Gilby House in Homerton. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Residents fear they will only be listened to if there is a death or serious injury at their block of flats in Homerton – which they claim is in a “desperate state of disrepair”.

People living at Gilby House on the council’s Wyke estate worry that some of the problems are “life-threatening”.

They say they have complained to the council and to the Wyke tenant management organisation (TMO) for several years.

In a letter to the council they warned: “The many risks that we are being exposed to are a health issue, some with long-term effects and other hazards, [and] a potential threat to life.

“For example, a broken pane of glass from the walkway balcony on the seventh floor fell to the ground floor, which could have resulted in serious injury or death.

“The council’s neglect only further deepens our mistrust and apathy towards the institution.”

Damage to a communal fire door. Photograph: Julia Gregory

One resident, who has also raised concerns about fire doors on the communal stairs, said: “We are living in unsafe, unhygienic facilities and being ignored by the authorities responsible.

“There was a dead pigeon hanging from nets by our bike storage for over a week, [and] the council said it had been cleared even though it was still there.”

She added that there are also concerns that the condition of the building is affecting would-be buyers’ prospects of getting a mortgage. One leaseholder said: “We can’t sell the flat because of the state of the building.” 

The catalogue of concerns includes damage to three communal fire doors designed to withstand fire and smoke for up to an hour,  insecure internal locks, external drains which do not connect, damage to handrails, and broken netting which means pigeons can get in.

Broken netting has allowed pigeons to run riot. Photograph: Julia Gregory

In their letter, residents stated: “After the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, it is clear to us that residents of social housing are potentially at severe risk and often ignored by authorities when concerns are raised, with catastrophic consequences.

“Is it only when someone gets seriously injured or killed that we will be listened to?”

The Grenfell Inquiry has considered the way residents of the 24-storey tower block in west London were treated by the Kensington and Chelsea TMO and the building’s owner, Kensington and Chelsea Council, when they raised concerns about the building.

Gilby House residents told Hackney Council: “We hope that you have our safety and best interests as a priority, but this does not reflect our experience.

“It is degrading to live in a place that is falling apart and for young people growing up here the lack of care shown towards our living situation does nothing to build their self confidence or confidence in the authorities.

“We deserve safety and dignity.”

A broken handrail on a flight of communal stairs. Photograph: Julia Gregory

One said: “It’s like a Carry On movie and we’ve got to live in it.”

Among the issues this person is concerned about are a down pipe which has come apart and damage to a handrail on the stairs which he says is at the height of young children.

Another resident, Lydia, said she feels their concerns “have been going on forever”.

She added: “The residents want the TMO to take us seriously. Hopefully something will happen.”

Lydia said she is concerned about the state of fire doors, including one on the eighth floor which can stick when it is opened. A label on the door highlights that, if working correctly, it should be able to withstand fire for 60 minutes, as well as smoke.

The fire door on the fifth floor also has a hole in it.

A sticky fire door on the eighth floor. Photograph: Julia Gregory

The latest fire risk assessment from May 2021 noted: “Despite the presence of CCTV, there does seem to be a serious problem with anti-social behaviour within this building, with evidence of this found on two sets of damaged FD60S Gerda fire doors protecting the protected staircase, including substantial damage inflicted to break Georgian wired glazing in both of these fire doors as well.”

The Citizen showed photographs of three fire doors on the stairwells to fire engineer Jason Hill.

Based on these photographs, he said: “The doors while damaged would provide some purpose, however because they are damaged the claim for the duration of protection would be compromised.”

He said the doors should be on a register and they should be maintained and checked and any damage should be repaired.

He pointed out that the doors appear to be older, “so likely to be due a change or maintenance to ensure the functional requirements are met”.

Residents say a broken pane of glass fell to the ground from the seventh floor walkway. Photograph: Julia Gregory

The building has a ‘stay put’ policy and the 2021 fire risk assessment states: “This strategy enables occupants not directly affected by a fire to remain in their flats in relative safety, unless their flat subsequently becomes affected, or they are directed to evacuate the building by the fire and rescue service.”

A council spokeswoman responded: “Fire safety of our blocks is of utmost importance to us.”

Council staff from property and asset management, residents’ safety, anti-social behaviour, building maintenance and housing management teams did a walk-around in April and drew up a plan of action.

The TMO also worked with police over concerns about anti-social behaviour last year to try to resolve the issue.

In February, the council told residents it had dealt with issues including “a lack” of fire signs and had replaced or repaired “electrics which were in a poor condition” on a secondary means of escape from the building.

The council spokeswoman said: “The Wyke estate is run by a tenant management co-operative which is responsible for repairs. However, due to concerns raised with residents, and also as our responsibility as a landlord on the estate, we have been working closely with the TMO to fix the issues raised by residents.

“We have carried out a number of inspections of the estate and have put an action plan in place to monitor progress.”

She said the council is working with the TMO to get these issues completed.

She added: “The scaffold has now been removed which means we can progress reinstating the pigeon netting and removing the bird fouling.”

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