For the past few weeks, I’ve been part of a group tasked with bringing a trashed Nottingham house back to life. The damage was breathtakingly bad and the effort needed to restore the property was phenomenal.
Here’s a bit about what happened and what we had to do.
The Property (Pre-desecration)
The once beautiful 1930’s property in Calverton Road, Arnold, (a suburb of Nottingham) had 3 bedrooms, a large lounge, conservatory and stunning landscaped gardens to the front and rear. It was the kind of place you would be proud to invite your friends.
The owner/ Landlord had lived in the property and invested in it handsomely. He did not believe in installing cheap fittings and fixtures. For the first 3 years, the house was rented out without any great mishap.
Then, about 4 years ago, a family moved in who were to damage the property beyond comprehension.
I remind you once again, the rented house was beautiful.
And investment in the property continued. In the last 3 years, the house (and renters) had an expensive cooker, quality carpets and a new fitted kitchen.
The Day the Renters Left
The renters had recently got into debt, a lot of debt. They were also behind with the rent and were looking for a Council house. They had asked the Landlord to tell the local Council he was selling the house so they would get their own place. The Landlord duly obliged. Twice letters were asked. Twice they were sent.
Oddly though, it was at this point that the renters went about telling all and sundry that the ‘cruel’ Landlord was chucking them out onto the streets.
Oblivious to this, the Landlord had a feeling that all was not well at the house. Apart from being a month and a half behind in the rent, the renters were acting fairly shifty. Acting on his hunch, he went over to the house with a friend who could act as a witness.
On arrival, what he saw broke his heart. The long driveway was chock full of rubbish and old furniture. Side windows were broken and motor oil was running down the driveway.
The Landlord was unable to get in and fearing the worst, spoke to the neighbours. The renters, it seemed had flown the nest.
Hours later the renters returned.
After a tip off, I drove to the house on behalf of the Landlord, with a witness for back up. I asked the renter for a key, which reluctantly, she handed over, whilst berating the Landlord. After which, she and her husband left in two cars and a cloud of shame.
Both the witness and I gingerly picked our way along the oil slicked path, avoiding the rusting and broken furniture. With much trepidation, we went in.
The quality carpets in the hallway and lounge had motor oil trodden all the way through. Holes (some really deep) had taken residence in the walls. Windows (all of which were filthy) were broken, or had broken handles or missing locks. Wooden doors had been yanked off their frames and one PVC door frame had a huge whole drilled into it. The entire house, which was beyond filthy, stank.
The new kitchen was a mess and had been badly re-painted by the renters. Numerous strips of masking tape hung from the ceiling like ungainly spider webs and what can only be described as supersonic gunk, had formed in the oven.
I walked into the downstairs loo and wished I hadn’t.
Apart from the colossal multi-coloured mess in the sink, the rolling shower screen had been damaged and the blinds in the window were hanging in a sorry state. It was to take me 40 minutes just to remove the mess in the sink.
For the sake of decency, I will save you from describing the toilet.
All round the house badly applied, cheap wall paper hung from the once well decorated walls, coupled with mystery stains and unpleasant smells.
I walked into the conservatory which was once a place for elegant dinner parties. There was nothing elegant about the place now.
The windows (some of which couldn’t be closed) were smeared with dirt. A threadbare green and unhealthy looking carpet had been laid over the smart ceramic floor tiles and a feeling of unease hung heavily in the air. So far, so appalling, but what alarmed me the most, was the view through the smeared windows.
What I should’ve seen was a beautiful, well stocked landscaped garden that had been terraced. But what I actually saw made me stand stock still.
The plants had gone, the fencing was broken and rubbish was strewn everywhere. Junk appeared on every level of the garden.
The pond, which had once had fish had been packed solidly with broken wood, furniture and household detritus. At the top of the long garden, the sheds were crammed full with old broken toys, furniture and clothing.
Despair and anger is all I felt. I knew the Landlord would feel even worse.
The drains at the rear of the property had been blocked with nappies and the garage roof was broken. I went back inside, fearful of what I’d find upstairs.
The walls on the stairs and landing were covered with wallpaper, in a colour I can only describe as, ‘Alarmingly Pink’.
I carried on upstairs. Even here, motor oil made it into the carpets.
All the bedroom doors were broken as were all the door frames that used to encase them.
In the master bedroom, lengthy cobwebs hung from the corner of the built-in wardrobes. The expensive en-suite bathroom had been trashed and yet again windows and their handles had been broken.
The aroma was impressively bad and the toilet with attached Sani-flo had been deliberately stuffed with plastic. Flush and the toilet sounded like an angry motorboat engine ready to explode.
The entire house had been trashed.
The Clean Up
Over the next few weeks, the closer we looked, the more problems we found. Holes everywhere needed filling. Walls needed preparing, wall papering and painting. PVC door frames had been cracked (which really takes some doing) and the gas fire had been damaged.
Three skips were hired to take away the seemingly unceasing sea of garbage. We would’ve needed more skips but happily, one of the neighbours took the acres of wood for his log burner and the metal merchants pilfered the skips for scrap metal.
Some days, eight of us would be working at the house, other days it was just one. The first week was the hardest. We didn’t know where to start first, or what to do. It felt helpless.
As a foodie, I would often buy lunch for the crew to keep their spirits up.
In just 3 weeks, we put in about 500 hours at the house. Hundreds of pounds were spent on paint and also on cleaning products. I went into the local Wilko’s (hardware store) so often that the staff recognised me and asked how the clean-up was going.
Thankfully, the house is now virtually sorted. Every room has needed attention. All the walls have been filled and painted. New wallpaper has been put up and hours have gone into fixing door frames and fitting new doors.
We still need to fix the garage roof, but at least new renters have moved in. They are delighted with the house – everywhere is like new and the garden is slowly beginning to recover.
Thousands of pounds have been spent already. The final bill is yet to be totalled.
As you can imagine, the Landlord and everyone who knew that house was fuming at the time. Now that emotion is replaced with relief and pride. A lot of good has been achieved.
But what about the Renters?
The Landlord, who had known the family for 20 years and who’d offered them a knocked down rent, didn’t want to press charges for 2 reasons.
One, he feared for the well-being of the four children who lived with the renters. What would happen to them if one parent was detained?
And two, it was obvious that the renters had no money. During the clean-up, Debt Collectors turned up at the house asking for renters on numerous occasions.
We all know that fate will catch up with them eventually.
And in the meantime, if Karma is slow to wield her power, that’s ok. The Debt Collectors will find them first.