'It's David and Goliath': The Yorkshire residents fighting for tenants' rights

A few miles to the east of Rotherham lies Maltby. A former mining town in South Yorkshire, it's in the heart of Rother Valley - a constituency that, until 2019, always had a Labour MP.

As the candidates do battle this time around, the residents in one neighbourhood are determined to make the shoddy state of their homes a key focus of the election campaign here.

Their estate is called Little London - named after its original purpose to re-house Second World War munitions workers from Enfield - but it's not hard to see how it's earned the nickname Little Beirut.

In the centre of the terraced houses is a row of empty homes that have been decaying for around a decade and are now in such a poor state of repair, the street resembles a warzone.

Locals call the buildings The Derelicts, and walking around the boarded-up windows and damaged concrete walls it feels like you're in northeast Ukraine, not northeast of Sheffield.

Aaron Fuller's home faces this eyesore, and he is among the parents on the estate living in fear of his two young sons playing on a disused building site.

He worries about the broken glass and bare wires strewn across the unfenced area: "It's a death trap. It's a matter of time before somebody gets hurt."

Mr Fuller and his family are typical of the residents here, who are all renting their homes from a variety of landlords.

He works in construction and his wife is a paramedic, describing himself and his neighbours as "good, hardworking people that have been forced to live with such a mess for so long".

A banner on the empty properties declares renovation work will begin this year. But Mr Fuller insists they have heard it all before and seen no progress.

And, he says, for a long time people have put up with it because they've been afraid of the consequences of making a fuss.

It's a predicament faced by many thousands of private renters across the country - unwilling to leave the communities they have been a part of for decades and unable to earn enough to own their properties.

"I think it's become the status quo, where people are so terrified of complaining," Mr Fuller says.

"They're worried about things like section 21 no-fault evictions," he explains.

"People have been forced to have to live in these properties, because they cannot afford anything better."

Many of the residents' houses are plagued by damp due to their more than 80-year-old design and cheap, speedy construction.

They all have flat roofs that leak and poorly fitted windows and doors. The bathrooms are often encased in a layer of perishing polystyrene.

Denise McBride spends her days bleaching mould from the walls of her home. Each morning she turns her grandson's mattress on its side to keep it away from the damp wall in his room.

She claims the industrial-strength cleaning products she's been forced to use so often have destroyed her sinuses.

And she's determined to make tenants' rights an election issue. When asked who she blames, she reels off a list.

"I blame the landlords. But I also blame the council for letting them get away with it. I blame the government for having all the laws on the landlords' sides, so that the little people like us don't have any rights," Ms McBride says.

She's joined a group of residents who've had enough.

In the nearby cafe they hold regular meetings and we sit in on one with half a dozen locals.

They've formed a campaign group, Big Power for Little London, and held protest events that are gathering momentum and attracting candidates contesting the upcoming general election.

They say they won't stop until they see real change.

"We will stand up for ourselves and we'll make this better," says Ms McBride.

Read more:
Sunak says he will bring back National Service if Tories re-elected
Boy, 17, arrested after woman stabbed to death on beach

Inside social media's illicit abortion trade

Mr Fuller agrees: "It's David and Goliath. It's that age-old story.

"What's happened here is what you call Yorkshire grit."

Rotherham Council says it's "committed to continuing to work proactively with the residents of Little London and the relevant authorities, such as the South Yorkshire Police, to address the immediate difficulties that they face".

"We are also working with residents to bring forward a long-term solution for the estate, whilst adhering to the appropriate legal processes."

The director of Rivergrove Limited, a London-based property company that owns The Derelicts, told Sky News: "The company has been actively looking at the options for these buildings and has applied for planning permission at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds to demolish and rebuild the derelict homes and is awaiting the outcome of that application.

"Rivergrove doesn't deal with any rentals and evictions directly, as that is done by a professional local agent on our behalf, who has no dealings or involvement in the planning or decisions relating to the future of the derelict properties."

"As far as we know none of the residents involved in the campaign are Rivergrove tenants."