Consumer programme. Matt Allwright joins the ranks of Britain's housing officers. Matt makes an old lady very happy with a doorbell.
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The law says everyone has the right to a decent place to live.
This isn't about you, this is to do with the building.
For thousands of people across Britain,
the reality can be more hovel than home.
The landlord's got concerns.
He would be worried about fire risks.
In the battle between tenants and landlords,
it's local housing officers who are on the front line.
You can't blame the ills of society on landlords. Know what I mean?
I'm Matt Alright and I've been training hard,
ready to join the ranks of these housing enforcers.
Show me your rat holes.
Oh, my God, look!
Tackling problem properties...
They had to go through a whole winter with it like that.
There's fresh rat droppings down here.
Dealing with the consequences of nightmare neighbours.
And everything in between.
I can get a warrant from court and that would be the next step.
-You like the big house?
Can you stop filming and leave my house?
OK, we're being asked to leave.
Coming up, I come across a shocking case
of a tenant's antisocial behaviour.
There was a lot of fighting, a lot of girls screaming.
There was blood everywhere.
We had to keep calling the caretaker to come and clear everything up.
Housing officers Pam, Chrissy and I
are forced to ask some difficult questions.
-A two-bedroomed property?
You've got three boys?
Where does everybody sleep?
And, a tenant gets a home she could only dream of.
-This is your bathroom.
-You know I'm not going to say no.
-I know you're not going to say no!
-Go away, I'm going to cry.
An Englishman's home may well be his castle.
But, if that home is owned by somebody else, well,
you may need to know where to find your local housing officer.
They are responsible for making sure
that landlords live up to their duties and obligations.
Namely, providing somewhere that is safe and decent to live.
We're travelling to Thanet in Kent,
where today housing officer Sarah Kelly
will be putting me through my paces.
We're visiting Cliftonville, a deprived area of Margate,
and one of the council's housing hotspots.
So, why is Cliftonville in the shape that it's in right now?
There's big, old buildings that were bed and breakfasts and hotels,
and then tourism declined with cheap flights abroad and stuff,
and then they all got converted into one bedroomed flats,
two bedroomed flats,
which attracted a certain type of tenant or person.
It's just sort of declined from there.
British seaside towns certainly aren't what they were
in their heyday of the 1950s.
Since the rise in cheap holidays abroad, our coastal communities
now account for some of the most deprived areas in Britain.
In fact, figures show the top five bankruptcy hotspots
in the UK are all seaside towns.
With little or no industry other than tourism,
these towns have high unemployment.
In a recent survey,
Margate was seventh in the top 10 of our most deprived seaside resorts.
According to Sarah, the house we're visiting
is a prime example of the problems the council face in the area,
and has witnessed some extreme examples of tenant bad behaviour.
Recently, one moved out and completely ripped out
all the bathrooms and stuff,
the toilet, and flooded the whole building.
So now we're working on drying that building out,
and it takes months, with the amount of water that's gone through it.
To complicate matters,
the 18 bedsits in the house we're visiting are looked after
by several different landlords. We need to try and inspect them all.
I believe there's four freeholders who struggle to communicate.
It's a difficult thing
-because you need all four approvals before work can be done.
With its history of antisocial behaviour,
a visit to Cliftonville is treated with caution by the council.
Sarah and I have been joined at the house
by fellow housing officer Andy Emerson.
We've got a policy where two officers always come out
to properties within this area, just for the security issues.
-Yes. In this case, two and a half.
First on our check list, the basement flat of Olly Charman,
which has suffered serious problems that he blames on a neighbour.
Upstairs they broke the toilet, and continued to BLEEP.
Excuse my French.
Continued to use it.
So along that back wall, I had urine running down the wall for weeks.
-The bathroom ceiling was bowed.
There were flies in there one day because of the damp.
The landlord up there didn't even know that anyone lived down here.
It's clear that Sarah's got her work cut out, dealing with this
kind of property, but I'm quickly learning that, as a housing officer,
one of the first weapons you want in your armoury is perseverance.
-You've got a new boiler. They've sorted out the fire detection.
So they've partly complied, but the rest they haven't,
so what I'll do now is give them a firm 14 days,
so as of tomorrow, a firm 14 days,
and if it's not complied with by then,
then it will go to prosecution from there.
Not all the problems in this block are down to the landlords.
Dave Hayden, the owner of several different apartment upstairs,
is keen to set us straight on that point.
You've had a few difficult tenants before, haven't you?
You had the toilet ripped out and it flooded.
Yes, they even kicked the bath in - I mean, how do you do that?
We've had places trashed. Three times in one year.
You're talking 5K.
You're only getting 4K per year per unit.
So you could spend £15,000 putting it back in order...
For £4,000 income. And that's if you get it.
That's if you get the rent.
Your guys won't even go to some of the places without police backup.
But we're expected to collect our rent, you know.
It's nice to hear your side. Thanks very much.
I don't like the sound of it, I will be honest.
I will say, most of the people in Margate we've got are fantastic.
It's obvious that Dave has dealt with a fair share of rowdy
residents, but he is also keen for us to meet Sue Phillips,
who has her own unique philosophy about how the area should be run.
Look after your tenants that look after you.
The ones who pay their rent.
You know, and tell you when things are going wrong.
Look after them, get rid of the BLEEP.
Have nice people.
-If you can find enough nice people.
I am 63, and I just want to be settled.
All I want is a nice place to live,
roof over my head,
nice, warm and cosy.
What else do I want now?
This is a typical property for this area.
Pretty much all of them have been subdivided to this kind of level,
so the only way to stop it is to stop planning permission
being granted, which we have done, for big conversions,
subdividing it into small levels of accommodation,
trying to get landlords to, if they want to do something different,
say all right, get rid of your six flats, make two nice maisonettes.
You will attract a different type of person to come in there,
if you're in the right location, which we are.
You'll get someone who will come in and pay more money,
and look after the property better.
It's sad to see so many of our British seaside towns
in such a state.
They've been a big part of our history and many of our childhoods.
Housing officers are trying to ensure that they provide
a really good home for somebody right now, and for the future.
Next, we're heading to the town of St Helens in the north west
to hook up with housing officers Pam Coppock and Chrissy Nevitt.
They're responding to a report from a St Helen's police woman
that a local resident may be living in hazardous circumstances
and her investigation has rung alarm bells for the team.
She'd been in the area and noticed that the property
looked very run down and very overgrown with plants at the front.
She discovered that he was spending a lot of time
in the house by himself and perhaps not in too good conditions.
With little to go on, apart from the building's untidy exterior,
Pam and Chrissy have to be prepared for anything.
This should be very interesting.
It's one of those that come up every now and then,
which we find has quite a lot of ongoing issues with it.
Hopefully we'll get in.
-Hello, Mr Shaw?
-Hi, Pam Coppock. I sent you a letter about the visit.
-I got it yesterday.
-Is it all right to come in and have a chat with you?
Thank you very much. We'll do a quick inspection of the house.
Anything we identify as causing you a problem,
that might give you a hazard,
your safety, your welfare, we will get in touch with your landlord
-and ask for that to be repaired or remediated.
It's a bit different with you because I know it's your ex-wife.
-Yes, so she doesn't...
-She just lets you carry on.
It's an unusual situation to say the least.
Tenant Graham Shaw is living in a house
with his ex-wife for a landlord,
making circumstances more delicate for Chrissy and Pam to deal with.
-Knock it with your knee.
It does stick.
I think it's just catching on the thingy there.
Right, OK. We will get that eased.
The other thing, because you've got an open staircase
in the kitchen, if anything is going to catch fire,
that will catch fire and it will jeopardise your route of escape.
-That's got to be as clear as you can make it.
-That's not a problem.
Building materials stored under the stairs
are a serious hazard to Mr Shaw's safety.
As for tyres in the garden, it's a whole other story.
You've got a fair few!
-Where did the tyres come from?
-I don't know.
They were dumped in the front garden so we just moved them around here.
You've got a shed down there as well?
-Well, there is a shed...
-There is a shed behind that jungle.
There is quite a bit going on round here.
Your hopper head needs sorting.
Your gutters and soffits need sorting.
As Pam first suspected, hidden behind the overgrown exterior,
they have discovered a property plagued with problems,
both outside and in.
Again, you don't want any flammables in there.
-I think they're all empty so they can go to the tip.
What happened to the ceiling rose on this one, Graham?
-Well, it works. I think it's just dropped down.
I think it works.
Domestic bliss it certainly isn't.
And it can't be an easy situation for either Graham or his ex-wife.
Sometimes, half of the things are her fault, half's mine.
If I don't get on to her about if there's things wrong...
..it just carries on.
If I don't tell her, she won't know, will she?
It seems Graham's ex-wife, and landlord, may not be aware of the
house's structural problems which are her responsibility.
While the clutter and piles of tires are for Graham to remove, the broken gutters
and ill-fitting doors and windows need to be attended to by the house's owner.
There is a connection there that makes it
a little more difficult for the tenant and the landlord.
Being so close previously probably inhibits it a little bit more than it would do
and, again, that's where we come in.
Despite a seemingly endless list of problems, Pam has the power to decide who
should be responsible for what
and it looks like Graham's going to be a busy boy.
I think that works!
Inside, OK, it's a bit of good
housekeeping. So if you get it all cleaned up and de-cluttered.
Clear all the tyres, cut back vegetation.
Otherwise, if it doesn't
get done we go to statutory stuff and notices and you get charges.
I'll sort it.
Pam will also be in contact with Graham's ex-wife,
who will be required to carry out the structural repairs.
We give a bit of advice and we ask them to
work together and it brings them together a bit better.
So hopefully, fingers crossed, it will all work out.
-It'll be better for you...
-Of course it will.
-..Because you've got a good little house,
and again it stops people looking at you.
All right, cheers, Graham. You take care. Don't forget, phone me if you want anything.
Right Bye, love. Bye-bye
He seems more than willing, and as he keeps saying,
he just needed a push in the right direction, and hopefully we've done that for him
and he'll be able to turn it round.
Pam's visit has created some work for Graham and his ex-wife and landlord. But with a little effort
the tenant's well-being will have been improved
and the value of the landlord's property will have been preserved.
In Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, antisocial behaviour by private and
social housing tenants is a constant issue for the council.
I'm working with Housing Officer
Tony Silverio on the case of a tenant known for
his love of loud music, and the noise, disruption and damage caused
by a constant stream of visitors to his flat.
Unsurprisingly, the neighbours have had enough.
This young man has already been subject to an antisocial behaviour injunction that was
applied for a couple of years back.
That's expired now. The last thing I'm sure he wants is another one
because it will restrict his
lifestyle. The problem is that a lot of the problems that are created at
his property are not by him but by visitors.
-But he's responsible for them at the end of the day?
Presumably, we're the sort of visitors this tenant doesn't want to see.
But how could anyone pay him a visit anyway?
It turns out the upstairs flat where he lives doesn't even have a doorbell.
So how could we get in contact with him, then? Just give him a call?
If he hasn't changed his number.
If we get down to the stage of throwing little stones at the window? That doesn't really...
We could do what his friends do, climb up the side and through that window.
-Yeah, I'm not as young as I used to be, Tony.
-Neither am I.
-And definitely not in these shoes.
It's not straightforward by any means when people don't have a doorbell.
It might be a recommendation I make. I might write it in my notepad.
We're not having any luck contacting the troublesome tenant, but luckily
Tony knows a neighbour, Pat Chambers, who could give us access to the block.
How long have you been living in this block?
I've been here 17 years.
How is it? What's it like in Stevenage?
-Oh, it's nice, I love it here.
-Yeah, I do!
Everyone else in the block nice?
Barring one, only one, yeah.
A bit of trouble?
A lot of trouble. Last six years now, that's a long time, isn't it?
No-one should have to put up with antisocial behaviour for so long,
never mind a pensioner like Pat. But it turns out things haven't always
been this way.
When he first moved in he was such a nice lad, he really was a lovely lad, and we all took to him
and then all of a sudden we had all
his rabble coming in and there was a lot of fighting a lot of girls screaming,
there was blood everywhere, we had to keep calling
the caretaker to come and clear everything up.
Have you tried to speak to him before?
Oh, yes, I had a word with him, I said to him,
"If you ever feel stressed, you come down here and have a chat with me."
-You've made an effort to try and make him fit in...
-I've stuck up for him and he's not even talking to me now.
It does sounds like Pat's tried her best. But sensibly,
she's also been keeping a record of the noise and disruption,
which should prove helpful for Tony if and when the council decide
to pursue another ASBO.
We've got the 14th.
We had loud music at 1.15.
That was about an hour. On the 17th we had loud music again,
then again on the 22nd. 26th and again on the 28th.
-And what sort of music?
-Not my kind of music!
This is this guy's second chance, really, isn't it?
He's already been through this process once. Does that mean you're going to escalate it now
and say, "Listen, we've tried that and it hasn't worked"?
We will have the conversation, he will then decide how he's going to behave from now on.
If he decides not to change
his behaviour, we'll be forced to change it for him.
Now, it may come that ultimately we'll just have to take the property back from him.
It sounds like Tony isn't pulling his punches this time. Find out later how he gets on.
We've had enough, over the
past six years I think we've had our belly-fulls.
It's the job of housing officers across the UK to make sure that people have a decent place to live.
I'm really concerned about what you're living in here and I want to get it fixed for you.
'I'm going to be working alongside the men and women who do just that.'
There's this thing down in the corner growing out of the skirting that looks like a sea sponge.
'I'm hitting the streets.
'I'm learning on the job...'
We call that flash banding.
It'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.
In Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, Housing officer
Richard Mitchell is viewing a council property with a young woman
who's desperately in need of a home.
Yes, we are off to so a viewing. She contacted us about a year ago.
This lady is a 20 year-old-mother of a two-year-old son, so she is a top bidder.
So hopefully today she'll be keen to move in.
-Hi, Nicola, isn't it? Hi, I'm Richard.
-Hi, nice to meet you.
You're mum, OK. Shall we go and have a look at the property?
Being top bidder means Nicola Baker is high on the council's housing
list and has first refusal on this property.
The reason that Nicola is such a high priority, is that she is currently homeless.
Have a good look around, everything will be finished in the property.
We're still doing work in here. This is the living room.
This flat is a far cry from Nicola's current lodgings.
I think we've done OK.
She, her partner and their 18-month-old son, Taden, are living in a homeless
hostel. This was supposed to be a temporary move,
but 12 months on, the one-room accommodation is far from ideal.
This is our living room, bedroom, dining room.
And then just out here we have the bathroom, it just has a shower
and toilet and bits in it.
Outside is the
communal bathroom were everyone is allowed to use, it's not just us.
There is quite a few girls with toddlers and little babies.
Everyone seems to bath their babies at the same time
so you kind of have to judge who is going to be in there next.
This is the only bathroom for this block.
In total, there is 30 flats including studios and one-bedroom flats
in this whole building.
I suppose this would be your bedroom, would it?
Yeah, it is nice.
Nicola and her young family became homeless after the
relationship with her mum, Jackie, broke down.
It was a bit of a surprise when she come and said she was pregnant, but
we just got on with it as you do.
When she first was pregnant, we didn't really look into the future
but when he was several weeks old,
we was too on top of each other, there was too much tension.
Nicola's partner was living with us as well, and my husband and me just started
having discussions about her moving out.
It was the hardest thing to do, but, you know, she had to go, I'm afraid.
This is the kitchen, it will be a kitchen.
We're not going to leave it like this.
The decision to ask her daughter to leave the family home
seems to have saved Jackie and Nicola's relationship.
It seems like in this case her son is two years of age
and she approached us about a year ago, so it
looks like the family tried to help her for a period of time after the
baby was born, but clearly after about 12 months when the child was a
year old they were struggling to accommodate her.
Unfortunately it also meant Nicola was homeless.
When they come through the homeless route, they tend to get a
house quicker because... to be fair, the whole system is really...the
people we should be helping are the people who are being made homeless.
The hostel has been a great refuge, but Nicola's son Taden
is getting bigger every day and living in the tiny room
is pushing them to breaking point.
It was nice that they come in here
because it was someone for him to go, but there's nowhere to do
her washing, if it is a wet day out there is nowhere to do your drying.
So it is hard for them.
I mean we appreciate it, we appreciate that the council
has put us in here, but there is not much space to keep a
1-and-a-half-year-old entertained all day,
so we try and stay out as much as possible.
But obviously it is hard because this is where we live,
so it is a bit of a struggle.
Stevenage Council normally aims to move families from hostels to homes
within six months, but there is a shortage of suitable properties,
so it has been a long wait - this flat is great news for everyone involved.
It just needs a little bit of TLC really.
Yeah, to make it into her home.
It is a nice flat, we can make it
-into a nice home.
-A bit of elbow grease.
-How long have you been where you are now?
We've got short supply of two bed properties, which is why you have
been in there for 12 months now, and I know there is quite a few who have been there for a while.
-What do you think, then?
-I like it.
-OK to accept it, yeah?
-Yes, that is fine.
-If I can get you to sign there.
What a moment, hey? Signing your first tenancy. Must be a sight for her.
It's a sight for me being her mum, let alone her.
But Jackie and Nicola will have to wait just a few more weeks
until the council completes the refurb.
Well, that went really well, I was a
bit apprehensive about what support she had,
what her background was and if she would be a good tenant.
But she has ticked all of those boxes so the important thing is
we give people an opportunity to get a better life by having a home
and improving their circumstances.
The good thing is that she was really keen to move in there.
So, yes, it was a good news story.
We're not going to know where to put
things because we are going to have so much space.
It is going to be like a palace. We just want to get it,
start painting and making it my own.
I'm in St Helen's in Merseyside - where, shockingly, well over half of
private rented housing would fail the Decent Home Standard.
So it's not surprising that Housing Officers Pam Coppock
and Chrissy Nevitt know all about neglectful landlords.
So today, Pam, are we out together this morning, what are we looking for?
We've got to go have a look, it is a revisit, it's been reminded with two notices.
So we've given him the informal action chance and we are just going to go and find
out how it's gone.
This is the landlord who has had the notice, who has been told to sort things out?
-Specifically what was it that was the problem?
There was a lack of heating, lack of hot water and damp in the property.
The tenant called in last week to say the damp
and the mould hasn't been abated so the repairs haven't been sufficient
to remove all of the mould and the damp.
The landlords had months to do these repairs - so my first job is to
identify which ones still haven't been carried out.
What do you think, Matt?
Remove flaking and blown paint.
Well, I didn't see what it was like before, I'll be honest,
but it doesn't look like that has been done.
You've got exposed brick work there.
Looking at that I wouldn't be surprised to see a damp patch
underneath the window on the inside.
Let's see if my hunch is correct, as tenant Jason and the family dog look on.
Sure enough, a check with my trusty moisture meter
reveals the grim truth.
55, and that is right next to the electrics.
I would just be worried about the level of moisture that is getting
to those plugs points there.
-If you run your finger, you'll make a rut into the plaster itself.
That, which again is a knock-on hazard.
That sandstone is just acting as a sponge,
it is just soaking up all of the water and bringing it straight into the house.
So you've got damp under this sill here.
This place is looking more hazardous by the minute.
-this plug for?
-Have you put that in or...?
-No, that was there before we came.
Do you ever use it?
It does work, but I don't want to use it.
The family have had to put up with this for months -
they're only staying because it's close to the kid's schools.
It's no wonder Jason's had enough.
So you've got the water actually coming through.
Oh, yes, it just comes straight down the wall.
And is it just those two windows there or...?
We've got damp in the front bedroom and the back bedroom.
Because he has had a notice.
I'm not being funny, I have offered, you know the flat roof,
that is what happened with the flat roof.
So this is the end of the flat roof outside.
And this is what happens, water gets through where it is all level,
then it just falls. I've asked him, "You get the stuff and
I'll relay that." I'm saving him a thousand pound.
It's an offer which could be of real benefit to the landlord.
He's legally required to sort out the damp - which could be having
a serious effect on Jason's kids.
-You have two with...
Bronchiolitis is an illness of the respiratory tract that affects the
tiny airways leading to the lungs - it can make breathing difficult and
could lead to long term health problems for the boys.
-How old are your boys?
-The oldest one's ten and me youngest one's five
and he really suffers big time, when it's wet I've had him off school.
If it's damp and I know it's going to be damp,
I know they are going to be off with their chest, and they are.
Things are looking pretty grim for Jason and his family.
But coming up - the bedrooms reveal a problem that can't be laid
at the landlord's door.
two bedroom property, you've got 3 boys?
Where does everybody sleep?
-That is not acceptable, is it?
As well as dealing with disputes between private landlords and
tenants, many Housing Officers have a remit to look after Social Housing.
In Stevenage in Hertfordshire, Housing Officer Liz Blake and her
team are on the front line.
The service we offer is vital.
You can actually tell if you spent a whole week in this office, you'd
know how vital, because we are inundated with telephone calls, e-mails.
And our customer service centre if often bursting with people.
Yeah, there's a lot of people in this town who want housing through us.
On Liz's urgent housing list today is Ann Conacher.
At the end of her marriage 18 years ago, Ann moved back in with her
parents, but since the death of her mum last Christmas,
she's been living alone in her parents two bedroom house.
This was my mum's room, my mum and dads.
Unfortunately, the last 3 months she wasn't able to get up here at all.
She was fantastic, she really was.
I would have thought my mum was... she was about 50 there.
They're fake furs not real furs!
Lovely memories here, outside here we had beautiful plants,
Mum and I, over the years, after dad died, kept the garden going.
We used to love being out in the garden.
We've had family to stay, friends to stay.
It's just been a really, really happy place to live.
But now Anne has to hand the house back to the council
who need it for a larger family.
She is what we call a non-statutory successor, that means
that she is not the tenant of the property she is living in,
but her late mother was.
But because it was a two bedroom house, she can't
actually stay there because we can't give her the tenancy.
The succession of a tenancy can usually only happen once -
and because the house had already been passed onto her mum after her dad died,
and the fact it's a two bedroom house,
as the offspring, Liz isn't able to remain as the tenant.
To add to the stress of the last few months, Ann's been struggling with her mobility.
ANN: Very stiff in the mornings, the stairs are really awkward for me.
Haven't got a very good memory at the best of times and I'm always going
up and down the stairs cos I've forgotten things.
I can't get in and out of the bath.
The bath is really not suitable for me, it is a very deep bath if you
have a look and I can't get my leg over there.
On a good day I have, and I had a little drop of water in
and used a sponge. To sponge myself off. The rest of the time it
is sort of towels on the floor and a strip wash.
With her mobility affected, Ann desperately needs a
suitable home. Luckily Liz may have found a solution.
Because Ann lived with her parents for more than a year,
and as a gesture of goodwill, Stevenage council have offered her
the chance to continue her tenancy in a smaller property.
A bungalow has just been made available - but is it right for Ann?
These are quite nice, not a bad size for a 1 bedroom bungalow really.
And this one is in good condition. So it is not going to need a lot of decorating to it.
I don't think she is able to do much in the way of decorating so it's quite good.
If Ann doesn't like the bungalow, there could be a problem rehousing
her - so it's crucial that she's happy with what she sees.
We'll start in the kitchen, I think. Cooker will go in there.
-Is there a washing machine?
-Washing machine will go in there.
Lovely, beautiful condition.
Aren't I the lucky one? It is absolutely wonderful.
And you've got a little garden, you can put a table out there.
I've got an army of volunteers that are going to put baskets up
for me and I'm going to have a table and chairs out there.
It's brilliant. It's bigger than I thought.
It's everything I wanted and more, it's a dream, it's a absolute dream come true.
So the kitchen and lounge have impressed - but for Ann the best is yet to come.
-LIZ: This is your bathroom. ANN:
I'm going to cry.
-Was this already in here?
-Yes, I know you need that.
And that is all it takes, a bathroom with a walk-in shower.
It's so wonderful. It's absolutely fantastic, I can't thank you enough.
It's my pleasure when someone really likes what we have to offer them,
it doesn't always happen, believe you me.
When I match someone to the perfect property, it's absolutely fantastic
that they react in the way that Ann has.
You listened to what I needed, and all I have been through,
Big gold star.
She was totally overwhelmed and I just think it's great.
It makes my job worthwhile.
-You know I'm not going to say no.
-I know you're not going to say no!
With the bungalow ticking all the right boxes, within a few days
Ann's back to collect the keys and start moving in.
-Hello, in you come.
-Hello, how nice to see you!
Oh, that's lovely.
Last bit we have is the keys.
All six keys. There you go.
This is my forever home, it has everything that I want.
It's a lovely area, and I know I'm going to be really happy here.
It was absolutely worth all the wait and the stress.
I'm so looking forward to starting the next part of my life.
My mum would have been really happy.
Well, I've seen some pretty tough cases so far, but that is certainly
one of the happiest endings.
Now back in St Helens, we've been investigating a rented house so damp
it's affecting the children's health.
JASON: If it's damp and I know its going to be damp.
I know they're going to be off with their chests, and they are.
Seven months on from the council's last visit, there's still no sign of
the landlord having carried out any repairs.
Jason, his wife and three kids all live in this two bedroom house.
But upstairs, the family's sleeping arrangements come as a bit of a shock.
-Jason...two bedroom property...
..you've got three boys?
Where does everybody sleep?
-Is that what that double mattress is for?
-So you're overcrowded?
Yes, we've got another problem to look at, which is the overcrowding issue.
And Jason and his wife, that is their mattress and that goes on the floor.
-And then the little girl has got her own room.
-There is only two bedrooms.
Well over half a million families in the UK live in overcrowded conditions,
with research showing it has a huge
impact on kids in particular, from underachievement at school
to illness and depression.
So what are the limits on that then?
Anyone over 21 should have their own bedroom unless they are a cohabiting couple.
-OK, cohabiting couple need their own bedroom.
Children can share mix gender to the age of ten.
Over the age of ten they have to be the same gender.
-There just aren't enough rooms in this house, then?
-Not acceptable, is it?
If a landlord is aware of overcrowding at a property and does nothing,
they could be breaking the law.
On top of all this, the fire exit routes leave a lot
to be desired, so if there was a fire it could prove catastrophic.
If you are thinking about this as one of your routes of exit
to get out the house in the case of a fire, then this is the last thing you want there.
-You want something that is fire retardant
-and that's where you're supposed to be getting out.
It's clear that something needs to be done, and soon.
When I get back, Jason, I'll pull an actual notice together, serve an improvement notice, try to get hold
of the landlord, have a chat with him. See if he responds to the
improvement notice first and then we'll expect him to put all of those issues right.
If he doesn't, then unfortunately we used to do work in default but we don't have the budget any more.
-So we tend to have to go to prosecution.
All right, but if you keep me informed I'll know where we're going with it.
-I will do. And everything he does, I'll let you know what he's doing.
When I walk into these properties, I always think, "OK, could I live here?"
If I was a single guy, maybe in my 20s, I'd put up with it.
-Then you see kids shoes...
-..on the stair case,
you think, "You can't bring up kids here."
-You can't do it.
-It is not just affecting Jason and Anne-Marie
because they are clearly now looking to move on and be somewhere else.
It is his property, he is shooting himself in the foot.
-Absolutely, it's his investment.
-It is his investment,
he can let it out to people.
If we don't serve the notice and they move, it might be let again in the same state.
Well, a few weeks later, I'm back at the property to see if the landlord
has made any effort to address the issues.
Well, from the outside it looks like things have changed, how about inside?
-He's been here virtually every day.
Yes, finishing of things. He's done all the major work at the
bottom where it has all come away.
He's fixed where the water damage is. We had a big hole under there,
didn't we? He has re-skimmed all of that.
What's made the difference?
Pam. Environmental health, she's got in touch with him
and obviously had a word with him.
He's just come round and started doing it all.
The only thing with us is major overcrowding, he
knows that but he can't do anything about that.
So we're still looking for a three bedroom house.
He's right, the house will always be overcrowded.
Landlord Paul has agreed to meet with me, let's see what he has to say.
Things have really moved on here.
I'm just wandering what made you start to make those improvements,
what convinced you that was the thing to do?
When a repair is required, we rely on the tenant to inform us
-of the need of repair.
-Did they not get in contact with you about that?
They did about the roof, and they had a leak from a water tank.
You know, they had to go through a whole winter.
Is there anything that you can change that can prevent that happening again?
We don't want to have a regime of inspecting premises,
which may sound bad on one side,
but it is their home.
We don't want to intrude on them.
If there is a problem, let us know about it and we'll deal with it.
Well, Jason did say he had been clear about the issues,
but you know, perhaps there was a misunderstanding.
You're going to carry on, finish all the works you've started and everything that is on the list.
There is a fly in the ointment, there may be an overcrowding issue.
If the family are happy to live here, do we let them stay?
Unless we get some guidance from the council.
I can only presume the rules on overcrowding
are there for a very good reason. And if it means the family end up moving somewhere where
they have got more space, and they are properly provided for,
painful though it may be, maybe that is what has to happen.
Paul, thank you very much for coming to talk to us
and good luck with the rest of the work.
It's great that landlord Paul has carried out lots of work in the house.
Let's hope it won't be too long before Jason finds a home
that is big enough for all his family.
Things seem to be looking up in Stevenage, too.
Earlier, I joined Housing Officer Tony Silverio who was working a case
about the antisocial behaviour of a tenant that had spiralled out of control.
A lot of the problems that have created at his property
are not by him but by visitors.
-But he's responsible for them at the end of the day.
Neighbour Pat Chambers was at her wits end.
We had all his rabble coming in and there was a lot of fighting,
a lot of girls screaming, blood everywhere, we had to keep
calling the caretakers to come and clear everything up.
Well, we couldn't speak to the tenant when we visited, but he did
eventually get in touch, and a few days later Tony went back to the block with some good news.
TONY: Following our last discussions with the tenant,
he's happy to engage. We're also looking to get him on a
mutual exchange list and get him to move to a new area with a fresh start.
So hopefully that will resolve this particular problem.
And here's a turn out for the books. It looks like my advice about the
-doorbell has been heeded.
And that should do it.
So people coming round can now ring the doorbell instead of
throwing stones at your window like you used to. OK?
I will take you downstairs and you can see it and just have a play with it.
-Yes, that is fine.
It's great to see that positive things are starting to happen
both for the tenant and his long suffering neighbours.
PAT: I understand that he's been told he can have a transfer.
That would be good for everybody as long as they don't get another youngster
in there who's going to cause trouble.
We've had enough, over the past six years. I think we've had our bellyfulls!
That's it for today's show. Join me next time on the front line with
Britain's housing officers.
Matt Allwright meets a tenant whose upstairs neighbour didn't stop using their lavatory even though it was running down his walls. And he makes an old lady very happy with a doorbell.