I got myself into a similar state before,

0:32:450:32:49

And you don't get out of it unless someone helps you - it's that

0:32:490:32:52

simple - the worse it gets, the more depressed you get

0:32:520:32:55

and the more depressed you get, the less likely you are to do it.

0:32:550:32:59

George's help has resulted in a big improvement - where there

0:32:590:33:02

were piles of takeaway boxes, well, now at least you can see the floor.

0:33:020:33:07

But despite the clean-up Ray's still not sure it'll be

0:33:070:33:10

enough to change the landlord's mind.

0:33:100:33:12

Because of my situation,

0:33:140:33:16

he doesn't really want somebody who could possibly fall down the

0:33:160:33:20

stairs in his property, because it's a liability to the landlord then.

0:33:200:33:26

Come in.

0:33:260:33:27

It's time for Becky to tell Ray exactly what's been decided.

0:33:270:33:30

Hello there, hi.

0:33:300:33:32

Wow, so, yeah, you have made a lot of progress, haven't you?

0:33:320:33:35

In terms of me, obviously, coming back today,

0:33:350:33:38

the purpose of the visit was really to see how you've been getting on

0:33:380:33:41

and, I have to say, I am impressed with all

0:33:410:33:43

the work that you have done. I've got some good news,

0:33:430:33:46

I have spoken to your landlord, and they have advised they're not willing to act on the

0:33:460:33:51

-notice at this time.

-OK, thank you.

0:33:510:33:54

-So that will alleviate a bit of pressure from you.

-Yeah.

0:33:540:33:57

That's a great result for Ray but Becky hasn't finished yet!

0:33:570:34:01

One of the bids that I placed for you, you've actually been

0:34:010:34:04

-successful on.

-Have I?

-You have.

-Oh, wow!

0:34:040:34:07

And it's a one-bedroom studio flat.

0:34:070:34:09

It's on the fourth floor but there's two lifts in the property.

0:34:090:34:12

Is it one of the tower blocks over there?

0:34:120:34:14

-It's in Staner Court.

-Staner Court?

-Yes.

0:34:140:34:17

-I should be all right, I've got friends there.

-OK. Good.

0:34:170:34:20

I wouldn't say you clearing the property

0:34:200:34:22

has been wasted because if anybody moves

0:34:220:34:24

-you'd have had to clear anyway.

-Yes.

0:34:240:34:26

And I think it's helped you to get rid of lots of things you probably didn't need,

0:34:260:34:31

ready for when you do move.

0:34:310:34:32

How do you feel about that so far?

0:34:320:34:34

-I'm happy.

-You're happy.

0:34:340:34:36

That I'm getting out of here!

0:34:360:34:38

-OK, then, thank you.

-Cheers.

-OK.

0:34:380:34:40

It is a fresh start,

0:34:420:34:44

I've had enough of this.

0:34:440:34:46

I'll be quite happy to move into the flat cos I just can't wait to get

0:34:460:34:50

out of here. At least, there...

0:34:500:34:52

I've got one level to a lift and then it's down the lift,

0:34:520:34:56

so, it's a lot easier.

0:34:560:34:57

It's going to be

0:34:570:34:59

suitable for his needs and as a single person it'll be ideal for him,

0:34:590:35:02

there shouldn't be an issue with mobility because of the lifts

0:35:020:35:06

in the property

0:35:060:35:07

and it will be for a five-year tenancy,

0:35:070:35:09

so it will be some security for him, as well.

0:35:090:35:12

And, hopefully, he'll be pleased with it.

0:35:120:35:14

I'm happy, I'm very happy.

0:35:140:35:16

In Suffolk, one family is badly in need of a new start.

0:35:230:35:26

Housing officer Fern has been working closely with

0:35:280:35:31

the Leigh family, after they came to the council with a whole

0:35:310:35:34

load of problems, personal and housing.

0:35:340:35:38

'I became part of their lives and they relied on me quite a lot'

0:35:380:35:43

because I was the only one there that was actually listening

0:35:430:35:47

to what they were saying, or that was how they felt, I think.

0:35:470:35:51

Lisa and Dan had fallen behind with their rent payments on a house

0:35:510:35:55

that was already too small for their family.

0:35:550:35:58

Their main problem was their housing,

0:35:580:36:00

and everything else sort of became secondary,

0:36:000:36:02

although it was extremely important,

0:36:020:36:04

especially the mental health side of things.

0:36:040:36:06

They were no longer able to afford the property,

0:36:060:36:09

and the landlord was forced to serve notice.

0:36:090:36:11

When we found out about the eviction,

0:36:110:36:13

it put my partner in a very bad place,

0:36:130:36:16

and he actually stabbed himself in the chest

0:36:160:36:20

because he felt worthless and like a loser.

0:36:200:36:24

But six months after their first call to the council...

0:36:240:36:28

..Lisa, Dan and the family

0:36:300:36:32

have been given an opportunity to get back on track.

0:36:320:36:36

Fern's helped to find them a new home, 45 miles away in Ipswich.

0:36:360:36:40

It was immediately available and much more suited to the family,

0:36:400:36:44

and it's also keeping Dan very busy.

0:36:440:36:46

I am finishing the last dining room chair.

0:36:460:36:50

It's really nice to have a dining room.

0:36:530:36:56

It's the most important room, I think,

0:36:560:36:58

so we can all eat dinner together and stuff.

0:36:580:37:00

It'll be so nice, cos I think a proper table and dining room

0:37:000:37:03

will be the making of us, really. We're spoilt for choice with space,

0:37:030:37:07

so we can all disappear off in our own corners,

0:37:070:37:10

and that's a good thing, definitely.

0:37:100:37:13

Having lived in cramped conditions for so long,

0:37:140:37:17

Lisa and Dan must be feeling relieved.

0:37:170:37:20

I think we've definitely made the right choice by coming here.

0:37:200:37:23

The girls definitely love it, and they can't wait to go to school,

0:37:230:37:27

make new friends, and they all seem to get on a lot better here.

0:37:270:37:30

They're not on top of each other, they've got space. It's all good.

0:37:300:37:35

It's amazing. It's just opened up a whole new world of opportunity

0:37:350:37:39

to the girls. They didn't have anywhere to play before.

0:37:390:37:43

Now the garden is absolutely massive.

0:37:430:37:45

For one stint, they were out there for six hours at a time,

0:37:450:37:49

and they just love it and it's great to see them happy,

0:37:490:37:52

because if they're happy, then I'm happy.

0:37:520:37:54

But crucially for Lisa and Dan,

0:37:540:37:57

the new start has had a positive effect on his health.

0:37:570:38:01

I'm a lot happier here than I was in the last place.

0:38:010:38:03

It's in a nice area as well.

0:38:030:38:05

Seems really quiet down this end of Ipswich.

0:38:050:38:07

Definitely a whole new start.

0:38:070:38:09

To be able to come together as a family, to sit down

0:38:090:38:13

and all have the same meal is absolutely fantastic.

0:38:130:38:17

Lisa can finally feel optimistic, both for herself and for Dan.

0:38:170:38:22

In the future, we're hoping to drop the medication a little bit

0:38:220:38:26

in the hope that he gets better and he'll be fit for work.

0:38:260:38:30

We all want to work. I have skills and qualifications,

0:38:300:38:33

and would like to get back to work myself,

0:38:330:38:35

so, it's not that we're just work-shy

0:38:350:38:37

and don't want to pay our rent or not have a job.

0:38:370:38:41

As a housing officer, you can have to deal with

0:38:410:38:44

some pretty unpleasant situations.

0:38:440:38:46

It's encouraging to see that things can come good in the end.

0:38:460:38:50

When you work with families for a long time,

0:38:500:38:52

you can't help but get close to them.

0:38:520:38:54

Looking back, I think I've learnt a lot from the case.

0:38:540:38:58

They helped me as much as I helped them,

0:38:580:39:00

and it worked out, and that's a really good thing. Yeah.

0:39:000:39:04

Back in the West Midlands,

0:39:130:39:14

I've been working with Sandwell housing officer Laura.

0:39:140:39:17

Sometimes you'll find damp and mould can be behavioural or structural.

0:39:170:39:21

We've been trying to get to the bottom of why Natasha and Liam

0:39:210:39:23

have been paying rent for so long on a damp property.

0:39:230:39:27

-It looks like there's probably some loose ridge tiles.

-Mm-hm.

0:39:280:39:30

And that just needs a simple job.

0:39:300:39:32

Now, I've since heard that the landlord has made an effort

0:39:320:39:35

to sort things out, so, three weeks later,

0:39:350:39:38

I'm back to see what's been done.

0:39:380:39:40

-Morning.

-Morning.

-How are you doing, Liam?

0:39:400:39:42

-All right, ta, how are you?

-Can I come in?

-Yeah, come in.

0:39:420:39:44

There was damp all down here, wasn't there?

0:39:440:39:47

Yeah. That was from the shower...

0:39:470:39:50

and that's what they tried putting over it.

0:39:500:39:52

That was to put over what, over that?

0:39:520:39:54

To put in front of this.

0:39:540:39:57

-That's not sorting the problem out, is it?

-No.

0:39:570:39:59

-That's just...

-Trying to cover it.

-..covering it up.

-Yeah.

0:39:590:40:03

OK. Let's have a look in the bathroom,

0:40:030:40:05

cos that's where a lot of the problems were coming from

0:40:050:40:08

in the first place.

0:40:080:40:09

-So this has had a lick of paint.

-Yeah, it was yellow.

0:40:090:40:12

It's still massive... massive damp there.

0:40:120:40:15

'Mmm. Well, the schedule of works also mentions the repairs

0:40:150:40:18

'required to the roof, which was in a bit of a mess.'

0:40:180:40:21

You can see daylight coming in through the roof.

0:40:220:40:24

The water will be straight into the loft.

0:40:240:40:26

'But it's not looking good.'

0:40:260:40:29

-And nothing's been done to the roof.

-No, nothing's been done to the roof,

0:40:290:40:32

hence the reason why part of the chimney breast there now,

0:40:320:40:35

even though it's been painted, it's still darker at the top.

0:40:350:40:38

So nothing's been done there. There's no point...

0:40:380:40:40

No, nothing's been done up on the roof at all.

0:40:400:40:42

It's just been internal instead of external.

0:40:420:40:44

The landlord has agreed to be interviewed,

0:40:450:40:48

but he's asked for his face not to be shown.

0:40:480:40:51

I'm trying to get a perspective from the landlord's point of view,

0:40:520:40:55

as well, of what it's like

0:40:550:40:56

managing properties in this part of the world.

0:40:560:40:59

It's increasingly difficult, very demanding.

0:40:590:41:03

-We've got one or two other problems, but I'm trying to retire.

-OK.

0:41:030:41:08

I'm over 60 now, so it's getting hard work for me.

0:41:080:41:12

It's clear there has been some work that's taken place inside.

0:41:120:41:16

Yes, because we started the work,

0:41:160:41:17

and I understand there is a bit more than just the damp problem.

0:41:170:41:21

Yeah. It's where the damp problem's coming from

0:41:210:41:24

that really needs addressing,

0:41:240:41:25

because a lot of the trouble is coming from the roof.

0:41:250:41:28

These are not cosmetic things.

0:41:280:41:29

Well, rest assured, whatever's on the list,

0:41:290:41:31

within the next seven to ten days, it'll be done.

0:41:310:41:34

But they've been unhappy for some time, and it seems a shame

0:41:340:41:36

when they are good tenants not to be able to make sure

0:41:360:41:39

they're completely happy with the property.

0:41:390:41:41

They will be well happy, in the next seven to ten days.

0:41:410:41:43

OK. Thank you very much for your time, we really appreciate that.

0:41:430:41:47

'So that's good news. The landlord is saying all the work

0:41:470:41:50

'that needs to be done will be finished within the next ten days.'

0:41:500:41:54

And I'm fairly sure that if it's not,

0:41:540:41:57

Liam will be letting us and Sandwell know.

0:41:570:42:01

The landlord was as good as his word,

0:42:030:42:05

because since our meeting, he's sorted out all the issues

0:42:050:42:08

Natasha and Liam had complained about,

0:42:080:42:10

including that potentially dangerous leaking shower

0:42:100:42:13

and the rotting floorboards behind it.

0:42:130:42:15

And the good news doesn't end there.

0:42:180:42:20

Earlier we met Jade. She was worried about the safety of her family

0:42:220:42:26

because she didn't appear to have a current gas safety certificate.

0:42:260:42:29

Landlord Sam argued this wasn't the case,

0:42:310:42:34

and after contacting the council, it transpires he was right.

0:42:340:42:38

There was a mistake with the date on his certificate.

0:42:380:42:41

Sam has now also given Jade a fully working oven.

0:42:420:42:46

I do like a happy ending!

0:42:460:42:48

That's it for today's show.

0:42:520:42:53

Join me next time, when I'll be learning more about

0:42:530:42:56

what it takes to be one of Britain's front-line housing officers.

0:42:560:43:00

In this episode Matt meets a young mum who is frightened to cook for her kids, a former soldier whose injuries have made his landlord think he is a hoarder, and a troubled family who get the new start they need.