Consumer programme. Matt Allwright joins the ranks of Britain's housing officers. A letting agent threatens to smash down a door to get into an overcrowded house.
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The law says everyone has the right to a safe place to live.
It's cold, it's damp and nothing's been done about it.
But for thousands of people across Britain,
the reality can be more hovel than home.
A dog's got a better life than what's going on here.
In the battle between tenants and landlords,
it's local housing officers who are on the front line.
You're the good cop, I'm the bad cop.
The notice will be served and action will be taken.
'I'm Matt Allwright and I've been training hard,
'ready to join the ranks of these housing enforcers.'
It's coming through from two floors above.
-So there's worse than this?
'Tackling problem properties...'
I'm going to come a cropper.
It's not sorting the problem out, is it?
It's just covering it up.
'..dealing with the consequences of nightmare neighbours...'
This was supposed to be my last move.
'..and everything in between.'
It is not getting easier, it's getting worse.
How are you enjoying being a landlord?
It has its ups and downs.
'Today, the case of an overcrowded house.'
If this is a family, they have all got very big feet.
People here are at risk.
'Housing officer Tony is on the trail of a neighbourhood bully.'
It's a waiting game. There will be consequences.
There is a little child in here that shouldn't be at risk.
'And I am seeing for myself just what extreme neglect looks like.'
If you do take a fall, you're falling onto concrete.
I am just trying to imagine the state of mind
that you would be in to live somewhere like this.
This is almost a joke. Isn't it?
They say that an Englishman's home is his castle,
but if it is a rented castle,
then it is the job of housing officers across the country
to make sure it's up to scratch.
They work with a growing army of private landlords to make sure
they play by the rules and provide people with a decent home.
But what happens when a tenant decides to sublet
a property as bedsits without the landlord even knowing?
'In Smethwick in the West Midlands,
'housing officer Roy Nicholls
'is about to pay a visit to a property
'that he suspects has far more people living in it than
'is safe and legal and apparently I'm going along for the ride.'
What am I letting myself in for today?
The allegation is that there are 20 people living at the property.
-20 in a house designed...
-In a house.
Well, we will find out when we get there.
Why do they choose you for those jobs?
Why do you choose yourself?
It is our choice. All the officers can do the work.
It's just that I've been probably here the longest
and I'm not the littlest in the team.
Is it OK if I tag along? Could you use an apprentice for the day?
Oh, certainly. You can always go in first.
Oh, thank you. Thank you.
'To rent a house out as bedsits,
'landlords must obtain a special licence and comply with
'regulations designed to protect their tenants' health and safety.'
The biggest problem you can get is where a landlord just puts
a load of people into just a normal property without any
fire protection to protect his clients.
I mean, I don't think they realise that, if something happens
and somebody dies in there, then the landlord is on a manslaughter charge.
Roy's suspicion is that this house could be being sublet
by the person who originally rented it,
meaning that the landlord would have no idea
how many people might be living there.
As long as the rent's being paid,
then there's nothing to flag up for the agent to be concerned.
It's only when we have a complaint come in that we have to
investigate, and that's sometimes when we find it.
As far they're aware, this is being let to a family.
My problem is, is that if they've sublet it and there's more
people in there that should be, then those are at risk.
Let's go and have a look.
'Roy has no right to enter the property at this early
'stage of his investigation, but he can gain access if he's invited in.'
KNOCKS ON DOOR
Doesn't appear to be any answer.
And I wonder if I just have a little nosey through the windows,
if I can see anything.
Go and have a quick look.
'And a quick look is all it takes...'
We've got a bed in the front room which is giving me
the indication that this is a house of multiple occupation.
The other clues that I can see -
you've got shoes lined up down the hall.
There's about eight pairs of shoes there.
'It's by no means conclusive,
'but Roy's seen enough to raise his suspicions with the letting agent.'
When the letting agent turns up...
When the letting agent turns up, at least
I can explain to her the situation here, what I think it is.
And I'm sure she's got a contact number for the tenant.
Maybe she can ring the tenant and if he's not too far away
if he could come back and...
But if he's doing what we think he's doing...
The answer's going to be "No way!"
He's not going to be, "Yeah, come and have a look!"
'Coming up, we finally gain access...'
KNOCKING ON DOOR
'..but will the numbers add up?'
How many people actually live here?
Exactly four. Four or five, maybe.
People here are at risk.
What do you do if someone living near you is making your life
an absolute nightmare?
Well, of course, you can go round there with a bright red face
and a clenched fist and do a lot of shouting.
But that's not very bright.
The sensible option is to get your local authority involved
and let them sort it out.
But there are occasions when that can make the situation worse.
What do you do then?
In Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, the ever-present problem of antisocial
behaviour is being tackled by a six-strong team of workers.
Housing officer Tony Silverio is on his way to deal with
an ongoing problem between some tenants
that's rapidly escalated in the last few days.
We've received some complaints about a neighbour smoking cannabis
and the alleged perpetrator approached this young lady
and just made various threats to her,
quite serious threats,
which resulted in him being arrested for it.
And, soon after he got bailed, this young couple had a damaged door.
The couple in question are Jason and Shareen, who say they've been
putting up with behaviour like this since they moved to the area
with their three-year-old daughter.
It's kind of been like a new person grudge, basically.
We moved in two years ago, and it's been ever since then, really.
He's seen me in the street taking my daughter to school
and he just started verbally abusing me,
saying he was going to kick down the door, all horrible stuff.
Next thing I know, my partner's ringing me up
saying that he's smashed the windows through.
Because we contacted the police, it has sort of escalated
from there, to them trying to wreck our door with hammers, screwdrivers.
The latest attack happened just the previous day.
Friday night, they had some more damage done to their door.
This time around, the damage was done on the inside
so they ended up with glass all over the place in their hall.
So it's been a little bit scary for them.
So far, the troublemaker's managed to go about his intimidation
campaign under cover.
Today, Tony is going to propose a plan to change all that.
Shall we have a little chat inside?
Yep, come on then. That's fine by me.
-And that's the damage from yesterday?
There's a little child in here that shouldn't be at risk.
She's come up to me yesterday and was like, "I'm scared."
And I was like, "Why?"
She was like, "Because windows smashing."
So she knows what's going on and she's only three years old.
So it's shouldn't be a sort of atmosphere that a
three-year-old should be into at all.
I spoke to the sergeant yesterday
and we talked about where we could go with trying to make you
a bit happier where you are at the moment.
Clearly we don't know exactly where this chap's living.
But, the other side of it is we also haven't got
any evidence of him doing damage.
So, what I propose to do is to put some cameras in your front door,
and then if he does try anything, he's going to be on camera.
This family needs action fast and Tony's hoping that installing
a CCTV camera will put an end to the harassment.
I mean, I can't ask much more of Tony, to be honest.
He is doing exactly what he can.
It is sad and it makes me angry that we can't do any more for them.
But I have to work with the evidence that is put in front of me
and at the moment I've got no evidence.
Hopefully, we'll capture whoever's doing it on camera
and we can take some more enforcement action against them.
If you look at that young couple, they're so resilient,
and it's been non-stop for them.
But hopefully I've been able to give them
a little bit of reassurance and to know that they're not alone.
At the end of the day, we're fighting the good battle for them
and we'll never give up.
Or, at least, I won't.
Two days later, Tony returns to install
a carefully positioned camera.
A few clear signs will send the bully the message
they're being watched.
OK, we're all done.
-See you later!
People who do this sort of thing are usually cowards or bullies.
Generally, they're both.
And once they've come up against someone who stands up to them,
they cave in.
If you can go home and think this young couple can now
look forward to the rest of their weekend in peace,
then great, you know?
We'll be back later to see exactly what Tony catches on his camera.
It's disgusting behaviour and won't be tolerated.
'Back in Smethwick in the West Midlands, I'm on duty with
'experienced housing officer Roy Nicholls, who suspects this
'terraced home could be being sublet to far too many people.'
There may not be fire protection in there,
it could be overcrowded....
'Having spotted a bed in the front room, Roy's informed
'the letting agent there could be a problem,
'and is now hoping she may be able
'to help us gain access to the property.'
KNOCKING ON DOOR
Hello? Hello? We're going to break the door down!
'All of a sudden, someone's moving inside.'
-Someone in there?
-Yeah, just come out of the bed.
BANGING ON DOOR
Looks like they've put locks on all the individual doors in there.
Well, if you do that, you're changing from a single family, then.
It means that people have got their own room,
which means that they lock the doors.
Hello, we need to gain entry.
Where's the man who just came out? The man?
I need to come in. I'm the letting agent.
-We need to come in.
No, no moment. We need to come in. Thank you.
If this is a family, they've all got very big feet.
'While Roy quizzes the current occupants, the letting agent puts
'a call in to the Polish man whose name is on the rental agreement.
'He sends a friend to help sort out the mess.'
-This is the gentleman from Sandwell Council.
-We seem to have a bit of a problem.
If this gentleman would like to explain.
How many people actually live here?
Yes. Four or five, maybe.
'It might not be as many as first reported,
'but still the numbers aren't adding up.'
Craig, Carol, Brady, Taran, Nishad. Five.
There's five people?
They're not related to one other, they just live as friends.
Yes, just as friends.
Just so I'm clear, because it's all moving quite quickly for me,
as a trainee housing officer.
This was a single occupancy tenancy.
Signed up with an agent for a family.
But now, once we're in here, it seems we have individuals sharing
this place but with locks on their doors.
We think, we haven't gone upstairs so far.
We're thinking this is now a house of multiple occupancy.
-Completely different rules apply.
'Having confirmed the property is being sublet, Roy needs to
'establish just how dangerous it could be for its multiple tenants.'
I need to carry out an inspection of the property.
So it means that I do need to go in the rooms upstairs.
Could you advise the people upstairs
that I will be coming in just to look around?
-Would you like to do that?
The first thing that we'll do, I'll go upstairs
and I'll sit with the gentleman and then I can take the details.
But get the inspection done first, so that...
The gentleman's working nights, so we'll try and get to him first, OK?
-Sorry for disturbing you. How many people?
-There's two people here. So you share?
-Me and my friend.
You and your friend. OK, fine.
Some people watch your TV?
This is my TV. It's a joke.
Is that right?
They can only watch it during certain times.
'But there's not much to laugh about
'when we explore the rest of the building.'
Straightaway, what we've got...
I mean, we've got deadlocks on doors.
And they should be thumb turned, so they haven't got to use a key to
get out, because what we need to do if there was a fire here,
we need to get out of this building quickly.
Just step on that carpet.
-Can I have a look under there?
-Yeah, yeah. If you lift it...
So it's actually missing floorboards.
If you was walking across there and you tripped down that hole,
the first thing you'd do is go towards this window.
This window...is single glazed.
-So, it's one hazard and there's a secondary hazard in its way.
You're in charge in this one.
So this is the box room,
there's not a full bed in here, there's a couch.
There's a couch in here.
This is not what this house was meant to be for.
This is a family home and so this is how people now are living.
They're sharing the rent.
I wouldn't think that they know each other as well as that,
because there's locks on the doors.
'Coming up, I uncover the biggest problem yet
'with a truly worrying property...'
This is a really dangerous place to be living.
In Stevenage in Hertfordshire, as well as dealing with disputes
between tenants and landlords, housing officers have been
helping Barry Brant,
who had a life-changing accident three years ago.
I was on the way to work.
I was going down a cycle track
and on the underpass there was a concrete bollard.
I hit it with my bike, went headfirst and hit the floor.
Had to have my nose rebuilt,
and have had subsequent problems with my back, my legs.
It started the epilepsy and from then from then on
I've had asthma problems as well.
Barry's injures meant the end
of a high-flying career in senior management.
And after wife Heather gave up her job to care for him,
they were facing financial ruin.
The loss of the wages, it's been tens of thousands we've lost.
The house we're in at the moment was under threat of repossession,
because we weren't covering the mortgage.
If they repossess it from us, where are we going to go?
Not only were they facing eviction from their own home,
but the accident left Barry's mobility seriously affected.
As soon as my health really deteriorated, I couldn't go upstairs.
So Barry sleeps down here now.
We come in here, it is a kitchen-diner, so Barry's overwhelmed
by cooking smells and things like that.
This stool here, he puts that against the sink,
then he actually washes at the kitchen sink.
So it's not very private,
but, in these circumstances, this is what he deals with every day.
Reaching crisis point, Barry and Heather contacted
Stevenage council housing officer Ruth Edwards.
Working with Citizen's Advice and the Housing Association,
not only has Ruth helped the couple deal with their mortgage arrears,
but they're going to be re-housed in a specially adapted bungalow.
Yeah, this is quite a rare project for us to be involved in.
We don't often get the opportunity to build bungalows,
because they take up so much space on the ground.
So it's more often than not flats and family-sized houses.
I think for Mr and Mrs Brant moving from their existing home
to this new one will make a huge difference to them.
It's just going to be designed to help him in ways that he needs
but still look like a family home for them.
Barry and Heather will become social housing tenants, which also
means no more mortgage worries.
'If the council couldn't have helped us, the stress involved could
'have easily split us up.'
I may not have been here.
It's as bad as that.
Hi, Mrs Brant?
So that Barry and Heather are involved at every stage
of the bungalow's build,
Ruth has organised regular meetings with architect Colin Smart.
We've still got time to change little bits inside.
We can make any small changes, as long as they're done pretty quickly.
The kitchen, we've got to talk about.
-Whether you do cooking or not.
If at all! the last time I did that, I set the microwave alight!
-I think that went really well.
They'll get more of a normal home life, hopefully,
once they're in that bungalow.
If you take the council and all those people that have supported us
out of the equation, I don't know where we would have been.
They deserve medals. They're really, really good.
It's been nice that people do care.
A few days later, Colin invites Barry and Heather
to the site of their new home for the very first time.
-OK, so let's go up here.
Main entrance in here.
Into the lounge...
'It was really nice today to bring them here and have a look'
and have a chance to tweak it a little bit.
Trying to visualise now how it will look
with the brick work, when it goes up.
After three very difficult years,
Barry and Heather are starting to get a glimpse of a brighter future.
It's been one...
..continual battle, especially for Heather.
She's had to take on most of the actual brunt of things.
It's finally coming to an end. It's coming to an end.
It's very easy to be unwell.
It's the person that has to pick up the pieces
that has all the hard work to do.
It's just amazing that this has happened.
Thanks to Ruth, Colin and the team,
Barry and Heather will be moving into their new home next spring.
'Back in Smethwick in the West Midlands,
'my day with housing officer Roy Nicholls
'is turning into a full-blown investigation.'
This was a single occupancy tenancy.
Now we have individuals sharing this place,
-but with locks on their own doors.
'The situation means that this property must now comply to
'stringent safety standards designed to protect the tenants.
'Roy's using this as an opportunity
'to put his new apprentice through his paces.'
We've got a lock on the outside of this door,
which is not operable from the inside.
So you could actually lock somebody in this room
without giving them the ability to get out.
There's something else.
There's an electricity meter down in that corner.
It's a gas meter. A card meter.
So that means you could lose gas for the rest of the house
and if this door was locked, no-one else could do it.
Absolutely perfect again.
They might be cooking and the gas just goes.
And then somebody might back come in, put the meter in,
the lights gone out and then we've just got gas flowing everywhere.
'Without a suitable fire safety system in place,
'this house is potentially very dangerous.'
There's two risk rooms.
-The kitchen and the main living room.
Because that's where people are either cooking
or possibly smoking or dwelling.
Although it seems that people are smoking in every room of this house,
so that's an added concern.
What do you think we would require?
Smoke alarms and fire detectors, as well,
cos I know there's a difference now.
I want them to be mains.
-You're looking at me like...
-I'm not... I don't... Go, go...
Because if they're battery...
In a house of multiple occupancy,
if they're battery-powered smoke detectors,
you've got to have somebody who takes responsibility
for changing the batteries, and you can't rely on that.
So you have to have it linked to the mains
and running the whole time. How's that?
I tell you what, excellent.
It's the smoke that kills, OK?
It's very rare that you'll get somebody who's burnt to death,
it'll be they will die through the smoke inhalation.
Before they knew it,
they'd be walking down into a smoke-filled area.
So it's early warning that we need to do.
So it would be hard-wired...
When you're painting a picture like this,
you start to look at this house in completely a different way.
This is a really dangerous place to be living.
I will be contacting the fire service on my return
to do a visit on this to get some detectors in,
battery for a short period of time,
so at least there's something here.
'It's been a roller coaster day, but Roy's priority now
'is to ensure the future safety of whoever lives here.
'Meanwhile, the landlord has a decision to make
'about exactly who he wants living in his house.'
He thinks the property's being let as a single family unit
and now there's considerable works that are required now,
to bring this property up to standard for these occupants.
So it's does he want to keep the occupants,
or does he want his property to be a single family unit?
So they're the questions we need to put forward
before we decide on what notices I need to serve.
-The reason we were here was an allegation of overcrowding.
Now, there are more people here than should be.
You couldn't really call it overcrowding.
But it has allowed us in to look at this
and possibly prevent really terrible things.
Ensuring that we all have somewhere safe and decent to live
is the job of housing officers right across the UK.
You're overcrowded, so there is nowhere for your lads to go.
'I'm working alongside the men and women who do exactly that.'
You see this room and you go "Shut it down," move him out.
'I'm hitting the streets...'
Good to see you.
..I'm learning on the job...'
This is just a breeding ground for rats.
'..and I'm finding out what it takes to be sure that a house'
is a fit place to call a home.
This house is starting to send shivers down my spine.
I turned up here and there was no house, it was just completely gone.
We've got to look at it strategically
and the best way to attack it.
I'm in Oldbury in the West Midlands,
with property intervention officer Richard Hawkins
from Sandwell Council.
'We're heading to a privately owned block of flats...'
So what's the problem with them, then?
What am I expected to try and resolve here?
Many, many, many different problems.
With this site, it became an issue to us, firstly,
because it looked visually bad.
There are empty properties on the site,
which is something the government is trying to resolve.
As we've become involved,
it's become more and more entangled as we've found more and more
issues on the site. It was kind of like opening a Pandora's box.
This is the site.
Straightaway you can see places that it's difficult to start
imagining people living.
It does have that shock value to it unfortunately. That's the nature of
the work, which you're going to find out today as we have a look around.
'Now, we're here to inspect the communal parts of these flats.
'But where do you start with a place as big as this?'
Almost every property I'm looking at seems to have some
kind of problem or something that needs doing to it.
First, we've got to carry out what Richard calls
a neighbourhood renewal assessment.
It's a really effective way of getting a quick overview of
the problems and the impact they're having on anyone who lives here.
Throwing it back to you as a student, what jumps out to you as
the most alarming, perhaps, aspects, would you say?
Well, the property that we're standing in front of right here,
it's clearly empty and, as soon as you've got a property like that,
then it is affecting the ones next door.
There are more serious issues at hand here
than the first obvious empty property.
Our main role here, it's to protect human health.
So, looking at this flat, it looks visually appalling, doesn't it?
But as you said, it's empty.
So the impact, perhaps, immediately on human health isn't, say,
as immediate as what might be going on in the property next door,
-which is occupied.
-OK, so as a student, as a housing officer,
I've got to be thinking of faces before places,
people before structures.
-I shall get my clipboard.
-Brilliant. OK. Let's get some equipment.
You see? It's not easy this job.
The council has already prosecuted the freehold owners twice and there
are fines of almost £130,000 outstanding.
Today we've got to carry out a new inspection to gather more
'evidence of disrepair, and it looks like it could be dirty work.'
I find it overwhelming.
I'm expected to come here and look at this property
and be methodical and see the rights and wrongs
and I'm overwhelmingly driven by the desire to knock it down.
'But that is not an option. So, first, the stairs.'
Do you see any problems with this?
It's heavily corroded. You've got sharp edges on it.
-Shall we have a look underneath it?
-It looks dreadful.
There is concerns that, over the next 12 months, this could
start to go and even the Post Office have stopped delivering upstairs
because of their concerns with it.
It's getting to the point that, if they corrode any further,
we will have to start serving prohibition orders on flats,
which basically means we'll shut the flats down
-and people will not be allowed to live in them.
It is that serious.
And is anyone bringing their kids up here?
Yeah, there are children on this site. Yeah. Yeah.
I just... I can't imagine that.
'If there are kids growing up here
'then parts of this place are potentially lethal.'
The height of this wall, from this side, is here.
If you've got a child or a toddler comes running along, they go
straight over, there's nothing to stop them and
you've got that to fall down into.
That needs a railing across the top of it.
It needs a railing. It's deadly.
'And it's not a one-off.
'Around every corner there's a new problem.'
I mean, That one over there was bad. This is... That's just dreadful.
It's a death trap. If you've got
a little toddler, they're not going to have a chance, are they?
-Sends shivers down my spine, it really does.
'But it's home for the families who live here.
'And, in parts of the place, conditions have become so dangerous,
'they've had to carry out makeshift repairs themselves.'
This is almost a joke, isn't it?
This has been here
for a lot longer than I would want to call it a temporary feature.
If you do take a fall, you're falling on to concrete.
Who are these people?
Who is it that can actually take responsibility for all these souls
that are still living here and yet do nothing?
It's just incredible.
I'm just trying to imagine the state of mind that you'd be in or
the options that you don't have that gets you to the point
where you'd be prepared to live somewhere like this.
And later on, I'll be finding out that the problems here
carry on indoors.
I've been doing this nine years
and I've never seen electricity have to be put in from next door.
Back in Stevenage, housing officer Tony Silverio is doing all he can
to protect a young family from what looks like a case of harassment.
They've got a little girl, they're a young couple,
they don't need that kind of fear in their lives.
Jason, Shareen and their three-year-old daughter have found
themselves on the receiving end of some pretty nasty behaviour.
It's kind of been like a new-person grudge, basically.
He's obviously damaging our property and making us scared to live here.
Tony has put in a CCTV camera outside the couple's flat,
hoping it would either deter the troublemaker
or help catch them in the act.
Well, it certainly caught some action
but not the kind that Tony wanted.
So what we've got here is footage which was captured on the CCTV.
We can see the family go out
and, very shortly after...
..the perpetrator comes up the stairs,
heads for the camera with a hammer in his hand,
attacks the cameras and then also cuts the cables.
It's disgusting behaviour and won't be tolerated
and we will deal with it.
The footage will now be downloaded on to a disk,
passed to the police as evidence.
It's a waiting game. We have to wait on the evidence and the right
opportunity and, when that comes around, there will be consequences.
But with just a few grainy shots to go on, the police are going to
struggle to identify the vandal, so Tony is getting some back-up help.
Unfortunately, the cameras haven't been as successful as we would hope
so we're now working with the police
and they're looking at putting covert cameras in.
Tony also replaced the broken camera but, for Jason
and Shareen, living a life in fear is now becoming too much.
Over the past three weeks, it's just escalated to paint on the door,
CCTV cameras being destroyed.
It's just been a nightmare living here.
Like, it's not getting easier, it's getting worse.
It's frustrating. It's frustrating for all of us
trying to help the family,
because this has been three weeks of constant battering
on their emotions and on their physical wellbeing
and I wouldn't want to put up with it myself.
I've got to look at that door so many times a day and it just puts
a big strain on us because we're sitting there, we're thinking,
"When is the next attack going to be and what's he going to do next?
"Is he going to go something bigger
"and do a front room window or bedroom window?"
The family now wants to move and, to be honest, I'm not surprised.
Tony's CCTV footage could help their predicament, though.
-Morning. How are you?
-All right, you?
-Good, good, good. Shall I come in?
With the material in the hands of the police,
they could now be prioritised for a new, safer home.
The main reason I came back was just to check that everything was
all right and I wanted to find out from you how you
got on about getting the paperwork.
My mum's done a letter. My dad's done a letter. I've got to go back
to the doctor's at some point this afternoon to go get their letter.
Doctor's had to put me on anti-depressants
and they've been referring me to counselling.
The longer we stay here, the worse I'm going to get.
They're very fragile. Particularly having a small child in the flat.
-She knows something...
She looks at the door and says, "Oh, no, it's broken. Bad people."
It's not nice.
They've made their stand.
They've supported us in trying to find out who's doing it
and, in their shoes, I'd move out.
And that's the reality of it.
I take it nothing's happened to the other camera we put in?
It's pointing the right way. Doesn't look like anyone's tampered with it.
-We just have to keep an eye on it.
-So far, so good.
-So far, so good.
The simple fact is, if it does what it needs to do,
then it'll be fine but, other than that, having cameras
outside your house is not exactly ideal.
Hopefully this will put an end to it.
I've just got to hope for the best, really, that
it gets sorted one way or another.
You can get a bit of peace.
-We could do with it.
You've got to really feel for this family
but, for housing officers,
sometimes there is no quick-fix solution to a problem.
We've put replacement cameras in.
Our tenants will be looking to put a request in to be moved.
I will argue a case to the panel that they should be moved.
A fresh start, yeah.
For now, though, Tony can rid them of any reminders of their situation,
and that means a new door.
Ten days later, I'm pleased to say the old eyesore has gone.
We've had our new front door fitted this morning.
It looks a lot better than what it did. Obviously.
It's not something that's going to be really horrible to look at now
when you go out the door and, if people do come up, they ain't
got to look at a horrible door to come in or anything like that.
So, yeah, pretty happy.
Importantly, Jason and Shareen will be much safer here
until they can be rehoused.
It is going to be more relaxing for us to move in to our own property
and go from there, really.
If I can do something to help better their situation
then I'm very pleased about that.
Cos nobody else is looking after them right now.
Come back later,
when we'll have more on the man who threatened Shareen.
'Over in Oldbury, I'm with Richard Hawkins,
'inspecting a block of flats in serious disrepair.'
As a council, we have done everything,
and I mean everything, that we can do to get this resolved.
Over the past three years, the freehold owner of these flats
has received fines mounting up to £130,000.
'But they're yet to be paid
'and, meanwhile, the communal areas are getting worse and worse.'
If I start to feel now that people are at imminent risk
then I will have to shut these flats down
and that is literally where I'm at the stage of having to consider now.
OK, this might be great training for me
but it provides appalling conditions for people to be living in.
And there are plenty who have to put up with it.
'Richard's taking me to meet Mr Love,
'one of the longest-standing residents here.'
-Nice to see you.
-sorry about the gloves.
Nice to see the face.
Well, yes, I can't do anything about that, I'm afraid.
I'm just taking a tour of the site with Richard here
and I'm trying to learn his job,
effectively, to find out what he has to do.
And what I've seen from this site is quite upsetting...
-It is upsetting.
-..if I'm honest with you.
And the last ten years it's really been upsetting.
We have had problems, possibly longer than that.
Ten years, I'd say, yes.
And how long have you been living here?
32 years, plus six months.
So, was that at the stage where it was a new development?
Very, very good. Fantastic.
-It's been your home for a long time.
-It has. Absolutely.
32 years, very happy indeed.
But, I mean, the properties around you are in such disrepair
and the site, generally, is in terrible...
Would you not...? Does it make you feel like moving?
It does, certainly. Yes.
'It's really disturbing that such a house-proud gentleman has
'gone from living in what must have been quite a smart home...
Just to warn you, just be careful of this cos I've just noticed
the actual brickwork has dropped here
and, if you look here, the actual frame's gone.
So we need to be very careful here.
And, as you can see, there's a serious issue with the roof.
That looks like it's on the verge of falling in completely.
'But back to the books and our priority today is to make sure
'there are no immediate threats to the health of the residents.
'We've been asked to come and inspect this flat by the tenant,
'who's paying £80 a week to live here, but he's got no electricity.
'The meter's been removed, so the tenant has been forced to use
'a concoction of cables to take electricity from his neighbour.
'The landlord shouldn't be renting the property out without power.'
I've been doing this nine years
and I've never seen electricity have to be put in from next door.
As you can see, it's quite clearly the supply has been
disconnected, so there is no way that the tenant can provide
electricity and that is the responsibility of the landlord.
So what do you think is the best thing to do there, Matt?
I think that is a straight notice to the landlord to say,
-"Get this up and running."
-What, contact the Western Power...?
-Get a photograph.
'As they say, every day's a school day.
'But my training is beginning to pay off.'
What would you say is your concern about that?
My concern about that is that it looks like an electric heater
with no legs, straight onto a wooden laminate floor.
I'm talking about a fire hazard here. It just feels like it's
-about five minutes from putting this house in serious danger.
Every single house in the country should have fixed, wall-mounted
heaters that people can control the temperature on.
This is... It's unsuitable, it's unsafe and...
Even if it was safe, it would be unsuitable.
'Seems to me like Brody's moved into a half-completed
'renovation project here.
'In fact, in the whole estate it feels like, everywhere I look,
'people are being let down.'
If you're sitting at home comfortably in your house
and enjoying central heating and electricity, which presumably
you've got if you're watching this at all,
then where I'm standing right now is somewhere that you'll struggle
to get your head around.
People are making their homes here
and they deserve just the basics at least to be able to do that -
electricity, hot water, heating - and those things are missing.
And that's before you start,
you know, on the decaying structures that are outside.
It's somewhere else. It needs sorting out.
'The next morning, by the time I arrive at the office,
'Richard is well ahead of me.'
So, Richard, I was told this was a nine-to-five job,
that's what I'd be doing, but you've been in this morning since when?
6:20am this morning I was in, yeah.
Well, I mean, obviously, we went out to that flat yesterday
and there was a massive amount of concerns.
I came to the conclusion that it was of such a serious nature that we
needed to recommend to the director that they serve a prohibition order.
That's the route that we're going down this morning.
Once we've got them out of the situation, that takes
the pressure off those quite serious issues which we saw yesterday,
that they can then obviously be resolved.
Because that flat will not be allowed to be occupied again
until those issues are resolved.
Bit by bit, you're trying to chisel away at Trafalgar Court and make it
a really functional place for people to live and bring up their families.
There is absolutely no reason why Trafalgar Court can't be
a reasonable place to live.
It's a mixed result for us here.
In my experience so far, a course of action as drastic
as a prohibition order is a housing officer's last resort
as it runs the risk of leaving people homeless.
But Richard had serious concerns for the safety of the tenant,
and rightly so.
It was a pretty dangerous flat. However, it's boarded up.
And it's one more flat on Trafalgar Court that is not housing someone.
It's another home that is no longer accessible,
no longer part of the stock
and that means no-one else can move in, for the meantime.
The company that held the freehold on these flats
was in liquidation at the time of the inspection.
They told us the property was in a rundown state
when they acquired it and they'd encountered difficulties
collecting service charges from some of the tenants.
One of the company's directors told us...
Earlier, we met Jason and his partner Shareen,
who been threatened in the street.
Since then, a man has been found guilty of a public order offence
and fined £130 plus £300 costs.
Who destroyed the CCTV camera remains a mystery.
That's it for today. Join me next time,
when I'll continue to find out if I've got what it takes
to join the ranks of Britain's front-line housing officers.
In this episode a letting agent needs to threaten to smash down a door to get into an overcrowded house. The housing enforcers help a young family whose lives are being ruined by a violent hate campaign and Matt visits one of the worst estates in Britain.