Timely mold and air quality testing could have saved these families big on medical bills and time thrown at filing lawsuits. Here’s a cautionary tale for the nation, illustrating the importance of not waiting around to address mold problems, as well as the seriousness of health problems that can be caused by mold.
Mold Testing Could've Spared These Families from Health Problems and Lawsuits
Sinus problems, constant headaches, digestive issues, severe nose bleeds, memory loss, persistent allergies, respiratory weakness, infant seizures, brain damage, developmental delays….
The list of symptoms reported on by tenants renting homes managed by Lincoln Military Housing (a privately-owned contractor over 20% of America’s on-base military family housing, managing nearly 40,000 homes) goes on.
After long and frustrating battles with health problems renters are linking to mold and alleged lack of timely landlord remediation, more than a dozen military families have opted to sue for damages in the past decade.
Locked into Mold-Infested Living Conditions
After various ongoing illnesses and even emergency room trips, naval base families are at a loss for what to do. Many have reported serious amounts of visible mold in their home and are linking it to their symptoms, with doctors’ notes to back up the reality of their ailments.
Locked into leases that spell out steep penalties for any renter who dares to move before the contract is up, multiple military families are feeling backed into a corner. The situation raises a few questions.
Why not withhold rent until the landlords are forced to remediate mold and repair homes?
Unlike civilian tenants who get a paycheck from their employer and then pay their rent on the own, the housing credits given to military personnel generally go straight from government to landlord, without the tenants ever seeing it in their paycheck and acting as a middleman.
Typically, the lease contracts do not stipulate that the landlord is legally required to take action if the tenants complain about suspected mold.
Why not hire a mold inspector, or even a mold remediation specialist?
Even if the tenants could afford hiring professional mold inspection or remediation, civilian health code inspectors and enforcers do not have the authority required to conduct on-base mold investigations. The process must be initiated by the naval base landlords. This, of course, only leads to more ‘what if’ questions, and not a lot of answers.
What if the landlords are not willing to give the ‘okay’ for mold testing and remediation? After all, their lease agreement does not force them to do so, and it is not required by law. If they do decide to hire a third-party civilian investigator to inspect the mold, what if they opt for a company that lacks certification and provides inaccurate readings? If there is mold, will it be remediated properly?
The tenants face a tough choice:
Move and pay potentially thousands of dollars of fees for breaking their lease.
Stay and suffer the untold health effects of mold infestation.
Mold in Virginia and Across the Nation
Sadly, the situation is not unique to the Norfolk Naval Base. On the other side of the nation, in Camp Pendleton’s on-base housing (also operated by Lincoln Military Housing), the mold crisis is equally grim.
A Special Report from Reuters shares detailed imagery and rather gray stories of families reporting water damage so severe that mushrooms have grown in carpets and ‘black furry matter’ has been found under baseboards.
One family had such persistently wet carpet due to an unrepaired roof leak that their child even took his first steps wearing a pair of blue rain boots inside their home.
In the report, Reuters also dubs Norfolk a ‘trouble spot’ due to mounting mold concerns in a number of the over 4,000 homes that Lincoln manages. This is not to say that Lincoln has not recognized the issue or has not taken any action to correct it.
Reuters explains “Federal records show the company (Lincoln Military Housing) spent more than $13 million from 2013 to 2016 on maintenance and litigation related to mold in the Norfolk area alone.” Still, even with those efforts it is reported that “since 2010, at least 14 families from bases in the area have sued Lincoln over allegations they were sickened by mold. Lincoln lost the only case to go to trial.”
Legal Battles on Mold-Related Illness
Complaints and lawsuits filed over mold are not unique here in Virginia. The allegations are incredibly serious, and families have asked for multi-million dollar settlements.
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Symptoms Allegedly Connected to Mold Lead to Attempted Suicide
Appearing more recently in the news, Dante Venvertloh, a son of a Navy chief petty officer has come forth with scathing allegations pointed toward the Mid-Atlantic Military Family Communities (a subsidiary of Lincoln Military Housing).
Courtney Mabeus of The Virginian Pilot reported on Venvertloh’s story saying he “alleges that for more than five years, from summer 2006 to December 2011, Mid-Atlantic Military Family Communities…failed to adequately maintain the home on West Moreell Drive that his family shared, despite repeated complaints about water leaks and mold. As a result, Venvertloh ‘suffered from occasional memory loss, his grades fell significantly at school, he became subject to bullying, developed a serious depression condition and ultimately attempted suicide,’ according to the filing is U.S. District Court, which seeks $900,000 for personal injuries and punitive damages.”
Venvertloh’s story illustrates the importance of acting quickly to resolve any mold and mold causing issues (i.e. leaks and resulting water damage) that may arise in a home. Any delay in making needed repairs only increases the risk of suffering from mold infestation.
Sadly, Venvertloh is not the first to come forth with allegations of this nature over mold complaints.
Claims of Negligence on Mold Remediation – Toddler Has Seizures
Bill Sizemore also from The Virginian Pilot reported in 2012 on the Chaparro family who sought nearly $4 million in damages from Lincoln Military Housing after suffering multiple leaks in their home that did not get fixed fast enough.
The leaks resulted in water damage, leading to mold growth and resulting in health problems that the family claims are connected to the mold in their home. With two young children, the Chaparro reported many ailments, including what felt like ‘yearlong allergies’.
Reports allege that “visible mold was growing on the dining room ceiling and ceiling fan, every air vent in the house and the crib of their younger child, 2-year-old Gabriel. The entire family became sick, requiring numerous emergency room and doctor visits”.
The family filed repeated complaints over water leaks in their home from various sources, including the toilet and dishwasher. However, Chaparros claim that by the time their complaints were acknowledged by the management and repair men were sent to fix the leaks, peeling and discoloration on their linoleum floors due to water damage was already visible.
The toddler, Gabriel began to have inexplicable seizures. Evidently, since moving away from the mold-infested home, Gabriel has not had any more seizures. Still, they feel the seizures had long-term effects on his development, leading to speech delays. The lawsuit reports that the mother, Natasha remains sick with continued respiratory problems and allergic reactions.
Eventually, upon their insistence, the family was moved into a temporary housing situation while repairs were made on their home. After repairs were made, the Chaparros moved back into their home. Unfortunately, the Chaparros’ story illustrates the danger of delaying water leak repairs.
Sizemore goes on to explain, “Water-damaged buildings such as the Chaparros’ home are now recognized by multiple government and medical authorities as a public-health problem, contributing to tens of thousands of illnesses and billions of dollars in medical costs, according to the lawsuit.”
Mold litigation doesn’t stop there:
The mold-related lawsuits are coming out of the wood work.
Family Given Smaller Settlement from Mold Lawsuit than Anticipated
Virginian reporter Stephanie Ballesteros from The Wavy reported the Federal Court’s decision rendered for one military family. “Marine Gunnery Sergeant Joe Frederico, his wife Shelley and their daughter Jaden, asked for at least $8 million from Mid Atlantic Military Housing.”
Evidently the jury awarded $350,000 to the family for negligence. It is reported that the family was in tears, disappointed with the jury’s ruling. After living in their on-base home, the family allegedly experienced mold-related symptoms including heavy nose bleeds, constant headaches, and even permanent brain damage (the father reports loss of motor skills and memory loss).
The article explains that “The defense says there are two sides to every story and steps were taken to solve the mold issues.” However, Ballesteros reports “Mold built up due to the leaks, and they [the Fredericos] say nothing was ever done to fix the problem. Attorneys for the family say maintenance would document the problems, but called it ‘water penetration’ instead of mold. Attorneys told the jury that if they used the word mold, they would be violating state codes.”
The Frederico family says they are not done fighting it, and it appears that even more cases are pending.
Mold Beyond Military Rental Homes
Unfortunately, Lincoln Military Housing is not the only entity to struggle with proper mold spore testing, mold remediation, and angry occupants.
In a report from 2012, NewsChannel 3 Investigation: The Navy’s $10 Million Mold Problem, a long-time employee at the Norfolk naval base’s Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP) held in a building known as J-50, Tracy Brown was both shocked and hurt to learn that the previously unexplained symptoms (headaches, digestive problems, nausea, swelling of the joints, respiratory problems) she had been experiencing were perhaps linked to the building’s undisclosed history with mold.
Only 90 days after Brown filed a formal complaint, it was decided that SARP would move from the mold-infested J-50 building to another location.
Mold – A National Health Threat
Over time, as science becomes more equipped to measure the dangers of harmful substances like mold as well as the effects that exposure can have on the human body, awareness over the seriousness of mold testing and mitigation rises.
As mold education and awareness (as well as the number of lawsuits) heighten, perhaps more regulations will surface. Mold testing and remediation may become something required by landlords.
Here at Air Quality Consultants of Virginia Beach and Richmond, our goal is far from defaming Lincoln Military Housing or any other entity (private or governmental) that has battled a host of problems caused by mold.
Rather, our hearts go out to those who are suffering the adverse effects of mold exposure. We report on these very public legal developments in hopes of raising awareness about the serious health problems associated with indoor mold, as well as educating the public on the need for air quality testing, especially in properties that have sustained water damage.
The more we know about mold and how it can affect our health, the more prepared and determined we can be to take steps toward ensuring our family’s safety.
Here is the point:
Mold is dangerous, and perhaps even more dangerous than we know. True, some are more affected by it than others. In fact, a comparatively small demographic of people are clinically allergic to mold. Still, when health is at risk, who wants to take their chances? Mold exposure can negatively affect anyone.
Testing for Mold in Your Home
The first step to ensuring that you and your family are safe from exposure to mold is getting your home professionally tested for mold. The only way to get the full picture of what health threats are lurking in your air is to have your air tested. If your home has sustained water damage, you suspect mold, or mold has become visible in your home, act quickly to have your indoor air quality tested.
Mold is tricky and kind hide in walls, insulation, basements, crawl spaces, and all sorts of places. Hidden mold could be the source of your inexplicably persistent health problems.
Only a professional mold test (Pro tip: don’t waste time and money with a DIY Mold Test Kit) will accurately reveal exactly what mold spores are present in your air, as well as the level of concentration.
Based out of Virginia, Air Quality Consultants work diligently to avidly promote high indoor air quality. Our top-notch mold testing services will help you and your family to ensure that every breath you take in your home is healthy and high quality.
Mold Infestation Remediation
Only once you have identified the problem is mold mitigation possible. After decades in the air quality industry, we draw on our experience to make professional recommendations on how to safely remediate mold, if it is discovered on your property. Once we test your air for mold spores, we will help you make a mitigation plan.
Here at AQC, we do not offer mold remediation. To offer both mold testing and remediation services would be a serious conflict of interest. Still, after so many years of serving the Virginia Beach and Richmond communities, we know all of the mold remediation companies (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in the area, and can point you in the right direction.
The key is starting with a professional mold test to see what you are up against. Our speedy yet detailed mold test results leave no room for doubt. Your mold test report will reveal exactly what is threatening your indoor air, and your health.
Air Quality Consultants was founded in 1992 with the goal of championing a solution to this widespread and under-served public health threat. As certified, professional environmental inspectors, our top priority is your health. We care about your air.
As a national health concern, mold is heavily researched and mold stories are often featured in news reports. Here at Air Quality Consultants, we’d like to introduce our Mold in the Media Blog Series. This is the first of many editions in the series to serve as a source for public education and awareness on mold, as well as other public health threats pertaining to air and water quality. Stay tuned for reports on mold in schools, the latest research on mold, tips on how to protect your family from mold, and so much more.
Have any stories you’d like to have featured in our Mold in the Media Blog Series? Get in touch or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.