Nearly 100 tenants of an apartment complex in Lexington, Ky., are being evicted by a new owner who says many of the units are unsafe because of mold and plumbing problems.
The Sonnet Cove Apartments, which had fallen into foreclosure unbeknown to many residents, were purchased March 29 by Lakeshore Apartments Associates, LLC, which had plans to upgrade the rental units, however, in a statement its management said, "Unfortunately, due to the scope of the work, repairs cannot be performed while the units are occupied."
Back in July 2005 a resident with the user name kymom302003 notes how far back the problem dates. On ApartmentRatings.com she wrote: "We have lived in these apartments since 2004 and I will tell you this: It stinks here, literally. I have asthma and the mold here is absolutely horrid. Maintenance sucks!!! I hate this place I really do I don't even want to come home after work." Needless to say, her recommended rating to potential renters was, "No."
On complaintsboard.com, a poster going by the name AK wrote in 2008, "This is absolutely the worst place to live in Lexington!!! We are also stuck in a thirteen-month lease in this trashy hell. There is 5 inches of black mold that is growing inside of my air vents. Every time that the heat turns on me and my child are being intoxicated with the spores that are blowing thru our air."
AK also mentioned, "There is about 10 billion German cockroaches running thru this building that I live in. They refused to spray until I tried to get out of my lease."
The new management says the current tenants have to be out by the end of the month and it is working with other
complexes to help the tenants get a discount, but for their current place, management says, "In an effort to offset some of the inconvenience to the tenants, their final month's rent has been waived." And, of course, if they ever want to come back, at presumably a higher rent for a remodeled unit, "Both the new owner and its new management are excited about the opportunity to offer Lexington an attractive, refurbished apartment community for rental in the near future," it said in a statement made available to WKYT News. (See WKYT video below.)
Similarly, renters in Fresno, Calif., facing foreclosure noticed "black stuff" growing in their units. They thought it might be toxic black mold, but test results in one apartment show it is a black fungus known as aspergillus, which is potentially toxic. A painter at the complex told a local ABC reporter that he's under orders to just paint over the black fungus. (See ABC video below).
Know the difference between mold and mildew, as we previously reported in "Mold + Mildew." Mold tends to grow in dark, damp areas, such as in rooms with both high water usage and humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements (try using an exhaust fan to help limit moisture build-up.) To learn more, read our article, "Mold: Where It Can Hide In Your House."
What can you do if you notice mold or a black fungus growing in your residence?
Inform your landlord.
If you're a tenant you can report the mold to your management company, but note not all mold problems will be the landlord's fault. The liability depends on the reason for the mold's growth. If the mold results from the landlord's failure to maintain the property, such as by not preparing a leaky roof or pipes, then the landlord is legally liable. However, if the cause of the mold is due to actions like creating high humidity, or failing to clean the unit properly, then the tenant is liable. For more, read our article, "Dealing with Mold in a Rental Apartment."
Stop leaks and clean.
Before you attempt to fix the mold problem, you need to determine the source of the problem so that you can fix it and not have the issue returned. For example, stop any water leaks by repairing leaky roofs and plumbing fixtures. And clean up regularly.
Protect yourself by using goggles, gloves, and breathing protection so that you don't inhale any of the spores.
Protect your possessions.
Cover heat registers or air ducts or ventilation systems. Cover all your furnishings in the vicinity. Open a window before you start clean up.
Bag all moldy materials, you use for cleaning, or any clothing items that may have mold -- although some items you can just wash. Trash what you don't need to keep.
Scrub hard surfaces.
Using a mild detergent solution mixed with warm water, wash away what you can. Then use a solution of ¼ cup bleach to one quart of water and wash again. Repeat two more times. Lastly, you can apply a borate-based detergent solution and do not rinse.
Hire a professional.
If the growth covers a significant area (such as beyond a corner in your shower) bring in an expert. For where to turn for professional mold help, read our earlier piece on "How to Keep Toxic Mold Out of Your House."
Sheree R. Curry, who has owned three homes and never had a mold problem, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She's been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher -- or at least a lender who'll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.
Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help: