The state of the apartment is up to the individual landlord, and frequently bears no resemblance to the external view of the building.
As far as the local (urban) wildlife goes, the bad news is that cockroaches can FLY. They can also skitter under doors or up the drains. AND they can survive eating nylons, some plastics, wood, and a whole lot of other stuff which is present in areas perfectly void of what we would consider "food" so just deal with them as they appear, and keep your place cleaner than next door and the rubbish room on your floor; that will keep them down to the odd visitor instead of establishing breeding colonies. Rats usually find enough to eat relatively close to ground level, but it's a wonder to behold how well they can clamber up the side of a rendered cement building or plastic or metal pipes! Just keep the doors and windows closed when you are out; they'll steer clear of a place with people around. Of course, if you live backing on to some country parks, you also need to keep the windows closed to stop monkeys getting in and trashing the place ...
Another aspect of the grotty flats issue is that some landlords seem to consider it the job of incoming tenants to clear up the mess left by those who have left. If you find a place like this which is otherwise just what you want, negotiate with the landlord to receive a rent-free cleaning/redecorating period, or just be very frank about why you will not take the place.
We ended up in Happy Valley.
I was torn between a place with facilities and good infrastructure like belchers and happy valley.
while belchers would certainly have been more convenient, it had a ghetto feel to it if you know what I mean. Even though we would have had a bigger place and a fantastic view.
the agency is sorting out all the utilities except the internet and tv for us which is very convenient.
many thanks again for all the information and help!