Episode 1 The Housing Enforcers


Episode 1

Consumer programme. Matt Allwright investigates potentially lethal living conditions in a block of flats. Plus a neglected property overrun with cats.


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Transcript


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VOICEOVER: Can you imagine living in these conditions?

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-So, you started with mice?

-Yeah.

-And now they're rats?

-Yeah, yeah.

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Security's very poor at the back of this property.

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But with the pressure on housing greater than ever,

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finding a safe place to live is getting harder and harder.

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It's just terrible.

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It gets me the most, this place.

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Oh, my God. Can you see what's going on here?

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I'm Matt Allwright and I'm back on the front line with the housing enforcers.

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So, what you've got is a very, very quick way to dispatch yourself.

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This series tackles downright dangerous houses head-on.

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Really worryingly, there's no mains gas supply here at all.

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From life-endangering firetraps...

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They wouldn't even know the place was on fire before they were dead.

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You can see these plugs here, they've blown.

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Worst-case scenario, the house could have burned down.

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..to health hazards...

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It's at a stage where it really needs to be dealt with now.

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..to accidents waiting to happen.

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You're actually not talking about fire, you're talking about an explosion.

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Making sure we all have a safe and secure place to call home.

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There are things here that could seriously shorten your life.

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Today, I'm faced with a dangerously unsafe property.

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-So, what we've got here is a time bomb, effectively.

-Yeah.

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We investigate a neglected home that's a hazard in every way...

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The flies were the first thing that brought us to the property, really.

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..and the residents aren't keen to leave.

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And in Margate, children's health is put at risk.

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I just feel like my kids should have better than this.

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Do you know what constitutes a safety risk in your own home?

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Hopefully, yes.

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But if you're a tenant, you look to your landlord to provide a safe

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and hazard-free place to live.

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I'm working alongside the men and women whose job it is to make sure

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those landlords keep to their side of the bargain

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and they are the housing enforcers.

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Generally, for home safety, I worry about flooding.

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I don't think we get regular enough boiler checks.

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Because I know they can blow up and stuff

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and I think it's really important for someone to come and check them,

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-do you know what I mean?

-Can't say I get my appliances checked.

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They work, I plug them in and that's it.

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I've got children at home.

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And it's their safety and our safety, it's everyone's.

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And our neighbour's safety all together, it can save.

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In terms of safety, it's your home.

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If you can't be safe there, you can't really be safe anywhere.

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In the West Midlands, I'm working with housing officer

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Richard Hawkins, investigating a tip-off about some tenants living

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in potentially lethal conditions above a row of shops.

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When you've got family accommodation above a shop,

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the problem that you've got is fire.

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It turns out there's already been a fire in a takeaway below a

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neighbouring flat, leaving residents in the block potentially vulnerable.

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You've got the risk of cookers setting on fire, things like that.

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Also, people go home at the end of the day and leave these shops.

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A fire kicks off and you're above, how do you know about it?

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It sounds like something that needs dealing with straightaway.

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It's frightening to think that up to 300 people in England are killed by

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fires in their home every year.

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Today, we're also joined by fire safety officer Wendy Westward.

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-How you doing, all right?

-How are you?

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-Hiya, Wendy, how are you? I'm Matt. Good to see you.

-Nice to meet you.

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We're going to start at the front of the row of shops.

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First impressions are not good.

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So, what we're actually saying is there's potentially somebody living

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-up there with a roller shutter.

-Yes.

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So is it worth us having a look round the back first before we ring the buzzer?

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-Possibly, yeah.

-Do you think?

-Yeah.

-Yeah?

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Commercial properties can be a fire risk to any adjoined

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residential housing, so running into a locked roller shutter

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if other exits are blocked could be literally a dead end.

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Our first hurdle is to find out how the residents upstairs get in and

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out of this place.

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Right, I'm just going to gingerly, gingerly move across.

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It's locked from the inside with a padlock as well.

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Clearly, they've tried to protect themselves from burglars,

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but by doing so, they've actually negated ways of getting in and out

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of the property if they absolutely have to.

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Yeah, I can see a cooker in here. This is all residential.

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KNOCKING

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There are signs of life, but no obvious way in.

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Hello?

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Hello?

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Hold on, there is someone in.

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Hi, I'm from Sandwell Council, can you come to the door, please?

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The resident invites us to climb in through the window.

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It's anybody's guess what we'll find inside.

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Have I got to walk over the sofa?

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OK, just watch that,

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because the actual windowsill's giving as you climb in.

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Nice to meet you, Bobby.

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After literally stumbling into Bobby's lounge,

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we find out that that he's the tenant.

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And as well as living here, he runs a barber shop on the first floor.

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So, the only way in and out there without coming through here...

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..is through your window?

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Yeah, OK.

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Yeah, please.

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So, whilst his customers can enter from the street,

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Bobby's also been using that window to get in and out of his flat.

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And just how bad is about to become clear

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because what we find in Bobby's kitchen is beyond belief.

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You can't look anywhere and not see something which is a hazard

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to Bobby, it's a hazard to people living next door.

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-It's grim, isn't it?

-It's really grim.

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Around 60% of accidental fires in the home start in the kitchen.

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But the list of other hazards in here is, well, pretty extensive.

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Right, so what we're looking for is not just what the risk is,

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but we're also looking for the impact it could have if it were to happen.

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Yeah, Matt, from your training, as you'll probably remember,

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we're looking for things like damp,

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we're looking for things like falls between levels.

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Position of amenities like cooker space.

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We're looking for electrics, we're looking for the whole shebang.

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Well, in that case, I would say we should probably not do very much

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this afternoon.

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Because we've got our hands absolutely full in this place.

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So, we've got a cooker, really worryingly,

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there's no mains gas supply here at all,

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so it's being fuelled by a giant propane Calor gas bottle...

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-Yeah.

-..right next to it, which is putting a naked flame next to a

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giant, volatile, combustible item.

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-Pressurised.

-Pressurised!

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Highly pressurised.

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Highly pressurised. So that, if it were to be here,

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presumably should be separate from it,

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either outside and piped through but just a million miles away.

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Not only should it be outside, it should be in a cage.

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So what we've got here is a time bomb, effectively.

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In all my years working with housing officers, I've never seen anything

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as dangerous as Bobby's cooking facilities.

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With a potentially catastrophic cooker and gas bottle combo, well,

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it's unbelievable.

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Things aren't much less lethal in the bathroom next door.

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There's a lot of issues in here.

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We have a lot of mould.

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That's not good. Damp and mould can aggravate respiratory infections and

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even affect the immune system.

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Somebody's waiting to fit a socket here.

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This shouldn't be here at all, this shouldn't be in the bathroom.

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That shouldn't be in the bathroom at all.

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In fact, building regulations say electrical sockets shouldn't

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be fitted in bath or shower rooms.

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If you do, you're dicing with death.

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And as for the makeshift extension lead...

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What they're doing is using a socket with a wall socket on the other end.

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It's barely wired in.

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You're right next to water,

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so what you've got is a very, very quick way to dispatch yourself.

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So, that's electrocution to add to our ever-growing list of safety hazards.

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When you see things like this, it's an indicator to you.

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What this is telling me is that whoever's put this building together

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-is happy to cut corners.

-Yes.

-So don't trust anything.

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There are so many risks here,

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it's all the more important that Bobby can get out of his flat,

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if he needs to, in the event of a fire.

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There's some issues here with regards to your safety.

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It there's a fire, like there was the other day,

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there's issues in how you would escape.

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At the moment, you've only got one, really, entrance and exit,

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which is that stairwell.

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That's a problem.

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That window is not a door.

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So we've got to work out how we can change this to make it safe for you.

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-OK? And you've been here seven years?

-Yes.

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OK.

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That's, er... That's surprising.

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You've got a locked window at the back,

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a shutter that comes down at the front and a commercial premises in

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between the two. In the case of a fire,

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what he could do about it in a hurry is not very much.

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Having no proper fire escape is right up there on a list of

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housing hazards.

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Later on, there's some worrying information about Bobby's neighbours.

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-Are there children there?

-Yeah, there's children.

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There's children living next door?

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I don't think I've ever seen Richard look quite this worried.

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When it comes to safety,

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we might be able to control what happens in our own homes, but

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whether it's antisocial behaviour or a neglected property next door,

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sometimes it's our neighbours who could be putting our wellbeing at risk.

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Antisocial behaviour is a big thing for me.

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There has been times when that has been an issue and I've had to

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contact the landlord about that.

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It led to us moving house because we couldn't put up with it.

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And actually we felt the authorities weren't actually quick

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at dealing with that sort of thing. It takes a while to deal with that.

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It's always a risk, where you live, really.

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Neighbours help to make the community.

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So you do worry about that kind of thing going on.

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In Oldbury, housing officer Christina Bartholomew is heading

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to a privately rented property, which has attracted complaints from

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the neighbours after reportedly been left in a shocking condition.

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Normally, the idea is that the landlord would do the repairs and

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the tenants can continue to live in the property.

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But this property is so bad that the tenants have had to move out.

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Reports suggest things might be in a bad state in the house.

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But what Christina's faced with when she enters the property is almost

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beyond belief.

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The tenants have left their 12 - yes, 12 - cats running riot in the place.

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And although they've been returning to feed them,

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the conditions in here are, well, horrendous.

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The flies were the first thing that brought us to the property, really.

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Because my colleagues in environmental health, they had a complaint in.

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Flies do carry disease and cats are doing...

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..their poos on the floor, so it's encouraging the flies.

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Obviously, the cats are weeing all over the carpet,

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which is why you can smell the ammonia, which is really strong.

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It's bad for you to be breathing in that sort of air.

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And, again, as you can see from the windows,

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they've got a double layer over them,

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so it's not as if the ventilation's ideal in here either.

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The urine produced by this number of cats can create high levels of

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noxious ammonia, which can lead to serious respiratory problems.

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Not to mention the fleas.

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When the council was alerted to the general state of the property,

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they arranged for the tenants to be rehoused.

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But it's worth remembering that they were living,

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eating and sleeping in this place only three weeks ago.

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I really don't know how people have got away with living in the house

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so far, really, under the conditions that it currently is.

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As if the cat mess wasn't bad enough,

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the number of other safety issues in this property is staggering.

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Not least in the kitchen.

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Well, the boiler's been condemned and you can see these plugs here,

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they've been connected to the cooker for switching the cooker on and off.

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And they've blown.

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The tenants may have called this place home,

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but judging by the state of the kitchen,

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they were living in a very dangerous environment.

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That's the worst plugs I've seen been blown like that.

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The worst-case scenario is that the house could have burned down.

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You know, with people and cats in it.

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That's another major hazard.

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20,000 fires a year are caused by dodgy electrics.

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It's a wonder the place hasn't gone up in flames.

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But that's not all.

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You can see the water's dripping through from the ceiling.

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And the room directly above this is the bathroom.

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So it's highly likely that either there's piping that's leaking through

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or the outside, there's also water coming from that pipe outside.

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In fact, it looks like there's water pouring in throughout the house,

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causing dangerous structural damage.

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There's a tile missing on the roof.

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It's been left for quite a long time so whenever it rains,

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the water comes through and it's gone onto the floor.

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And it's rotted through the floorboards, basically.

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The immediate safety risks apart,

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the level of squalor in this place is jaw-dropping.

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There's rubbish everywhere

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and the cats have spread their filth all over the place.

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It's a breeding ground for diseases.

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But with the tenants moved out,

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the priority now is the welfare of the 12 cats,

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and the health and safety of the neighbours who first raised the alarm.

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They have been obviously using the kitchen, but a lot of things in here,

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like the dirt on things, are probably about a year old or more.

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It really is shocking that a home could end up in this condition.

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The place isn't fit for humans or cats.

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For now, though, Christina has to arrange for the 12 cats to be re-homed.

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There's one hiding behind here.

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Got to try and photograph each one so it can be re-homed in the

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best place. We've got Mr Tipp,

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Keisa and Misty.

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So that's the three kittens.

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I'm sure the kittens won't have any problem being re-homed.

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The cats are going to be a little more difficult, I think,

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because they've got a bit more attitude.

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She's not kidding.

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Careful, Christina.

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It won't be easy, but Christina is focused on getting the best outcome

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for everyone.

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The cats can't stay in that sort of property under those conditions.

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I'll definitely be returning.

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I've offered to help catch the cats to put them into the cat carriers.

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So that'll be the next stage, to actually catch them.

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And we'll be finding out if there's a happy ending for those

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unfortunate felines a bit later on.

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He's escaped back upstairs!

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Earlier on, I was in the West Midlands

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inspecting a flat above a row of shops that's so full of hazards,

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housing officer Richard is looking into issuing a prohibition order.

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That's closing the property down and forcing tenant Bobby to leave

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his home of seven years.

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But Richard soon spots another potential problem.

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What's this, Bobby? What are you up to?

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Part for the boiler.

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Sorry, just rewind a second, that's a part for your boiler?

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Who put that in? You?

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-Did you fix it?

-Yes.

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This may now be a prohibition order.

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-You can't do that, Bobby.

-No, no, no.

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You could blow yourself up.

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Poorly maintained boilers can release poisonous carbon monoxide gas,

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so they must only be worked on by a qualified gas safe engineer.

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Luckily, it turns out Bobby's not been tinkering with the boiler himself.

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So you've kept it as a spare in case yours breaks?

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-Right. That can never be used in there, then.

-No, no, no.

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-You must throw it. Nobody would ever fit it.

-No, no, no.

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OK.

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At least the boiler's fine for now.

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But there's all those other safety hazards to consider.

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And we're about to get some unsettling news.

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Bobby, can I ask you, does anybody live next door?

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-Yes.

-Do you know who lives next door?

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Two families.

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-Two families?

-Yes.

-Are there children there?

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-Yeah, there's children.

-There's children living next door.

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It's a shocking discovery.

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I don't think I've ever seen Richard look quite this worried

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and we've worked together for the last four years.

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I think we're pushing on prohibition.

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-Really?

-Yeah.

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Things really aren't looking good for Bobby.

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If that happens, the other side effect of that is that Bobby loses

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his business and his home until that prohibition order is lifted.

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We're above a commercial shop.

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We've got dodgy electrics, we've got very questionable ways of escape.

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And those push it very much towards prohibition order.

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So you've got to weigh those risks.

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And who knows what we might find next door?

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I'm probably even more concerned about that than this one.

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When you've got children in a building,

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and if we're coming across anything as bad as this,

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it's going to be all hands to the pumps to get them out.

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Well, if the state of next door is a patch on Bobby's flat,

0:17:590:18:02

Richard will have no choice but to remove the family living there.

0:18:020:18:06

Hello, I'm from Sandwell Council.

0:18:060:18:09

Mum is home, but doesn't want to be filmed.

0:18:090:18:11

Are there anybody else living here other than you?

0:18:130:18:15

Yes, two more.

0:18:150:18:17

There's you, your child...?

0:18:170:18:19

-And my husband.

-So it's just you as one family.

0:18:190:18:22

And one more family, yes.

0:18:220:18:24

So there's two families here?

0:18:240:18:26

-Yes, two families.

-So we've got an HMO.

0:18:260:18:28

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse,

0:18:280:18:31

an HMO is a house in multiple occupation.

0:18:310:18:34

That can mean several households living together,

0:18:340:18:37

usually sharing a kitchen and bathroom.

0:18:370:18:40

One of the things you'd expect to see in an HMO is you would expect to

0:18:400:18:43

see linked fire detection.

0:18:430:18:47

So that means if there's a fire in one room, everybody knows about it.

0:18:470:18:51

What we haven't got here is that.

0:18:510:18:54

To have no fire detection is a serious hazard.

0:18:550:18:58

Not only that, the family's only means of escape in an emergency is

0:18:580:19:02

through the kitchen.

0:19:020:19:04

The situation here is looking even worse than Bobby's next door.

0:19:040:19:08

In here, you're actually...

0:19:090:19:12

You're at no less risk of fire, it seems to me.

0:19:120:19:14

At more risk in here.

0:19:140:19:16

Because you've got an HMO situation.

0:19:160:19:17

And whenever you've got an HMO situation, you've got families

0:19:170:19:20

eating at different times and you've got a child in this flat,

0:19:200:19:23

they're reliant on people that aren't even their own parents or family.

0:19:230:19:26

You can't trust the people around you, so you have to trust

0:19:260:19:29

-the system, and here, the system's failed.

-Mmm.

0:19:290:19:32

It's not long before I find more potentially fatal failings in the bedroom.

0:19:320:19:37

There's a sash window, where the bottom half of the sash is just a guillotine.

0:19:390:19:44

-Oh, my gosh.

-You've got kids living here, there's no restriction on this at all.

0:19:450:19:49

Perfect access for a child, nothing to stop them getting in.

0:19:490:19:53

Just a sheet of glass, straight down.

0:19:530:19:56

I dread to think the damage that could do to someone.

0:19:560:19:58

In fact, these two flats above the shops

0:20:000:20:03

contain at least seven serious safety contraventions.

0:20:030:20:06

The flat housing the families is actually leased by this tenant,

0:20:090:20:12

who's been subletting it.

0:20:120:20:14

The issue we've got is that this is an HMO.

0:20:140:20:17

When that happens, there's greater fire risk in a property,

0:20:170:20:21

so the law requires higher fire regulations.

0:20:210:20:24

On top of that, you're above a shop,

0:20:250:20:28

which is also a fire risk.

0:20:280:20:30

And because of that, that also requires higher fire regulations.

0:20:300:20:36

I'll tell you the problem you've got. You've got a kitchen

0:20:360:20:38

at the front of the building, that's most likely where fire's going to be.

0:20:380:20:41

And they have to pass through that kitchen to escape.

0:20:410:20:43

I think it's going to have to be closed.

0:20:430:20:46

The fact that children are living in these conditions has left Richard

0:20:460:20:49

with no choice but to issue a prohibition order.

0:20:490:20:52

So, I'm standing outside the shop, which is underneath the HMO,

0:20:540:20:58

house in multiple occupation, upstairs, which contains two families,

0:20:580:21:01

a home for two families.

0:21:010:21:03

And in there, Richard is informing the landlord that this property is

0:21:030:21:08

going to get shut down now because he cannot guarantee them a safe exit

0:21:080:21:13

from this place in the case of a fire.

0:21:130:21:15

You can't have people living up there in its current condition.

0:21:150:21:18

-At all?

-We just need it so that it's operational and we can lift the

0:21:180:21:21

prohibition order, all right?

0:21:210:21:22

Actually, the temporary landlord is being quite philosophical about this

0:21:220:21:25

and he's saying, "Well, actually, if it was my family living upstairs,

0:21:250:21:29

"I'd want to know they were safe, too", so full marks for that.

0:21:290:21:32

And he's having a very quick lesson in how to look after your tenants.

0:21:320:21:36

The owners of Bobby's flat were given two months to comply with the

0:21:390:21:43

improvement. They've told us the property is let as commercial premises

0:21:430:21:49

and that the tenant shouldn't be sleeping there regularly.

0:21:490:21:52

But they have said all the issues at the property have now been fixed.

0:21:520:21:57

The council shut down the flat with the family living in it,

0:21:570:22:01

but, despite being offered new council homes,

0:22:010:22:05

their landlord has now found them somewhere to live.

0:22:050:22:08

But Bobby's flat escapes the prohibition order,

0:22:100:22:12

as he's thought to be less at risk.

0:22:120:22:14

Safety hazards in the home take many forms,

0:22:170:22:21

but very high on the list for any housing officers are damp and mould.

0:22:210:22:26

It's one of the most common problems we see on Housing Enforcers

0:22:260:22:29

and it can cause some serious health problems,

0:22:290:22:33

particularly for old people and kids.

0:22:330:22:36

I did, years ago, I lived in a rented flat.

0:22:370:22:41

It was really, really damp with mould on the walls.

0:22:410:22:45

I reported it, but they never done anything about it.

0:22:450:22:48

My boyfriend's house at the moment has damp on the ceiling and the floor

0:22:480:22:51

is coming up where it's been wet from the shower and stuff.

0:22:510:22:54

And you can tell at times, even without knowing the technical stuff,

0:22:540:22:58

that stuff isn't right.

0:22:580:22:59

I am aware of the health risks, yeah, but you just...

0:22:590:23:02

Don't know why, you just don't really think about it until it's bad, don't you?

0:23:020:23:05

We don't have damp and mould in our house,

0:23:050:23:08

but I've seen damp and mould and I know that it's quite dangerous,

0:23:080:23:12

especially for younger children.

0:23:120:23:13

In Kent, Beth Thistle and Steve O'Shea from Thanet Council have been

0:23:150:23:19

on the case of one landlord who's already been warned that his

0:23:190:23:22

property is putting tenants at serious risk from damp.

0:23:220:23:25

We've served an improvement notice requesting for works to be carried out.

0:23:270:23:31

The ideal scenario would be that works have been completed.

0:23:320:23:36

Today's the inspection that we would need to determine whether that has happened or not.

0:23:360:23:40

The two-bedroom basement flat has been on the council's radar

0:23:400:23:44

for more than a year.

0:23:440:23:46

KNOCKING

0:23:460:23:48

Hi, there. Just from the council.

0:23:480:23:50

So this is the landlord's last chance to make it safe for the tenants.

0:23:500:23:53

Caroline and Dean moved into the flat 18 months ago

0:23:550:23:59

with their two young children

0:23:590:24:00

and quickly found damp and mould affecting the whole family's health.

0:24:000:24:04

My six-year-old, all she ever knows is damp and mouldy conditions.

0:24:070:24:11

I suffer from Type 2 diabetes and they've deemed this place suitable

0:24:110:24:15

enough to have pneumonia injections, just in case I was to come down with it.

0:24:150:24:20

All you can do is just make do and get on with it.

0:24:200:24:23

That's all you can do.

0:24:230:24:24

It's reckoned that around 2 million families in the UK

0:24:240:24:27

are living in damp properties, which can aggravate asthma

0:24:270:24:30

and allergies and affect the immune system.

0:24:300:24:32

That's not a good environment for anyone, not least the kids.

0:24:320:24:36

I've got mushrooms in my kitchen.

0:24:360:24:38

And they keep growing.

0:24:380:24:39

I keep spraying, they keep coming back.

0:24:390:24:41

It's just a never-ending cycle.

0:24:410:24:44

But, for us, it's an embarrassment.

0:24:440:24:46

It's a difficult situation for Caroline and the family,

0:24:460:24:49

but it seems attempts to get the landlord to sort everything out

0:24:490:24:53

haven't really worked.

0:24:530:24:55

We've been working closely with the council for the last 18 months,

0:24:550:24:58

trying to find a resolution to the problem.

0:24:580:25:01

And it just doesn't seem the landlords are interested.

0:25:010:25:04

Before the council got involved, the family couldn't even open

0:25:040:25:07

the windows to help ventilate the damp flat.

0:25:070:25:10

Yeah, OK, then, so that's been done.

0:25:100:25:13

Thankfully, that's one job the landlord has now completed.

0:25:130:25:16

But in the kitchen, it's a different story.

0:25:160:25:18

This bit is all starting to...

0:25:210:25:23

-OK.

-It's all coming away.

0:25:240:25:27

The problem is the floor itself.

0:25:270:25:29

If you have a look at the side, it's all drooping.

0:25:290:25:31

The kitchen itself is actually sinking.

0:25:310:25:34

Falls are one of the most common accidents in the home.

0:25:360:25:39

Dodgy flooring like this could be a serious trip hazard anywhere,

0:25:390:25:43

not least in a kitchen.

0:25:430:25:45

Despite months of complaints to the landlord's agent,

0:25:460:25:49

the only repairs that have been down here seem amateurish at best.

0:25:490:25:53

And Beth's spotted something else.

0:25:530:25:54

So, you've obviously got some mice droppings in here.

0:25:560:26:00

This gets worse. Damp, serious trip hazards and now mice.

0:26:000:26:04

They can cause all sorts of health and safety issues,

0:26:040:26:07

so it's crucial they're dealt with quickly.

0:26:070:26:10

Once you see you've got a mouse infestation, you want to try and

0:26:100:26:15

set bait and get rid of them as quickly as possible because what

0:26:150:26:19

they can do, if you're unlucky, they start to multiply.

0:26:190:26:23

And we see lots of droppings and they can urinate as well.

0:26:230:26:26

So they're running around, they won't be just running around there,

0:26:260:26:28

they could be running around worktops and if you're not aware of

0:26:280:26:32

that you could be touching that, you could be getting a possible infection,

0:26:320:26:36

food poisoning and things from that as well.

0:26:360:26:38

You really want to get in early and get rid of that infestation as quickly as you can.

0:26:380:26:44

Faced with so many safety issues in her home,

0:26:440:26:46

it's all getting too much for Caroline.

0:26:460:26:48

As a parent, I'm concerned for my kids' safety

0:26:500:26:52

because they have to eat here, I have to cook in here.

0:26:520:26:55

And it's horrible, it's really horrible.

0:26:550:26:58

This is the room that gets me the most

0:26:580:27:00

because you're supposed to nourish your family and I literally just put

0:27:000:27:04

something in the oven and I go.

0:27:040:27:06

You know, I feel like we quite literally just...

0:27:060:27:08

Nuggets and chips, that's the best of my abilities in this place

0:27:080:27:12

because it is just terrible.

0:27:120:27:14

It's clear Caroline is feeling overwhelmed.

0:27:140:27:17

It's hard to imagine what it must be like to live here.

0:27:170:27:20

With no windows, there's a lack of ventilation in the kitchen, too.

0:27:200:27:24

And Steve soon spots some bizarre growths on the ceiling.

0:27:240:27:27

We thought it was slugs to begin with and then through the days it just got bigger and bigger.

0:27:270:27:32

Certainly I'm curious as to know what that is and perhaps what's caused it.

0:27:320:27:36

There's some moisture up there for that to happen, but...

0:27:360:27:39

-Upstairs have a leak.

-..I haven't seen that type of vegetation

0:27:390:27:42

before so I'm curious to try and identify it.

0:27:420:27:45

Even a recently installed fan, which was supposed to ventilate the kitchen,

0:27:450:27:48

seems to have caused another problem.

0:27:480:27:51

We requested that an extractor fan was provided in here to take away

0:27:520:27:56

excess moisture, so obviously with cooking,

0:27:560:27:59

you also have lots of pans on the boil so it creates a lot of moisture,

0:27:590:28:04

so we've asked for the extractor fan to try and alleviate any problems with damp and mould.

0:28:040:28:09

But it appears the fan hasn't been properly installed.

0:28:090:28:12

They never tunnelled it through the wall properly.

0:28:120:28:14

They never tunnelled it through, they still haven't.

0:28:140:28:16

So on the other side there's a wooden box and the hole for the

0:28:160:28:20

smoke, steam, whatever, to escape from is only this big.

0:28:200:28:22

And all the steam's now venting straight into my kids' room,

0:28:220:28:25

it's made it more mouldy.

0:28:250:28:27

So the moist air is supposed to be diverted through a flue to outside,

0:28:270:28:31

but some is escaping into the kids' bedroom.

0:28:310:28:34

And if you feel, you can feel the air through the vent and this is all the mould.

0:28:340:28:39

It's not adequate at all.

0:28:390:28:41

It's not venting the kitchen so you're going to get that build-up of

0:28:410:28:44

moisture when you're cooking and that moisture, high moisture content,

0:28:440:28:49

can lead to your mould growth and your increase in dust mites and

0:28:490:28:52

things like that, which can cause respiratory problems and you're

0:28:520:28:56

beginning to get signs of mould growth here.

0:28:560:28:58

Let's not forget there are two young children sleeping and playing

0:28:580:29:02

in this room.

0:29:020:29:03

Youngsters spending a fair amount of time in here,

0:29:040:29:07

they're going to get exposed to the effects of mould.

0:29:070:29:11

It's at a stage where it really needs to be dealt with now because

0:29:110:29:15

if it's left, it will begin to increase and expand

0:29:150:29:18

and it'll become worse.

0:29:180:29:20

It's hard to believe that anyone would think of diverting a kitchen

0:29:200:29:23

flue via a kids' room like this.

0:29:230:29:26

I just feel like my kids should have better than this.

0:29:270:29:30

They should have better than this. My daughter, you know,

0:29:300:29:33

she's six years old and she suffers from what I could describe as

0:29:330:29:36

depression. She doesn't want to come home.

0:29:360:29:38

She doesn't want to be here.

0:29:380:29:39

That breaks my heart.

0:29:390:29:41

This was supposed to be a fresh start for all of us.

0:29:450:29:47

The work that's been done here hasn't gone nearly far enough.

0:29:480:29:52

It's no wonder that Caroline feels let down by the landlord.

0:29:520:29:55

I just wake up in the morning, I just don't want to be here.

0:29:560:29:58

I feel very down, very depressed and I feel like the property just

0:29:580:30:02

reflects how I feel, broken inside.

0:30:020:30:05

And I don't know how much more me and my family can take.

0:30:050:30:09

As far as Beth and Steve are concerned,

0:30:100:30:12

the time has come to take action against the landlord.

0:30:120:30:15

From serving the improvement notice and coming back today,

0:30:170:30:19

we can see that some of the work's been done,

0:30:190:30:22

some to quite a poor standard as well,

0:30:220:30:26

but then we've also got issues which haven't been addressed at all,

0:30:260:30:29

so I think we'll probably have to go back to the landlord,

0:30:290:30:32

try and establish a reason why they haven't done the work.

0:30:320:30:35

Well, Caroline's landlord has said they will fix the issues in the flat

0:30:410:30:45

and is setting up a meeting with the council to decide what still needs to be done.

0:30:450:30:49

They also said they'll find out if Caroline has raised any

0:30:490:30:53

other problems they didn't know about before.

0:30:530:30:55

Hopefully the family can now look forward to a safe and happy future

0:30:550:30:59

in their home.

0:30:590:31:00

By law, rented properties must be of a safe standard to live in.

0:31:010:31:06

If landlords don't maintain those properties to a safe standard,

0:31:060:31:10

then it's the job of housing enforcers to make sure that they fix

0:31:100:31:14

the problem and the tenants are safe and secure.

0:31:140:31:17

The premises belong to the landlord and he should make sure that

0:31:180:31:24

everything is safe

0:31:240:31:26

for other people to come in and live in there.

0:31:260:31:29

Definitely, the landlord should take the first responsibility for the

0:31:290:31:34

health and safety issue in the house because we are tenants,

0:31:340:31:38

we live there, we pay our rent.

0:31:380:31:40

I think you should have certain expectations,

0:31:400:31:42

particularly with fire safety,

0:31:420:31:45

that landlords should be required to adhere to before their flat or house

0:31:450:31:50

is let out, so I think it should be their responsibility.

0:31:500:31:53

Problems with dodgy landlords have forced Peterborough Council to bring

0:31:540:31:57

in a new scheme demanding all landlords have to hold a licence to

0:31:570:32:01

rent out a property.

0:32:010:32:03

Today, I'm working with housing officers Pete Bezant and

0:32:030:32:06

David Marshall, whose job it is to police these licenses.

0:32:060:32:10

The issues in some parts of Peterborough are such that we have to outline

0:32:100:32:15

to these people in no uncertain terms that

0:32:150:32:17

this is how we expect you to rent out a property,

0:32:170:32:20

this is how it needs to be.

0:32:200:32:22

But we're not talking about creating palaces in Peterborough.

0:32:220:32:25

-No, absolutely not.

-We're talking about keeping people safe and healthy in their own homes.

0:32:250:32:29

We want hazard-free homes, exactly, yeah.

0:32:290:32:31

They've dealt with this particular owner before and now a new licence

0:32:340:32:38

application has been made for one of his properties,

0:32:380:32:40

Pete and David want to check that it's safe and secure for the tenant.

0:32:400:32:44

But it's not long before I spot some telltale signs.

0:32:450:32:50

There's a big bulge in the ceiling,

0:32:520:32:54

it's clearly been repaired at least once,

0:32:540:32:56

but I would say a number of times.

0:32:560:32:58

Raymondus, do you still have a problem with this?

0:32:580:33:01

-You have water?

-Yeah.

0:33:010:33:02

Water comes down now.

0:33:020:33:04

So you have a shower upstairs and a shower downstairs?

0:33:080:33:12

At the same time?

0:33:120:33:13

Really, standing there, you get water down the back of your neck?

0:33:210:33:24

Time to investigate where that water might be coming from.

0:33:240:33:28

We're in the landing. You can see...

0:33:280:33:31

-Once again...

-Once again we've got some ingress of water.

0:33:310:33:34

We've got a repair there.

0:33:340:33:36

Yeah, we've got a bit of a botch job going on here.

0:33:360:33:39

Shall we try the bathroom?

0:33:390:33:40

OK, so where we were seeing the problems downstairs I reckon equates

0:33:420:33:47

to either the loo or

0:33:470:33:50

the bath plug.

0:33:500:33:52

-Yeah.

-So it's going to be underneath one of these.

0:33:520:33:55

-Yeah.

-The flooring in here feels very uneven.

0:33:550:33:57

Like it's been affected in some way.

0:33:590:34:02

-Yeah.

-And then round behind it is just a mess.

0:34:020:34:05

The tiles have fallen away,

0:34:050:34:08

which indicates quite a lot of damp behind there.

0:34:080:34:11

There's something else missing in this bathroom that we would ask to

0:34:110:34:14

see and there's evidence of what it used to be down there.

0:34:140:34:17

-Is it a radiator?

-Yeah.

0:34:170:34:19

So there's no heating in this bathroom at all.

0:34:190:34:21

No heating in this bathroom, no. Clearly there was and, for whatever reason,

0:34:210:34:24

it's been removed and capped off.

0:34:240:34:25

So if you put together the window that doesn't work and the lack of

0:34:250:34:29

radiator in here, it's going to be very cold at bath time.

0:34:290:34:31

Yeah, it's just not an inviting place.

0:34:310:34:33

It's not encouraging people to maintain a healthy hygiene regime, is it?

0:34:330:34:38

It's not the sort of thing you want to spend any time in.

0:34:380:34:40

There's no doubt that the water will cause damp and mould issues,

0:34:400:34:44

particularly if there's no heating,

0:34:440:34:46

but there are even greater dangers caused by that leak.

0:34:460:34:50

If the water gets into the electrics,

0:34:500:34:52

it could pose a real danger and there's evidence of dodgy electrics

0:34:520:34:56

-all over the house.

-So we've got an electric cable here that's

0:34:560:34:59

running from inside the house, it looks, all the way up and round.

0:34:590:35:04

We've then got a terminal block that's exposed, so if you snag that...

0:35:040:35:09

Then its exposed and you're...

0:35:090:35:11

-Yeah.

-You've got live electrics.

-The next person to walk past it is

0:35:110:35:15

going to get stung.

0:35:150:35:17

Exposed wiring could easily give someone a serious electric shock.

0:35:170:35:21

The hazards in this property are really adding up.

0:35:210:35:24

It's no wonder the council is concerned.

0:35:240:35:27

Can you press that fire alarm for me?

0:35:270:35:29

That's not working.

0:35:290:35:31

No surprises that the place is a fire risk, too.

0:35:310:35:34

-Above your head.

-These are incredible.

0:35:350:35:38

It is incredible that anybody thought these were a good idea, ever.

0:35:380:35:41

Polystyrene ceiling tiles, which, um...

0:35:410:35:44

..you know, incredibly flammable and at the slightest opportunity will

0:35:450:35:50

drip down molten plastic on anybody in the room.

0:35:500:35:53

It's bizarre, isn't it, what we used to do?

0:35:530:35:55

Crazy.

0:35:550:35:57

Any hint of a flame is just going to get this whole ceiling.

0:35:570:36:01

Those highly flammable tiles will definitely have to go.

0:36:010:36:04

And there's even more.

0:36:050:36:07

The handle on this window is very loose.

0:36:080:36:10

I reckon in 12 months that's not going to...

0:36:100:36:12

..be there that long.

0:36:130:36:14

Inadequate security is another hazard which makes a

0:36:140:36:17

home unsafe for its tenants and nearly all the windows here seem to

0:36:170:36:21

fall way below standard.

0:36:210:36:23

So not really secure at all.

0:36:230:36:25

And as for the side access door...

0:36:250:36:27

I don't know if you can see this metal clip,

0:36:270:36:29

but that's the only thing stopping this door from fully opening.

0:36:290:36:32

So anyone is just going to pass through this door with ease.

0:36:320:36:35

-Be straight in.

-Security's very poor at the back of this property,

0:36:350:36:38

so a quick upgrade is required.

0:36:380:36:40

Things aren't looking good for the owner,

0:36:420:36:44

but I'm keen to know what it's

0:36:440:36:46

like for Raymondus to have to call this place home.

0:36:460:36:48

What is it like to live here with the water

0:36:500:36:55

and the security, how does that feel?

0:36:550:36:58

Are you happy here?

0:37:020:37:03

You're happy in this property?

0:37:050:37:06

OK.

0:37:090:37:10

Raymondus might be used to it, but he's still living in a house that's

0:37:120:37:16

a health and safety nightmare.

0:37:160:37:18

Oh, and he's paying £1,000 a month for the privilege.

0:37:190:37:22

But despite everything, it seems there are people willing to put up

0:37:230:37:27

with conditions like these.

0:37:270:37:29

Talking to Raymondus downstairs, he said he's happy here.

0:37:290:37:32

I mean, I don't know whether it was a language difficulty and I just

0:37:320:37:35

didn't get the true meaning but he said it's expensive...

0:37:350:37:38

-Yeah.

-..but he's relatively happy here.

0:37:380:37:40

We find that a lot.

0:37:400:37:42

The problem for a lot of these guys, for a lot of tenants,

0:37:420:37:46

is that the fear of complaining and what happens to them if they

0:37:460:37:50

complain. The licence actually says no, there's no complaint,

0:37:500:37:52

we are going to do this, we're going to carry out these inspections because that's what we do,

0:37:520:37:56

so that's a good answer, isn't it?

0:37:560:37:58

That feels like that takes the onus off the tenant to complain in the

0:37:580:38:03

-first place.

-Yeah, and people know that we will be here to come and

0:38:030:38:07

look at things and we will address them because we feel we need to

0:38:070:38:09

address them, not because the tenant does.

0:38:090:38:12

One thing is for sure, this property needs sorting out and quickly.

0:38:120:38:17

Raymondus, maybe he is happy here, maybe this is all, you know,

0:38:170:38:21

he's been led to expect from accommodation from where he's been

0:38:210:38:25

before, but nevertheless,

0:38:250:38:27

this is our chance to put it right for whoever comes here next.

0:38:270:38:31

There are things here that could seriously shorten your life or could

0:38:310:38:37

seriously affect your health.

0:38:370:38:39

Raymondus may think any roof is better than none, but this house has

0:38:410:38:46

at least four major safety contraventions - water ingress

0:38:460:38:49

and damp, dodgy electrics, fire risks, a shocking level of security,

0:38:490:38:54

all of which the owner is required to sort out

0:38:540:38:57

as a condition of his licence.

0:38:570:39:00

So, what are the next steps?

0:39:000:39:02

It's almost a textbook example of why selective licensing is a

0:39:040:39:08

-good idea, isn't it?

-Yeah, it's a perfect example.

0:39:080:39:10

That's the sort of thing we're trying to get out of the area,

0:39:100:39:13

the sort of management practices we don't want and so we'll certainly

0:39:130:39:17

pay attention to this one, get it all up to scratch and obviously

0:39:170:39:22

we're going to have to have conversations with those with an

0:39:220:39:24

interest in the property to get them to find somebody more suitable to manage it.

0:39:240:39:29

Well, since the inspection, David's decided to fast-track the process for prompting the landlord to

0:39:310:39:37

carry out the safety work.

0:39:370:39:39

If the landlord fails to comply, the council will simply make the

0:39:390:39:43

fixes and charge the owner for the work.

0:39:430:39:46

Housing officer Christina Bartholomew has been inspecting

0:39:480:39:51

a property that's a health and safety disaster.

0:39:510:39:54

The house could have burned down

0:39:560:39:58

and people and cats in it.

0:39:580:40:01

With the tenants being rehomed,

0:40:020:40:04

it's now down to Christina to deal with the 12 cats they couldn't take.

0:40:040:40:08

The good news is she's found homes for three of the younger ones with a

0:40:120:40:15

local cat charity.

0:40:150:40:17

Right, the plan is to try and get the male into the carrier first.

0:40:180:40:23

I'm going to attempt to catch the cat.

0:40:230:40:26

But with the cats having had the run of the place, in every way,

0:40:270:40:30

getting them to come quietly could prove tricky.

0:40:300:40:34

Oh!

0:40:340:40:35

In you go.

0:40:360:40:37

See, that wasn't too difficult.

0:40:400:40:41

One down.

0:40:410:40:42

But there's still two to go.

0:40:430:40:45

Oh!

0:40:500:40:51

Got it.

0:40:530:40:54

Just trying to find Misty now, so...

0:40:550:40:58

But it seems Misty isn't interested in leaving any time soon.

0:41:010:41:05

Oh, he's escaped!

0:41:060:41:07

He's escaped back upstairs.

0:41:080:41:10

With so many cats living in such dire circumstance,

0:41:110:41:15

it's going to take some time to get the place cleaned up and fit for the

0:41:150:41:18

next tenant.

0:41:180:41:20

So you can smell the ammonia, that's from the cat urine,

0:41:200:41:23

which is on the floor, so obviously that can cause bronchitis

0:41:230:41:29

and breathing problems.

0:41:290:41:32

Just one cat left to catch.

0:41:320:41:34

Got him.

0:41:350:41:37

I've got you!

0:41:440:41:46

I might take this one with me, actually.

0:41:470:41:49

Smuggle it in my bag!

0:41:490:41:50

With the three younger animals safely rescued,

0:41:540:41:57

it's time to take them to a local animal rescue centre,

0:41:570:42:00

where they'll be found new homes.

0:42:000:42:02

There's one more in the car for you.

0:42:020:42:04

Hello. Who have we got?

0:42:040:42:06

It's a relief for everyone.

0:42:070:42:09

They're in a much better environment now than what they were in,

0:42:100:42:13

it's a nice, clean environment and they've got the space

0:42:130:42:17

to run around and

0:42:170:42:20

be in a hygienic house.

0:42:200:42:23

Hello, little one.

0:42:230:42:26

Let me get the pictures up.

0:42:260:42:27

-Sweetheart...

-No, no.

0:42:280:42:30

They are frightened.

0:42:310:42:33

Really frightened!

0:42:330:42:35

Judging by the scratches on volunteer Pauline's hands,

0:42:350:42:39

not all the cats are coming quietly.

0:42:390:42:41

But the good news is, the rest of those cats are also being found

0:42:440:42:47

new homes and the landlord is in the process of getting the property cleaned up

0:42:470:42:51

and ready to put back on the market.

0:42:510:42:53

That's all for today. Join me next time when I'll be working with the

0:42:550:42:58

men and women who are fighting to keep you safe in your home.

0:42:580:43:03

From life-endangering fire traps to health hazards and accidents waiting to happen, Matt Allwright is back on the front line with the nation's housing enforcers to investigate what can happen when landlords and tenants fail to take safety seriously.

Matt investigates potentially lethal living conditions in a block of flats. In the West Midlands, a neglected property overrun with cats could prove a safety risk for neighbours.