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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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 these 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.'
Months pass and nothing gets done.
-I'm so pleased for you.
-I feel like I've won the Lottery.
You're looking like a bad landlord.
Today, I'm getting to the bottom of a young mum's problems.
It was really cold in there, we all had to wear coats.
-It is, very hard.
-When they're that little.
How did that happen, how did you let that slip?
Housing officer Beccy has a re-homing mission on her hands.
Because you've got mobility issues, you're struggling with the stairs.
Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.
And we're on a mission to stop the rot.
They've been unhappy for some time and it's where the damp problem's
coming from that really needs addressing.
They say an English person's home is their castle,
but if it's a rented castle,
then it falls under the watchful eye of our housing officers.
They're there to make sure that a growing army of private landlords
stick to the rules and make sure
their properties meet some pretty basic safety standards.
We're on our way to Sleaford in Lincolnshire to visit a young mum
who says her landlord is letting the most vital of those standards slip.
Jade Horne has been having major problems
with the gas appliances in her rented flat.
It started with my boiler being faulty.
I contacted the landlord saying that the pilot light didn't work
and I had no hot water, I had no central-heating.
I said to him about a year ago that the oven didn't work.
Although the boiler's since been fixed,
Jade still has no working oven.
Do you want to see how I turn it on?
It's now started to click,
so that means only the gas is coming through.
There's no flame coming through.
Jade's landlord has been fined £2,000
for not having an up-to-date gas safety certificate
and she still hasn't got the right paperwork.
Without it, the oven's gas supply should have been capped
to ensure Jade and her kids don't come to any harm.
It's a bit of a death trap,
which will then cause health problems for me and my children.
I just feel really distressed with him at the minute.
Carbon monoxide can come from almost any gas appliance,
even if there's a minor fault.
With symptoms including nausea and dizziness.
Jade's case needs investigating
and it's down to housing officer Chris Gallimore to do the job.
I, meanwhile, am along for the ride.
Talk to me about gas safety certificates.
When do they come onto your radar?
It's normally a tenant will make a complaint to us
and say they've got a gas certificate, but it's out of date
and the landlord hasn't got somebody in to get the gas test done again.
So this is like Landlord 101.
This is the prime requirement, before you get anyone in
-or do anything else, that's a piece of paper you should have.
'Around 200 people are poisoned by carbon monoxide
'or natural gas leaks each year.
'No certificate means the oven is illegal and potentially dangerous.
'And it's the landlord's duty to get it sorted.'
It started off with the boiler not working.
I asked him to get it fixed.
He still wasn't doing anything.
And it's taken for him to go to court
to then get the boiler sorted.
But the oven is still faulty.
At the moment, I can't cook a hot meal for my children
because I still haven't got an oven.
So, what was happening with the boiler?
Was it not working at all, or was it intermittent?
The hot water wouldn't come on.
I'd gone about three months without any gas, heating or hot water.
I had to go down to my mum's to wash my kids.
To wash up, I had to boil the kettle.
It was really cold in here.
We all had to wear coats and wrap up in blankets.
-When they're that little,
trying to explain to them why they're cold.
'This is not an ideal situation for anyone,
'but especially a young mum with kids.
'To make matters worse,
'Jade's landlord also claims she's in rent arrears.
'She denies this.'
And so, those rent arrears, how much is that up to now?
He's now saying that it's over £1,000.
What do you want to happen next?
I just want an oven to cook my kids' food in and that's it.
So, Chris...this is complicated, isn't it?
Because you've got two sides to this story, really,
and it's kind of one word against the other.
Primarily, what I'm looking at are the housing issues
and the safety of the tenant.
Arrears, rent, is another issue.
OK, it is an issue, but the primary issue
is that the property doesn't reach the standards that it should do.
-So, he's been to court, there's been a fine?
And still you haven't got the documentation
to prove that this is gas safe.
We have been provided with a gas safety certificate,
but the date on it, it's from 2013.
-We know that this cooker has not been safe for over a year.
And we can also assume
that the boiler that's stated on here as safe to use isn't
-because this is over 12 months.
So basically, those appliances aren't safe to use.
They have to look at it as a worst case.
If there was an incident in this property related to the gas
where there was an explosion or a carbon monoxide leak,
it potentially could have fatal consequences,
which would come back on the landlord then.
'Well, if he doesn't respond to the council's latest enforcement notice,
'Jade's landlord could be looking at another court appearance
'and another hefty fine.
'I'll be getting his side of the story a bit later on.'
How did that happen? How did you let that slip?
Today, we're in Ramsgate in Kent.
Tenant/landlord relationships can be difficult.
When they break down, they can leave a landlord with no choice
but to serve an eviction notice.
These evictions put a strain on the team at Thanet Council.
Housing officer Beccy Pavlou has a case like this to deal with today
and she's anxious to find out exactly what the problem is.
Today, we're going to see a gentleman
who has received a notice to quit from his landlord.
Concerns have been raised that the property in question
has become cluttered and is now so bad
that it's becoming a health and safety risk.
From what Social Services have advised me,
I think it could be that maybe he's struggling
to remove rubbish from the property
and perhaps it's just a build-up, an accumulation of those things.
I've spoken to him on the phone a few times,
but I've not met him face-to-face or seen the property yet.
The tenant is Ray Twyman.
He's living in chaotic conditions on the top floor of this house,
but he says he's not a hoarder.
I've let the rubbish collect up
because I can't get it down the stairs
because of my disability issues.
The paranoia of falling down the stairs
when I'm carrying objects down the stairs.
I do not want to stay in this flat.
As soon as the council sort me out, I'll be happy.
Five years ago, when he first moved in,
things were very different.
A former Army serviceman, Ray was a picture of health.
When I moved into this property, I had no health issues whatsoever.
I was active, fit, cycling everywhere I went every day.
Averaging between 20-25 miles a day with no problem.
But a cycling accident two and a half years ago
changed his life completely.
My wheel goes in the hole and won't go no further
because the hole was at least six to seven inches deep, like a dish.
And I face-plant in the ground.
Bike followed me over and clouted me on the side of the head.
Since the accident, damage to Ray's spinal cord
has caused his health to steadily decline.
And the consequences have been devastating.
I am virtually numb from the neck down.
You could stab me in the leg with a drawing pin
and I wouldn't know you'd done it.
I have balance problems, sensation problems
and movement problems.
My brain is saying there's nothing wrong,
but my body's saying, "No. Don't compute."
To add to his troubles, Ray's poor health
has meant it's difficult to find a job.
If I can't feel what I'm doing or whatever I'm holding in my hand,
who's going to employ me? Nobody.
Because they can't cover me on their liability insurance.
Cases like this are tough.
On the face of it, I can see
the landlord has every right to feel exasperated.
I completely sympathise with landlords
and if you are in the position where you have tenants
that are breaching their tenancies for whatever reason,
or just need some extra support,
I think sometimes you do become a counsellor
or a social worker more than a landlord.
But with the threat of eviction looming for Ray,
Beccy needs to see for herself if some mediation
between tenant and landlord might be enough
to put his tenancy back on track.
I don't know what the future holds for me. I hope it's a good one.
Because it's about time a little bit of karma come back my way.
Hello, Mr Twyman. I haven't met you.
I've spoken to you over the phone, so I wanted to meet you.
As you know, the landlord has served a notice,
two months, Section 21, for you to vacate the property.
Because the landlord served the notice,
normally, what we would do is we look to see
if there's anything we can try to resolve the situation.
What's the main issue with the rubbish, would you say?
The way I get down the stairs.
You can see marks down the stairs, I'm holding on to the banister
and sliding my shoulder down the wall.
It's the only way I can get down the stairs,
which is why I've got issues carrying stuff down.
Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.
And then trying to go down a ski slope
with no skis when I'm going down in the morning.
Ray's problems getting around aren't the only things
causing the rubbish to build up.
He's having very practical issues in the flat as well.
I can't cook. I'm forever cutting myself
and I don't know I've cut my hand until I see blood on the floor.
Unless it's really deep and it hits bone.
Microwave meals, I can handle.
But I haven't got a very big kitchen,
so I can't do a full week's shop and freeze it.
Ordering takeaways is the easiest option for me.
I just wish they was a little bit cheaper.
Especially with the amount of money they're having off me,
averaging £22 a night.
I need the council to give me a ground-floor flat.
I mean, the property is in a dreadful state.
You can understand why the landlord's had enough.
But it's clearly not going to be a straightforward case.
For now, Beccy needs to find an immediate solution
to halt the eviction proceedings.
It seems to me it's evident because you've got mobility issues,
you're struggling with the stairs.
-It's not coming up, it's going down that's the problem.
-So to me, it's probably not suitable for you long term.
The landlord's got concerns
and understandably in a way that he's got concerns
because he would be worried about fire risks.
And I think that's a fair comment
because any landlord would have those concerns.
So we need to be looking at what we can try and do,
or you can do initially
to try and clear as much of it as possible.
Because I can then liaise with the landlord
to see hopefully if we can extend your time.
And then it gives us extra time to be looking at
what's available for you through social housing.
It might be that we're able to help you
find somewhere else to rent privately.
If Beccy can convince Ray
to have a clearout over the next couple of weeks,
she might be able to persuade the landlord
to let him stay for the time being
and buy everybody a bit of breathing space.
Thank you for letting us come in. I appreciate it.
Otherwise, we just hear what the landlord's saying.
And it's always good to hear what you're saying, as well.
We'll contact you and arrange an appointment
that's suitable for you. We'll come back in a couple of weeks.
I do fully appreciate the fact that he might have mobility issues,
but there is a bit of a lifestyle issue that needs to be addressed
and he must make sure that hopefully with support,
that he addresses those issues
to improve his own living arrangements, really.
Not only to see if the landlord will extend his stay,
but for himself, really.
If he does a good clearance and we go back and inspect,
at least that's positive news we can go back to the landlord with
and we'll go from there, I think.
Beccy can't help but appreciate the landlord's concern
with the state of the flat.
It's not an easy job to be a landlord.
There's a lot of stress involved a lot of the time
and there's always a lot of issues to deal with.
We'll be back later to see if Ray manages to clear up
and if Beccy's work pays off.
The purpose of the visit was to see how you've been getting on.
I have spoken to your landlord.
Back in Sleaford, young mum Jade
has been living in a rented flat with a faulty oven
and no gas safety certificate
to prove that any of the appliances are fit to use.
Only the gas is coming through, which will then cause
health problems for me and my children.
Jade's landlord Sam has agreed to meet me
at another of his properties next door.
OK, so this looks like a very tidy...
It's immaculate, actually, this place.
-Yes. Absolutely new, innit?
It's two years old, this one is.
-And gas safety certificate?
-Everything is there.
These are two very different flats. OK.
And I can see how the person inside the flat can change things,
but she's not responsible for the gas safety certificate.
How did that happen? How did you let that slip?
The guy was here twice, sat outside her house.
She was inside the house, she would not open the door.
And put the letter through,
there's somebody coming to get the gas checked.
She did not open the door again.
You came twice to try and renew the gas certificate
and try and get everything the way it should be,
but she wouldn't let you in the flat?
She wouldn't let me in the flat.
Because she owes me nearly two and a half months' rent,
plus £550 on top.
But Jade's got a different take on what's happened.
If anybody knocked on the door, if I wasn't in or didn't answer
then I'd have a
card put through my door when I could contact them to make
another arrangement for them to come round, but there was no card
on my floor, when I walked through the door and
I've not heard anybody knock on the door when I've been in.
Then the council get involved, you get the notification,
the court process as well which you don't go to,
at that point you're looking like a bad landlord.
I had the certificate for about a month or two,
it was taking the time off to go to the council to hand over the...
-And that certificate is out of date.
And that certificate is out of date, that certificate is old.
-No, it wasn't.
-Yeah, it is.
-No, it's not.
It's January 2013.
It's just done recently, again...
In that case for some reason he may have put down the wrong year,
cos the next thing that happens, Sam, is that they go in
and do the work and you get charged for it. As well.
It's... I don't know wh-what's going on, but it was done,
I handed the certificate over.
Sam, thank you very much for talking to us, giving your side of the story.
No, that's fine, whatever you're doing is very good, I appreciate that.
There goes Sam the landlord, who, to give him credit, turned up,
explained the situation
and gave both sides of the story, yes,
he didn't supply a gas safety certificate
in time to avoid his fine
and there still isn't one, but there is an explanation for it
and he seems keen to do the right thing.
So, there you go, one story with two sides.
But sometimes things are not quite as they seem.
Come back later and I'll put you in the picture.
The more experience
I'm getting in this job, the more I'm finding that
it involves helping people who've fallen on really tough times.
And for some of those people a housing officer can provide
a much-needed lifeline to start turning things round.
In Lowestoft, in Suffolk, housing officer Fern Lincoln
has been doing just that.
She's spent the past seven months working with a family
paralysed by health and financial troubles.
We're now on our way to see the Leigh family, Mr and Mrs Leigh.
They have five children, ages 12 all the way down to one.
For the past two and a half years, Lisa, Dan and their children
have been privately renting this three-bedroom house.
In reality, it was far too small for them,
but it was all that they could afford.
The Leigh family are very overcrowded
and they have been for quite some time.
It wasn't ideal, but then Lisa and Dan found that their benefits had
been capped and it became impossible to make ends meet.
Unemployed and in rent arrears, the family's predicament hit Dan hard.
Because Daniel suffers with severe mental health,
he wasn't engaging very well.
They were in a very dark place when I first started working with them.
The thing is with mental health,
it's very hard to keep a roof over your head.
Dan was waiting for a disability claim to be sorted out.
It's not that he could just go off and get a job.
He's a self-harmer, he's on a very heavy medication schedule
as well which makes him quite tired
and he has to be medicated that way for the time being.
Because the family could no longer afford the rent,
their landlord was forced to act.
Not only they had emotional problems, there was
financial issues and, of course,
their housing was making things worse.
When we found out about the eviction,
it put my partner in a very bad place and he actually stabbed
himself in the chest because he felt worthless and like a loser.
Lisa knew they couldn't carry on like this,
so she made a plea to the council for help.
It's sink or swim at the end of the day, not many people are forthcoming
when it comes to mental health and Fern from housing has been fantastic
and, at the time, she was the only person that would listen to us.
Fern has managed to get them the support that they desperately
needed and, now, for this family it's time to move out and move on.
We just wanted to have a chat,
just to make sure that you're all OK.
That you're happy with the move and, really, just have a look because
I haven't had a chance to actually speak to all of you together
at once and, certainly, I think now you're in a better place all around.
-Yes, definitely. Most definitely. Yeah.
-I can see that on your face.
-That's really good.
In a couple of days' time, the Leighs are moving to Ipswich.
But while today marks the end of an unpleasant chapter for the family,
Fern's work here continues, with a few unresolved maintenance issues.
Is that water?
-This is where the boiler's leaking.
-Oh. Is that the water there?
It's not on at the moment but you get a...
-you get a stream of water that comes down.
-And this is where
accidents take place sometimes which is right near a step as well.
I think what I'll do, regardless of the fact that you're moving,
it is going to be a problem for the next tenant.
-It definitely is...and that was my concern.
-So we need to report it.
And just to make sure that we inspect again, just so that the
private sector officers are aware of the problem and it can be resolved.
Lisa and Dan's new home will be in a different local authority area,
so Fern will be handing the responsibility for the family
over to a new team.
How is your mental health now, are you happy with how you're going?
Um, well, it's...
still sort of...
It's taken a bit of a knock
because now I know that we're moving to Ipswich, I've now got to
restart therapy, I've got to be back on a waiting list for that
but I'm going to try and keep myself busy, which is
why I'm glad we've got a bit of a house that needs
a lot of work doing to it.
I did speak to the mental health team
and they've done everything they can as far as I understand it to
transfer your case as smoothly as possible.
And, hopefully, that's going to pay off once you start again.
-But I'm sure...
-Like I say,
we're very thankful for where we are now and if it wasn't for you
we wouldn't have nowhere to go.
And it's people like you that help people like us.
You told me what your problems were,
you said, "Well, this is where we're at." And at the end of the day you've
done what you had to do and you've fought for it.
lovely to see you all.
'I think for Mrs Leigh, it's been really, really hard
'and, I think she's a very strong person going through
'the things that she's gone through.
'It must have been very hard for her to keep her family together,
'especially when Mr Leigh was going through the very, very bad
'stages of his mental health and really struggling.
'They will be moving on Sunday.
'And I'm hoping that the move will go smoothly and there aren't any problems in between.'
So am I.
Find out later if their new home is living up to everyone's expectations...
A proper table and dining room will be the making of us, really.
It's the job of housing officers across the UK to make sure
that people have a decent place to live.
I am really concerned about what you are living in here,
and I want to get it fixed for you.
'I am going to be working alongside the men and women who do just that.'
There is a thing down in the corner, growing out of the skirting,
it looks like a sea sponge.
'I am hitting the streets,
'I am learning on the job...'
We call that flash banding.
That's like a temporary fix, isn't it?
'..to find out what it takes to make sure'
that every house is fit to be called a home.
I know I've only been in the job for a bit, but this is a shocker.
You've got three boys? Where does everybody sleep?
You seem to get very angry.
I've had too many people mug me off.
Next, I'm in Oldbury in the West Midlands.
This being the 21st century,
you'd think that the UK's 4 million private renters
could expect at least a reasonable standard of accommodation.
But over a third of homes just aren't up to scratch -
with 60% of tenants reporting maintenance issues
such as damp and mould.
I'm working with Sandwell Council housing officer Laura Mahiques.
We're going to a property where there's been reported damp
and mould in the property
and there's a ceiling partially collapsed from a shower leak.
There's issues in the property so it's an initial inspection
that we've been made aware of by the tenant.
OK, and what do you need from me? What can I do?
Well, you can assist me, you can... I want your opinion as well.
Erm, cos sometimes you'll find damp and mould can be behavioural,
it can be structural, so, see what your opinion is, erm...
I might need you to help me in the loft space
cos I'll be looking at the lofts, er, so...
-So, all the dirty jobs, basically.
-OK, that's fine!
Sadly, this type of complaint is all too common.
Natasha and Liam have been sharing a house for two years
but their living conditions are far from ideal.
We've got loads of damp and mould. Soon as you go upstairs there's
the black mould, you can just taste it in the air.
It's not very nice at all.
The shower's leaking, as well,
which is causing a lot of problems downstairs.
Liam and Natasha say they've both suffered
from repeated throat infections
since the damp problems started.
A number of medical studies have linked damp and mould
to infections of the sinuses, throat and lungs but it
seems the landlord hadn't been able to fix the issues causing the damp.
For a year and a half we've told him about these problems
and he just doesn't seem to want to fix them.
We'll give him the rent on time and everything and it seems like
he'll get his rent, go away, say he's going to address the problem,
don't hear off him for the whole month then he'll come back
again to get his rent, address it again, it's an ongoing problem.
At the end of their tether, Natasha and Liam have contacted
the council, which is where Laura and I come in.
Have you noticed the top of the chimney?
It's just lead flashing on the top of the chimney stack.
We call that flash banding.
That's like a temporary fix, isn't it?
It's a temporary fix, it certainly wouldn't be a long-term fix.
Erm, but we'll see if there's anything going on inside.
-Let's take a picture of that.
So, we've found some flash banding but it's inside where things
get really interesting.
-Hello, is that Natasha Parker?
Hi, this is Laura I'm from Private Sector Housing.
I'm here to do your full house inspection,
-regarding the damp and mould.
-Yeah, come in.
-Thank you very much.
As you can hear...
Feel the difference...
It's really rotten,
and it will keep spreading. Once it's saturated it will go to the next
point where it's not saturated,
so it will keep working away along this wall.
'Penetrating damp like this usually occurs when water is getting
'into the fabric of the building but the question is where?
'Despite numerous requests,
'the landlord still hasn't fixed Natasha and Liam's leaking shower.
'And now it's affecting much more than just the bathroom.'
I can actually put my pen into the wood.
What you're concerned about here is that the rot will then start
to spread which could then,
obviously, cause the floorboards to collapse.
'And it gets worse.'
My biggest concern is it's right near the electrics, as well.
'Electricity and water don't mix.
'And there are strict regulations for any electrician carrying out
'work in or near a bathroom.
'This needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.'
We're trying to now establish where that leak's come from.
That feels like it just goes through.
You can see moisture coming out of it, it doesn't feel very secure.
-Do you think we could turn it on?
-And have a look?
I'm going to run it down the plug to start with.
You can see it, it goes straight through.
I'm presuming there was a floorboard there
and that's probably gone completely through.
It's clearly been every time you've had a shower that it's happened.
The problems in this house are now
so bad it seems some of these rooms are almost uninhabitable.
-..into the rear bedroom.
When you saw this, what did you initially think?
It can't be surface condensation because it's so localised,
-around that little chimney stack.
And that's the one that we saw outside that had all that
-flash banding, that temporary fix on the top.
It looks to me, Laura, that there are lots of different
-sources of damp in this house.
-Not just one!
And that can be a difficulty,
It's trying to actually differentiate.
Is it tenant behaviour, is it damp,
is it penetrating damp, is it structural issues? Here,
you're right, there are multiple issues are causing damp and mould.
You know, your natural instinct is to say that you're not getting all the rooms
you pay for, and as a tenant you're natural instinct is
"I want to withhold some rent."
Where are you in your mind? Would you like to move out of this place now
or are you happy to be here as long as the problems get fixed?
If the problems get fixed but if they don't get fixed,
we'd rather move to somewhere that's more suitable.
'It looks like it's make or break for Natasha and Liam.
'We really need to solve the mystery of where the
'damp is coming from.
'There is one final place to inspect.'
-Can you see daylight?
You can see daylight coming in through the roof, any kind of...
any kind of gap means the water will be straight into the loft.
And then into the...into the structure, as well.
Over a prolonged period of time, potentially, a lot of water
getting into that roof space and cause rotting to the timbers.
-It's an old roof, isn't it?
And you've got to then ask the question...
-You know, how much, how much can you do to it?
It looks like there's probably some loose ridge tiles,
and that just needs...it's a simple job,
but could have, obviously, an important effect in preventing the problem.
What I'll do now is contact the landlord again, I'll send him
a hazard awareness notice, which is a notice that outlines all
the deficiencies and all the hazards that we've found today.
Why has he left it for so long?
-Why not come in at some point before the housing officers arrive...
..to remedy it?
The problem in there now is that the cost of it has probably escalated. If it had just been
sorted at the very beginning when it was notified that there was a leak.
It could be a nice little semi, on a quiet street, really nice, two good tenants,
it wouldn't take a lot of effort to get that up to scratch.
No, no, it wouldn't. And, hopefully, their health will improve as well,
-there'll be a difference...
-It's miserable, isn't it?
'Coming up, the landlord agrees to come clean about the damp.'
They've been unhappy for some time and it seems a shame
when they are good tenants not to be able to make sure they're
completely happy with the property.
Back in Ramsgate, housing officer Becky Pavlou has been helping
a tenant who's facing eviction from his home.
After being badly injured in a cycling accident two and a half
years ago, Ray Twyman's been struggling with the practicalities
of life in a top-floor flat.
Climbing up them stairs every day, I feel like I'm climbing the Eiger.
But the landlord says that Ray's untidiness is a health
and safety risk.
Until a new home can be found, Becky needs to convince them
to let Ray stay.
So we need to be looking at what we can try and do,
or, you can do, initially to try and clear as much of it as possible.
Because, I can then liaise with the landlord
to see, hopefully, if we can extend your time.
Two weeks on from her last visit, it does look like Ray's been busy.
Well, in the last couple of weeks this flat has gone through
a transformation, from a rubbish tip to something resembling a home.
Luckily, Ray's been able to call on some help from his old mate George.
It was in a bit of a mess so I said I'd come round and give him
a hand. I got myself into a similar state before,
And you don't get out of it unless someone helps you - it's that
simple - the worse it gets, the more depressed you get
and the more depressed you get, the less likely you are to do it.
George's help has resulted in a big improvement - where there
were piles of takeaway boxes, well, now at least you can see the floor.
But despite the clean-up Ray's still not sure it'll be
enough to change the landlord's mind.
Because of my situation,
he doesn't really want somebody who could possibly fall down the
stairs in his property, because it's a liability to the landlord then.
It's time for Becky to tell Ray exactly what's been decided.
Hello there, hi.
Wow, so, yeah, you have made a lot of progress, haven't you?
In terms of me, obviously, coming back today,
the purpose of the visit was really to see how you've been getting on
and, I have to say, I am impressed with all
the work that you have done. I've got some good news,
I have spoken to your landlord, and they have advised they're not willing to act on the
-notice at this time.
-OK, thank you.
-So that will alleviate a bit of pressure from you.
That's a great result for Ray but Becky hasn't finished yet!
One of the bids that I placed for you, you've actually been
And it's a one-bedroom studio flat.
It's on the fourth floor but there's two lifts in the property.
Is it one of the tower blocks over there?
-It's in Staner Court.
-I should be all right, I've got friends there.
I wouldn't say you clearing the property
has been wasted because if anybody moves
-you'd have had to clear anyway.
And I think it's helped you to get rid of lots of things you probably didn't need,
ready for when you do move.
How do you feel about that so far?
That I'm getting out of here!
-OK, then, thank you.
It is a fresh start,
I've had enough of this.
I'll be quite happy to move into the flat cos I just can't wait to get
out of here. At least, there...
I've got one level to a lift and then it's down the lift,
so, it's a lot easier.
It's going to be
suitable for his needs and as a single person it'll be ideal for him,
there shouldn't be an issue with mobility because of the lifts
in the property
and it will be for a five-year tenancy,
so it will be some security for him, as well.
And, hopefully, he'll be pleased with it.
I'm happy, I'm very happy.
In Suffolk, one family is badly in need of a new start.
Housing officer Fern has been working closely with
the Leigh family, after they came to the council with a whole
load of problems, personal and housing.
'I became part of their lives and they relied on me quite a lot'
because I was the only one there that was actually listening
to what they were saying, or that was how they felt, I think.
Lisa and Dan had fallen behind with their rent payments on a house
that was already too small for their family.
Their main problem was their housing,
and everything else sort of became secondary,
although it was extremely important,
especially the mental health side of things.
They were no longer able to afford the property,
and the landlord was forced to serve notice.
When we found out about the eviction,
it put my partner in a very bad place,
and he actually stabbed himself in the chest
because he felt worthless and like a loser.
But six months after their first call to the council...
..Lisa, Dan and the family
have been given an opportunity to get back on track.
Fern's helped to find them a new home, 45 miles away in Ipswich.
It was immediately available and much more suited to the family,
and it's also keeping Dan very busy.
I am finishing the last dining room chair.
It's really nice to have a dining room.
It's the most important room, I think,
so we can all eat dinner together and stuff.
It'll be so nice, cos I think a proper table and dining room
will be the making of us, really. We're spoilt for choice with space,
so we can all disappear off in our own corners,
and that's a good thing, definitely.
Having lived in cramped conditions for so long,
Lisa and Dan must be feeling relieved.
I think we've definitely made the right choice by coming here.
The girls definitely love it, and they can't wait to go to school,
make new friends, and they all seem to get on a lot better here.
They're not on top of each other, they've got space. It's all good.
It's amazing. It's just opened up a whole new world of opportunity
to the girls. They didn't have anywhere to play before.
Now the garden is absolutely massive.
For one stint, they were out there for six hours at a time,
and they just love it and it's great to see them happy,
because if they're happy, then I'm happy.
But crucially for Lisa and Dan,
the new start has had a positive effect on his health.
I'm a lot happier here than I was in the last place.
It's in a nice area as well.
Seems really quiet down this end of Ipswich.
Definitely a whole new start.
To be able to come together as a family, to sit down
and all have the same meal is absolutely fantastic.
Lisa can finally feel optimistic, both for herself and for Dan.
In the future, we're hoping to drop the medication a little bit
in the hope that he gets better and he'll be fit for work.
We all want to work. I have skills and qualifications,
and would like to get back to work myself,
so, it's not that we're just work-shy
and don't want to pay our rent or not have a job.
As a housing officer, you can have to deal with
some pretty unpleasant situations.
It's encouraging to see that things can come good in the end.
When you work with families for a long time,
you can't help but get close to them.
Looking back, I think I've learnt a lot from the case.
They helped me as much as I helped them,
and it worked out, and that's a really good thing. Yeah.
Back in the West Midlands,
I've been working with Sandwell housing officer Laura.
Sometimes you'll find damp and mould can be behavioural or structural.
We've been trying to get to the bottom of why Natasha and Liam
have been paying rent for so long on a damp property.
-It looks like there's probably some loose ridge tiles.
And that just needs a simple job.
Now, I've since heard that the landlord has made an effort
to sort things out, so, three weeks later,
I'm back to see what's been done.
-How are you doing, Liam?
-All right, ta, how are you?
-Can I come in?
-Yeah, come in.
There was damp all down here, wasn't there?
Yeah. That was from the shower...
and that's what they tried putting over it.
That was to put over what, over that?
To put in front of this.
-That's not sorting the problem out, is it?
-Trying to cover it.
-..covering it up.
OK. Let's have a look in the bathroom,
cos that's where a lot of the problems were coming from
in the first place.
-So this has had a lick of paint.
-Yeah, it was yellow.
It's still massive... massive damp there.
'Mmm. Well, the schedule of works also mentions the repairs
'required to the roof, which was in a bit of a mess.'
You can see daylight coming in through the roof.
The water will be straight into the loft.
'But it's not looking good.'
-And nothing's been done to the roof.
-No, nothing's been done to the roof,
hence the reason why part of the chimney breast there now,
even though it's been painted, it's still darker at the top.
So nothing's been done there. There's no point...
No, nothing's been done up on the roof at all.
It's just been internal instead of external.
The landlord has agreed to be interviewed,
but he's asked for his face not to be shown.
I'm trying to get a perspective from the landlord's point of view,
as well, of what it's like
managing properties in this part of the world.
It's increasingly difficult, very demanding.
-We've got one or two other problems, but I'm trying to retire.
I'm over 60 now, so it's getting hard work for me.
It's clear there has been some work that's taken place inside.
Yes, because we started the work,
and I understand there is a bit more than just the damp problem.
Yeah. It's where the damp problem's coming from
that really needs addressing,
because a lot of the trouble is coming from the roof.
These are not cosmetic things.
Well, rest assured, whatever's on the list,
within the next seven to ten days, it'll be done.
But they've been unhappy for some time, and it seems a shame
when they are good tenants not to be able to make sure
they're completely happy with the property.
They will be well happy, in the next seven to ten days.
OK. Thank you very much for your time, we really appreciate that.
'So that's good news. The landlord is saying all the work
'that needs to be done will be finished within the next ten days.'
And I'm fairly sure that if it's not,
Liam will be letting us and Sandwell know.
The landlord was as good as his word,
because since our meeting, he's sorted out all the issues
Natasha and Liam had complained about,
including that potentially dangerous leaking shower
and the rotting floorboards behind it.
And the good news doesn't end there.
Earlier we met Jade. She was worried about the safety of her family
because she didn't appear to have a current gas safety certificate.
Landlord Sam argued this wasn't the case,
and after contacting the council, it transpires he was right.
There was a mistake with the date on his certificate.
Sam has now also given Jade a fully working oven.
I do like a happy ending!
That's it for today's show.
Join me next time, when I'll be learning more about
what it takes to be one of Britain's front-line housing officers.
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.