Protesters outside the Town Hall this week. Photograph: Julia Gregory

A disabled man and his neighbour living on a council estate where residents have complained of a “septic smell” for four years have taken their fight to the Town Hall – with both in fear that their flats are making them ill.

The pair were joined by protesters from the London Renters Union and Disabled People Against Cuts to urge Hackney Council to look into their concerns about their homes on St Mary’s estate in Haggerston.

Max was diagnosed with a lung condition and was coughing blood in May. He has also suffered irritation to his eyes, nose and skin.

Doctors investigated to see if he had lung cancer but ruled it out and are planning test to see if his organs have been affected by his illness.

Max says his life is on the line. Photograph: Julia Gregory

He said he had to remove “a large amount of black mould hidden behind my kitchen unit” over the summer.

He feels recent work to sort out the problem has been “like sticking a plaster on an open wound” and says the building needs repair work.

“This building has been neglected for decades,” he added. “My health and my life are on the line.”

He moved into his flat in 2017 after he was diagnosed with a chronic neurological problem in his early 20s and hoped it would be “a new lease of life”.

Black mould in Max’s living room. Photograph: Max

“I did not know that I would develop new symptoms,” he said.

“I am paying with my health. It is very upsetting at times, I do not feel like a human being.”

Besides problems with mould he explained that residents have raised the issue of a “rotten egg smell and septic tank smell” over the last four years.

His neighbour Mary Walsh, who has acute asthma, emphysema, and the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said she has noticed the smell too.

She is also concerned that it is affecting her health and has been in intensive care and the high dependency unit at the Royal London four times.

Mary Walsh says the smell in her flat is so bad that it makes her vomit. Photograph: Julia Gregory

“Usually when I come back after being away I start vomiting because the smell is so bad,” she said.

“There are sewage pipes between my bedroom and bathroom.”

Andy Greene from Disabled People Against Cuts said: “There are hundreds of thousands of disabled people in the city and across the country who are not living in homes that are suitable for them.”

The two neighbours met Hackney’s housing services chief Cllr Clayeon McKenzie and the council’s director of neighbourhoods and housing to discuss their concerns.

Cllr Clayeon McKenzie, cabinet member for housing needs. Photograph: Hackney Council

Cllr McKenzie said: “I met with Max and Mary this week at Hackney Town Hall, and listened to their experience with respect to their housing condition and assured them that I would ensure that the issues they raised would be dealt with urgently. 

“We have carried out a range of repairs to the property already including the installation of a new kitchen recently in one of them, however, I acknowledge there is more that needs to be done. 

“The housing team will arrange to visit the properties and make a full assessment of the outstanding work and work with Mary and Max to get them done to their full satisfaction, including supporting them with their future housing need.” 

He added: “I want to say I am wholeheartedly sorry if we have fallen below the standards expected of us in this instance. Fixing the issues for these residents is a top priority for us. 

“We endeavour to give all of our residents a good, secure home, and eight out of 10 are satisfied with our repairs and maintenance services. 

“We will of course see what lessons we can learn to ensure situations like this are resolved as quickly as possible in future.”

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