IN a little over a year, nightmare tenants inflicted tens of thousands of pounds of damage on the Darlington house where they lived, David Roberts takes a tour of the trashed property.

BROKEN glass litters the porch, a jagged foretaste of what is to come.

At first I tread carefully, trying to avoid the razor sharp splinters, but it becomes quickly obvious there’s no point for there is barely any part of the floors and carpets that aren’t covered in shattered debris.

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Worse is to come. Further inside, by the dim light slicing through the boarded up windows, the full extent of the damage can be revealed.

On the hall stairs, the spindles have all been kicked out and the banister rail hangs precariously - held by just a few thin pieces of wood.

Paint is splashed across the walls in what was once the living room, in some places an inch thick. But this was no attempt at redecorating. The discarded paint pot lies on it side, its contents pooling on a carpet which, only a few months before, was brand new.

Flies buzz through the entire house and the reason soon becomes apparent.

“You don’t want to see the bathroom,” warns one of the workmen, attempting the herculean task of trying to piece the house back together.

The toilet bowl is overflowing with a mound of excrement, toilet roll and sanitary towels piled inches above the bowl.

What is more worrying, is that it’ss obvious people lived in such squalour by choice.

It wasn’t always this way. Landlord, Glenn Schofield lovingly redecorated every room of the four-bedroomed house in Westbrook Terrace, Darlington, prior to the tenants moving in last June.

His photographs show a bright, airy building with tall ceilings and period features including the tiled fireplace in the living room. Now the tiles lie shattered on the floor and paint is smeared around the grille.

Dank mattress covered in dubious stains lie on the floors of the bedrooms. In the front bedroom, a brown spray pattern, looking suspiciously like blood creeps up the wall, covered only by a children’s card.

Many of the upstairs ceilings have collapsed after lead flashing was taken from the roof, causing water to seep through.

For Mr Schofield, it is almost too much to bear. It has taken months to evict the tenants and now he faces a repair bill liable to run into the tens of thousands.

“It’s indescribable how I feel,” he said. “I’ve done everything by the book and I don’t know how much it’s going to cost to repair.

“I don’t even know yet whether the insurance company will pay out for it.

“If they don’t pay out, then I’m really in the mire.”

The house was let through an agency and the tenants even provided references, now presumed to be false. Problems started shortly after they moved in and when the rent abruptly stopped being paid in February, Mr Schofield began eviction proceedings.

“It’s took me until now to get them out,” he said. “I don’t understand why it took so long. If you provide false references for a job, you can out be straight away. Why can’t it work with a house?”

PC John Forster of the North Road beat team in Darlington has vowed to do his best to ensure the culprits feel the full force of the law.

“Normally when there’s a problem with landlords and tenants it tends to be resolved as a civil case,” he said.

“However, here the level of destruction is so high that it’s criminal damage without a doubt. It’s just reckless destruction.

“The upsetting things is the level of pride Mr Schofield took in the house and then someone comes in and trashes it throughout.”

As Mr Schofield returns to sweeping up the shattered glass, the damage to his house may be repaired, but it is doubtful whether his trust in people will ever be restored quite so easily.