Rentals with black mold

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When you buy a new home an inspection is done. It’s required by law unless the buyer waives it. If you rent a place, though, you likely have no idea what problems you could be moving into.

NAMPA – When you buy a new home an inspection is done unless the buyer waives it. If you rent a place, though, you likely have no idea what problems you could be moving into.

We caught up with Danny Hamrick as he was moving his family out of a rental home on Cherry Lane in Nampa. The reason why they’re moving is mold. He showed us mold around the water heater, behind the floor boards and in the crawlspace under the sink.

“It started at the bottom and is working its way up,” said Hamrick.

Hamrick says the owner of the home wouldn’t do anything about it so he called in a certified mold inspector to take a look.

“The mold that we tested under the sink tested positive for chaetomium, which we refer to as a marker mold,” said Barak Watson, with Mold Inspection Services.

Watson says it’s commonly referred to as black mold and is always an indicator of an indoor mold problem.

“There had been enough moisture and water that had been dripping over a long period of time that it created a perfect environment for stuff to start growing,” said Watson.

He says living with the amount of mold in the house can make you sick.

“There’s enough of it in the area that they frequent, like the kitchen and living room, that those spores are constantly airborne,” said Watson. “It’s just such a high concentration in a specific location it can be really be harmful for your health.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says active mold, like the kind found in Hamrick’s property, can cause serious health complications, especially for people with weaker immune systems.

Hamrick’s wife, Becky Bell, shared with us her battle with illness since moving into the property in November.

“I wear a mask anytime I’m in the house,” said Bell. “Even when I sleep.”

Bell says it was a scary moment when she realized something was wrong.

“I was on my way to go somewhere and I lost track of where I was going,” said Bell. “I went straight to the doctor.”

The Centers for Disease Control says memory loss and confusion are symptoms of living with black mold. Skin irritation and respiratory problems are also symptoms.

“I had a rash all across my back and had been living on allergy medicine,” said Bell.

She says her doctor urged her to get the home inspected, and that’s when they found out the news.

“It was way worse than we thought,” said Hamrick.

Bell said she was prescribed medicine to help with her exposure to black mold. And the boys were as well, since they also started having breathing problems.

The family requested remediation of the mold, but say the landlords refused.

So they got a lawyer.

“Just because we signed a lease doesn’t mean we have to stay if it’s not livable,” said Bell.

A lawsuit ended up being filed by both parties, the landlords wanting nearly $950 for unpaid rent – which Hamrick says was untrue.

The tenants’ lawsuit sought restitution for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

in the end, after mounting attorney fees, the landlords let them out of their lease without additional payment.

But there’s still concern. There is another rental house on the property.

Gracie Thornton took us inside her rental while holding her baby, Aden. She believes there is mold in the house as well, but the 19-year-old mother can’t afford to get it checked out.

“The landlords don’t understand that I have a baby,” said Thornton.

We brought Watson back in and he did find mold in the attic. He took a sample and it came back positive for the same kind of black mold as the other property. Watson thinks it’s been there for years, most likely caused by roof leaks. He says there is a difference between the two rental properties though.

“So that house over there (Hamrick and Bell) was very clean, but once you started opening things up you could see mold growth,” said Watson. “Here (Thornton) it’s a little different because there are clothes on the ground and garbage which creates a lot of food for mold to grow.”

Gracie says the well where they get their water isn’t consistent – and that prevents her from doing housework regularly.

After complaining to the landlords, and talking with KTVB, she was sent an eviction letter.

Watson says there was no evidence of mold caused by Gracie. She moved in only a few months ago.

But Watson says renters need to remember – they have a responsibility to control moisture too, and help prevent mold from growing.

We did talk with one of the owners of the properties on the phone. She didn’t want to go on camera, but said any mold was the tenants’ fault. Again, the mold inspector believes it’s been an issue for a long time in both homes, whether the landlords were aware of it or not.

The Idaho Attorney General urges you to look closely at a property before renting it, and check out the landlords. In this case, the couple who owns the homes also has a business that has a “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.


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