A television programme revealing how a former social worker could lose her rental property because of a tenant who hoarded items was aired on Channel 5 last night.
Leslie-Ann Franklin, whose story featured on an episode of Bad Tenants Rogue Landlords, claimed she and her tenant had been let down by Fenland council as it did not act “quickly enough” to deal with the situation. She now faces the prospect of paying £25,000 in legal fees.
In 2014, the former social worker bought an 18th century two-bedroom cottage next to her house where a woman, who was rent protected and already in situ, had been residing for 30 years.
Aware that the property was untidy and needed some work, Franklin thought she could help the elderly tenant by purchasing the house.
However, when the state of the property deteriorated, and the owner could not gain access to the cottage, she reported the situation to the council.
Tests conducted by the local authority highlighted serious health and safety hazards, as it offered the tenant alternative accommodation. The council also issued an advisory notice for the landlord to gain access to the property to allow her to carry out necessary works. However, this was refused, and Franklin looked to seek a possession order.
A state of disrepair
In a twist of events, the elderly tenant filed a defence on the grounds of harassment, claiming the property was in a state of disrepair because Franklin had failed to sustain it.
The tenant has since passed away, however, the former social worker now faces considerable legal fees if she loses the case. She spoke about her reaction to the condition of the cottage after re-entering the property for the first time in three years.
“I have seen hoardings in my social work career but not the extent of the severity of the hoarding [we found]. We were actually shocked and horrified what we were finding,” said the former social worker on the programme.
“I didn’t realise, until it was much too late, the severity of my tenant’s issues. I tried time and time again to explain to the council and social services but they all failed to act quickly enough,” she added.
Franklin’s story has helped to shed light on the lives of those who hoard and how working with a person who hoards is likely to raise issues of whether they lack mental capacity to make particular decisions.
In particular, the episode revealed the complexities of dealing with those who refuse to accept help for their hoarding, generating discussion around capacity.
‘Never seen a worse case’
Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, who helped Franklin re-enter her property, said he had “never seen a worse case” than the cottage he helped to reclaim in Cambridgeshire.
“Entering the property with the film-crew was a stomach-churning experience, it was a real-life house of horrors. From the moment we stepped foot inside, the stench hit you even though we had masks on. We couldn’t move more than a couple of feet for overflowing mounds of rubbish.”