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Archive for Monday, March 16, 2009

Mold can pose health hazards, remains unregulated

Jessica Rose and her son Jadan in the apartment they have been moved to after discovering their previous apartment was infested with mold. There is a lack of federal regulation to protect mold victims.

Jessica Rose and her son Jadan in the apartment they have been moved to after discovering their previous apartment was infested with mold. There is a lack of federal regulation to protect mold victims.

March 16, 2009

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Jessica Rose and her son Jadan in the apartment they have been moved to after discovering their previous apartment was infested with mold. There is a lack of federal regulation to protect mold victims.

Jessica Rose and her son Jadan in the apartment they have been moved to after discovering their previous apartment was infested with mold. There is a lack of federal regulation to protect mold victims.






Facts about mold

How to clean up mold if it is contained to a 10-square-foot area: • Make sure any water leak has been stopped. • Use soapy water or ammonia and a scrub brush. Note: Do not use bleach. Experts say bleach only exacerbates the problem. • Thoroughly dry the area. • Test the room again to be sure the mold has been completely removed. • For areas more than 10 square feet, an expert remediator should be called.







Mold complaints

The Lawrence Department of Health reported the following complaints from 2007 and 2008:

2007 Total complaints: 197 Mold complaints: 27 Housing complaints: 17 housing

2008 Total complaints: 244 Mold complaints: 41 Housing complaints: 12

Footnote: Housing complaints mostly consist of issues with mold, according to LDH spokeswoman Lisa Horn.






Contacts

Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. 785-234-0217

Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department 785-843-3060

Kansas Department of Health and Environment 785-296-1500

Code Enforcement 785-832-3000

EPA www.epa.gov/mold

Patrick Salsbury noticed the dark green mold lining his walls the first day he moved into his Stadium View apartment last August.

After one night in the room, Salsbury and his girlfriend Shelby Lewis, both Kansas University sophomores, woke up with fevers, runny noses and nausea.

Mold grows in humid and poorly ventilated areas. Though mold is often a health hazard, many states, including Kansas, don’t have standards regulating mold in buildings or homes. The lack of regulation has made stories like Lewis and Salsbury’s more common.

Jerry Collier and fiancé Michele Belcher recently lost their home, 1945 Ky., and health to mold. The couple developed asthma — a condition neither had before — two weeks after moving into the home last August. They’ve since moved out and are suing their landlord, Alan Vitt, for negligence. Vitt, who declined to comment for this story, has put the house back up for rent.

Jessica Rose, a single mother from Lawrence, said the mold in her Edgewood apartment contributed to the loss of her job and has caused sustained health problems. She said her employer told her that she had too many sick days, which were needed to care for herself and her 3-year-old son, Jaden. She was moved to a different apartment after months of complaints, but is still unemployed, and continues to experience headaches and sinus problems.

Barbara Huppee, executive director of Lawrence Douglas-County Housing Authority, which manages Edgewood Apartments, said the scientific testing of the apartment was negative for mold and that the authority believes it has done its due diligence in this instance.

Last year, 22 percent of all health complaints to the Lawrence Department of Health dealt with mold, according to Lisa Horn, LDH spokeswoman. But the health department, code enforcement and other agencies are powerless when it comes to mold.

Kansas, like most states, doesn’t have clear standards that define the rights of tenants and the proper procedure of testing and removing mold.

Although a few states, such as Texas and New York, have guidelines for mold testing and removal, the United States hasn’t established federal mold regulations.

Robert Brandys, director of the Indoor Air Quality Association, said the United States is the only industrialized country without a national mold standard.

Mold can be found everywhere in the form of microscopic spores. Once the spores latch onto a surface, they can grow into a multicolored fungus within two days. Exposure to this mold can cause breathing problems and hay-fever-like symptoms.

Lawrence Code Enforcement Manager, Brian Jimenez, said once the spores find the right conditions — moisture, heat and poor ventilation — mold can grow anywhere from the ceiling of a bathroom to the wall behind the couch.

“It’s important to know that most houses will have some type of mold somewhere,” Jimenez said. “That’s just a fact.”

Mold is classified as either toxic or non-toxic. And while non-toxic molds, like penicillin, are more common in homes than the toxic species, Greg Crable, an Environmental Protection Agency architect, said all mold should be treated with caution.

“The EPA’s position is that mold is something that can cause health problems,” Crable said. “It doesn’t matter what type of mold you’re dealing with.”

A section of mold under 10 square feet can be removed without severe reconstruction, said Jeff Goldman, owner of Paul Davis Restoration. Otherwise, he said, a professional company will need to remove the mold. Professional removal can cost anywhere from $2,000 to more than $100,000.

Under Lawrence’s Landlord and Tenant Act, landlords have a responsibility “to provide the tenant a safe, habitable place to live that complies with applicable building and housing codes.”

But there isn’t a code for mold, and proving the home poses a health hazard can be difficult.

To prove the mold has caused a health hazard, the renter can either test the home for mold or get an allergy test. The most accurate mold tests cost between $100 and $400.

Without a mold standard or proof of a health hazard, Jimenez said, code enforcement officers “have their hands tied.”

“It’s really tough for tenants because they truly believe they are in an environment that is not healthy,” he said. “But from a code enforcement viewpoint, there’s nothing on the books.”

This is especially true if the mold isn’t visible. Jimenez said the city code enforcement can respond to a mold complaint only if the mold can be seen. Otherwise, he said, it’s “strictly speculation,” and the office has no jurisdiction.

Should tenants find themselves in this situation, Robert Baker, Housing and Credit Counseling adviser, stressed the need for documentation.

“If the landlord refuses to fix the problem, since nothing is outlined in strict code, it may come down to what a court decides,” Baker said. “And the courts are going to look at who has the best documentation.”

He said tenants need to be their own advocates.

“The tenant has to be dedicated to solving the problem,” Baker said. “They can’t expect to make a call and have someone solve it for them.”

Despite making several maintenance requests to First Management, Salsbury, the KU student, still has the mold in his apartment, and a headache he can’t shake. Lewis said she continues to regularly miss work and school from illness.

First Management, Salsbury and Lewis’ landlord, didn’t respond to Lawrence Journal-World questions.

“It’s two people against an entire company that’s way bigger than us,” Lewis said. “There needs to be some kind of living standard without going through hoops to get someone to do something.”

Comments

Shane Garrett 5 years, 11 months ago

Hey folks, KSU has a mold consultant on staff at the environmental health and safety dept. I am sure for a small fee paid directly to the consultant he would bring some testing equipment in and test your air quality. ph 785-532-1327.

supertrampofkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

"Jerry Collier and fiancé Michele Belcher recently lost their home, 1945 Ky., and health to mold." LJW

This story sounds a little fishy. According to the article these guys have been "affected" and in there since last August and yet they have just recently "lost" their rental home to mold? Sounds a little like sensationalism there LJW. I willing to bet that some these people are just plain slobs and live in squalor. What is the responsibility of the tenants here? Don't they have some liability for their own living conditions.

Like the first poster says, if it is affecting you then move out or at least fix the situation. If I see mold, I take it out and fix the problem that caused the mold in the first place. .

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"I willing to bet that some these people are just plain slobs and live in squalor. "

Really-- what's your basis for jumping to this conclusion, supertramp-- or are you the landlord?

"If I see mold, I take it out and fix the problem that caused the mold in the first place. ."

You obviously know nothing about mold. Quite often the mold is inside the walls. I seriously doubt that most tenants are going to do the demolition required to remove it.

The cause is often a bad roof and/or poor drainage and/or no or clogged gutters and downspouts and/or problems with plumbing, none of which is a tenant's responsibility to repair.

tolawdjk 5 years, 11 months ago

HOw do you plan on taking it out, genius? Surface mold on a non-porus surface...yeah sure, knock yourself out with a little water and bleach, no problem.

What about mold caused by a pipe leak from the neighbors apartment? Faulty roof seal? Bad window installation? Flood repair done on the cheap? What if you don't own the property? For every easy to fix mold problem, there are 10 that are beyond the scope of responsibility of a tenant.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

This just in: the Barry & Biden show has announced a new federal tax on mold.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"Despite making several maintenance requests to First Management, Salsbury, the KU student, still has the mold in his apartment, and a headache he can’t shake."

Maybe a mysterious fire caused by a "homeless" person will solve this mold problem for First Management.

George Lippencott 5 years, 11 months ago

Did I understand this correctly. They moved into an appartment with mold and now want action against management? Sounds like they also want disability and workers comp. Sign of the times??

Mold can be a problem, usually caused by poor maintenance or poor housekeeping. I hope we are not looking for a big new city program with lots of expensive requirements. It would be just like Lawrence to reward stupidity with pain to everyone who did it right!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Way to vent your prejudices with absolutely no basis of support from the article, George.

persevering_gal 5 years, 11 months ago

Moderate,

It can also be due to poor maintenance by the management. I lived at the Legends Apartments, and my roommate and I were miserable. The vents have not been cleaned since they have been built. We did everything we could to keeip the place clean and tried having maintenance do something, but all they said was that the ventilation was built incorrectly. We would usually wake up all clogged up, sore eyes, and sneezing throughout the entire night.

We would turn on our bathroom fans when showering, changed the filters once a month, etc. How were they or us supposed to know the place was infested with mold before moving in?

imastinker 5 years, 11 months ago

persevering gal - vent cleaning is a service that is most effective at seperating you from your money, not cleaning your air. My house is 60 years old with original ductwork in it. I have actually had it apart and there wasn't much in there aside from a few crayons and dust right under the return vents in the floor.

Confrontation 5 years, 11 months ago

First Management is one of the worst management companies in town. They prey on students and get away with whatever they want.

Lawrence is completely full of slumlords like Vitt, too. Disgusting pigs who don't care about anyone's health.

tredrei3 5 years, 11 months ago

I’ve known Alan Vitt for over 20 yrs and he’s one of the most ethical, conscientious human beings you’ll ever meet. Facts are… Michele & Jerry did not pay rent for over two months before Alan had to finally have them evicted. Alan spent a great deal of time to get rid of what little mold did exist (in an unfinished basement cellar) and he offered several times to allow them out of their lease without paying the 2-months back rent. I should also mention…during this period, the Lawrence Police Department broke into the house with a warrant for Michele & Jerry on drug charges (still pending). And, by the way…the house is NOT up for rent; it’s being entirely renovated. Alan’s only fault in all of this is being far too lenient and allowing them to move in without references.

supertrampofkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

Bozo,

Ah you must be the tenants who are suing. Nice.

So Bozo, do you agree with Defender's comments? Are all landlords bloodsucking scum who derserved to be shot or at least taken to the cleaners? Do you have any idea who the landlord is? I wonder what the neighbors have to say? Anyone live close?

Maybe you like rooting for the underdog Bozo but I wouldn't be so quick to pass judgements. All I know is that I see alot of lawsuits which most of the time are all about greed and attempts to freeload off of people. I'm not a landlord and I generally try to avoid these type of situations.

I also think LJW is in the business of selling newspapers and needs a little sensationalism. The lawsuit is what caught my eye. Maybe the landlord can sue the paper. Isn't that what makes the world go round.

I'm out of here guys. Get out of the basements boys and enjoy the day! Happy St Patty's Day!

supertrampofkansas 5 years, 11 months ago

Ah my suspicions hold up. Well Bozo whaddya think. Couple of druggies trying to freeload. I say LJW should be sued...

Kristen Murphy 5 years, 11 months ago

Totally agree with you Confrontation. I lived in Manhattan while at K-State and I lived in a First Management building. The management themselves sucked. Our apartment was so dirty when we moved in. It was disgusting. Thankfully we got our full deposit back because they moved our sub-leasers in and didn't do the final walk-through as scheduled. Jerks.

jumpin_catfish 5 years, 11 months ago

What's this green stuff in my beer, oh sh...............

wslady 5 years, 11 months ago

Moving out would seem logical. However, I know a family who experienced mold from sewage flooding that came from the outdoor sewage system backing up into the home. It was in a townhome and occurred twice in a six month period flooding the downstairs including kitchen. After several days (the 2nd time), the carpet was taken outside, dried and reinstalled - not replaced. The family's 2 yr. old became very ill which went into a serious asthma situation. They broke the lease through a lawyer and moved. A year later the mgmt. sued them for $12,000 because they broke their lease. It took two years and high cost in attorney fees only to have the judge rule in favor of mgmt., even after a housing/cosumer counseling representative from Topeka testified in the family's behalf. This young family had to take bankruptcy and were blacklisted from future renting. The child continues to have health issues 9 years later. Until laws are in place, people need to be aware that moving out for a medical issue is not accepted in this city. There is no compassion for the health and welfare of a family. Education on mold and health consequences in addition to stiff regulations are needed.

disgustedagain 5 years, 11 months ago

Disappointing article as I thought it might actually have useful info for a homeowner on mold remediation--instead of bare bones and slightly useless info you could find on a first online search (mold spreads by spores; don't use bleach; 10 feet, get an expert). Why not interview a mold expert or provide some actual researched information on mold remediation and/or mold case studies? sigh. Instead a weird article combining minimal mold info and evil landlord story (a tried-and-true LJW tale) with little factual background on either. I know there are terrible landlords in Lawrence, and almost as many terrible tenants. This is news? I'm reminded why I don't subscribe to LJW anymore.

mom_of_three 5 years, 11 months ago

As pointed out, there are two different types of mold, and people react to it differently. When I was allergy tested, I was allergic to mold. Yet, when we found mold in our downtstairs bathroom due to water leaks, it didn't affect me.
So it's hard to judge what these people are reacting to -

George Lippencott 5 years, 11 months ago

I read into articles in an attempt to ferret out what we are really saying. The issue I chose to address was mold and demands for redress. The article says "Patrick Salsbury noticed the dark green mold lining his walls the first day he moved into his Stadium View apartment last August." It grew overnight?

If we want to talk property management - I agree with most of you. Some rental property in this town is not well maintained. This is an area where the city might help by providing tenants more opportunity to seek redress. We don’t need a big inspection program but some legal basis to seek redress.

Fat chance, however, as landlords seem to have undue influence in this place!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Supertramp--

"Maybe you like rooting for the underdog Bozo but I wouldn't be so quick to pass judgements."

Seems to me you are quite quick in doing so.

" Are all landlords bloodsucking scum who derserved to be shot or at least taken to the cleaners?"

No. Never said they were. Perhaps you should take it up with Defender if that's how you interpret what he said.

"I also think LJW is in the business of selling newspapers and needs a little sensationalism. The lawsuit is what caught my eye. Maybe the landlord can sue the paper."

Not to defend the JW, but they did call the landlords, who chose not to respond, for whatever reasons. I doubt that there is any basis for a lawsuit.

"Ah my suspicions hold up. Well Bozo whaddya think."

Well, if all you need to "hold up (your) suspicions is an anonymous post on this forum, that's at least consistent with your general knee-jerk behavior.

But what I think is that regardless of whatever tredrei3 contends, it doesn't change the main point of this article, which is that there is no protection for tenants from illnesses caused by mold in their apartments.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

“Patrick Salsbury noticed the dark green mold lining his walls the first day he moved into his Stadium View apartment last August.”

That would be a tip off to me not to move in, and maybe to you, too, George, but not everybody, especially a student moving into their first apartment, knows that's not merely dirty and aesthetically disgusting but potentially a health hazard.

Landlords, however, have an obligation to inform themselves of such matters, and act accordingly. They should view property management as their job, not just a cash cow.

Kodiac 5 years, 11 months ago

I have been best friends with Alan Vitt for a long time and he is one of the most ethical and upstanding person I have ever known. I owe my life to this man who is always been there for me. It upsets me to see such hateful comments being said about my friend by people who have no idea who he is. Alan bigggest failing here was that he cared too much. He tried to help these people who have done nothing but manipulate him and others for financial gain. Alan is a decent caring individual who does not derserve to be treated by these lies.

LJWorld is extremely unethical for not ignoring the actual facts here and manipulating information to sell newspapers. Go by the printed address given in the paper and see for yourself that the house is not for rent. I know for a fact that Alan does not know what he will do but more in likely be sold at a loss. While it is not too surprising to see for this newspaper, it is very disappointing to see a staff writer smear the reputation of my best friend. I sincerely hope that Aly Van Dyke gets fired.

Please leave my friend alone and out of your hateful comments.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Kodiac-- I would suggest to your friend that he contact the JW and insist that they print a clarification/correction.

Confrontation 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm sure that many people are friends with slumlords, but it doesn't make these slumlords "ethical" or "upstanding" people. I'm sure you can find several more tenants who would have similar problems with the slumlords listed in this story. Your buddy may be nice to you, but he may be hurting a lot of other people.

pinnacle28188 5 years, 11 months ago

I just want to know how Aly Van Dyke got hired as a writer. It seems to me that before writing information about someone, that they should confirm any hear say or one sided information, and make sure they are printing fact, and not fiction. Even thought she done her research on mold, she has not done her homework on the true facts. You should only write what you can prove, if you can not prove it because of a no comment you still only have hear say information. It would seem to me that someone that is up on possible drug charges would not be a credible source. But then again it would be wise to verify your sources. Like I said before she did not do her homework; thus making this story of fiction.

SofaKing 5 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Candy3771 5 years, 11 months ago

SMITTY - It took several months to find the right medical specialist that diagnosed pneumonitis due to aspergillus(Mold)..

Do you have any idea the name of this medical specialist I would love to know if he could help me.... I'm having a hard time finding a doctor that knows much about mold and the long term effects it can cause....

concerned_citizen5 5 years, 10 months ago

This is in response to all the friends of Alan Vitt that felt it necessary to comment on his behalf. I know the tenants very well that suffered from his negligence. They are very clean people, and that property made them very sick. The accusation of the tenants being drug dealers is a lie, and nothing more than a pathetic attempt to discredit them, and take attention away from the real problem of landlord negligence.
They moved into the house in the middle of Aug., and the mold was so severe that they had to move out by Dec. The entire time they lived there, Vitt promised to do repairs on the property, and never followed through on anything. They made several attempts to help in anyway possible, but Vitt didn’t want to spend the money to do the necessary repairs. After they both became very ill from the less than livable environment, again instead of making repairs, Vitt elected to evict the tenants.
Jerry is a disabled retired Navy veteran, and was in his third year at KU, that is until the property made them so sick that he wasn't able to continue this semester. Another fact that you may not be aware of, and from previous comments, obviously could care less about is that in Nov., Michele was so incredibly ill that she had a miscarriage, and lost their baby. 
These are two people that are incredible, and have a lot to offer. Jerry and Michele are now homeless and have been since Dec. Their constant medical bills continue, preventing them from being able to even afford a small apartment. They have no choice now but to live in their vehicle with all of their possessions stuck in a storage unit. 
Jerry and Michele moved to Lawrence Ks. with a dream, and the drive to achieve that dream. Now that all they’ve worked for has been taken from them, they feel like there is no place in this world for them. Lawrence is supposed to be this tight knit community that does right, takes care of their people, and takes pride in their community. Thank you Lawrence Ks. you should be ashamed of yourselves for the way these and all the others in this article have been “so called” taken care of.

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