Something else we had to deal with was an issue of an abandoned flat which was a real nightmare and took literally years to bring under control.

The flat had been boarded up long before we took over and it wasn’t owned by an individual but a very large property company. When a number of my e-mails about the situation were ignored I reported the flat to the Empty Homes website who said that they would try and get the council involved.

Whilst I continued to try and get the owners to do something, the final straw came when my partner saw a very large rat enter the flat via a gap around the badly installed plumbing pipework! Not to mention the fact that a couple of people had been seen attempting to kick the boards in with the obvious intention to squat!

So we decided to act ourselves and instructed the boards be taken down. We had to stop at only a partial removal of one board because of what we found. The ceiling had partially collapsed in the kitchen due to a slow, steady leak from the flat above, and the flat was full of rat excrement and urine due to a nest being discovered. The stench was awful and there was also fallen asbestos. This discovery led to the owner sending an asbestos surveyor round but the surveyor refused to carry out the survey due to the horrific state of the flat! The asbestos was bad enough but the rats posed a significant health risk to humans and other animals. Common diseases they carry include Salmonella, Weil’s disease, E.coli, Cryptosporidiosis and Tuberculosis. If that wasn’t enough they also carry fleas, mites and ticks and can cause acute allergic reactions!

We got a rapid response when we took the situation to Environmental Health as they attended very quickly but were also duly disgusted and refused to enter!

By the most amazing co-incidence on the very same morning they were due to send a letter to the flat owner, the areas under the bath and inside the kitchen cupboards were disinfected and the toilet removed. I notified Environmental Health of the clearance but was advised that we should still wait for a response from the letter as areas where the toilet was installed would need to be sealed, as would any other access point that the rats were currently gaining entry by.

Interestingly the owner contacted me and said that the matter did slip from the radar for some time. As owners and operators of a significant number of residential properties it wasn’t in their interest to deliberately leave their properties empty and poorly repaired. Personally I found it all somewhat difficult to believe (certainly from 2007 onwards) because not only did we take over management then but they had been paying the service charges ever since!

Works were however further delayed due to the ongoing leak from the flat above, despite the fact that it was thought to have been repaired shortly after it had been brought to the owners attention. However, because of the lack of checks to the flat to ensure the repair had worked (despited my repeated requests that they keep an eye on it), during a meeting I attended with the managing agent, the owner of the flat above and the works foreman, it was found that the ceiling joists had rotted through! Not fixed after all!.

There was nothing further we could do as the matter eventually passed into the hands of the insurers but I am pleased to say that the flat has been tenanted for years without any further complaints or issues!


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