Why is nobody helping despite endless evidence of mold and toxins in Andrea’s apartment?
Andrea Pena, who lived at the Agave Villas in Irving, Texas, was delighted to receive a kitten for her birthday.
It was May 2017, and the kitten – Oliver – was only seven weeks old. He was very playful and active, romping around her apartment.
Weeks later, he was dead.
“Eventually Oliver became very fatigued, [with] a loss of appetite, and he was incoherent,” Andrea said. “I know his death is related to the same issues here now.”
Those “issues” would be related to part of her ceiling falling after a Time Warner technician was working in her attic. At first just the corner of a panel was exposed, but then gravity took hold and the entire section collapsed.
Her cat knew by instinct not to go near that area, and Andrea’s boyfriend, Jesus Gonzalez, put up plastic sheeting to cover the hole after cleaning up the mess of insulation. Andrea was in constant contact with her leasing manager, Maria Gomez, who worked for Legend Asset Management. This company is in charge of managing several Texas properties, Agave Villas included.
Both Andrea and Jesus noticed the odd discoloration on part of the insulation. However, they dismissed it initially as dirt and tried to make do with a sheet stapled to the ceiling.
Oliver passed away soon after. “Within two weeks he went from healthy to deathly sick,” Andrea said. The veterinarian said his health issues were undetermined, and they put him down on July 15, 2017.
That was only the beginning of the family’s sorrows. The hole was not repaired until the middle of August, leaving them with bits of insulation falling for the better part of a month with rising heat during the Texas summer. They tried to avoid it as best they could, but their bedrooms were atop the stairs – so every morning and evening, they passed directly underneath falling insulation.
Andrea’s daughter started experiencing allergies and having difficulty breathing. Andrea noticed a rash spreading on her skin (leading to open sores) and had her own bout of asthma. Jesus went to the emergency room in September because of chest pains, fatigue and shortness of breath. None of them had suffered from any of these symptoms before.
Jesus was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with congestive heart failure and pneumonia; doctors could not say why he was experiencing those conditions, as he was a previously healthy 36-year-old man.
Then, one of his doctors asked if Jesus had been exposed to black mold.
“I answered ‘no,’ taking offense,” Andrea said. “I am a very clean person!” However, she started connecting the dots and realized that all of these symptoms had arisen following the opening of her ceiling. She began to do her own research and take pictures to send to her building manager, though she received unhelpful responses despite finding what looked like mold in several places – including the air vent. Even her neighbor and her two kids were suffering from the same symptoms, enough that Andrea offered up one of her air purifiers.
Determined to find answers on mold and landlord liability
Andrea contacted the City of Irving and Texas Health and Human Services, who sent out an inspector that advised her of tenants’ rights and said she did not think that the apartment was suitable for habitants without repairs.
When Legacy Asset’s building manager still failed to take action, Andrea insisted that HHS perform an air quality test. The results were shocking.
“A normal reading for good air – for me, with my health issues – is under 50. Our apartment read over 400,” she said. This included mold spores, pet dander, dust mites and more. “The main concern is our apartment tested high [for] levels of formaldehyde.”
Concerning levels for formaldehyde start at 0.1 ppm; meanwhile, Andrea’s apartment was 0.27 ppm. Anything above 0.1 can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, as well as other health issues.
Her family went from financially stable to barely making ends meet and applying for government assistance because of all the medical bills. They moved house after only nine months of living in the unit, abandoning $4,000 leather sofas and other possessions for fear of contaminating the new space. And they didn’t even get their $400 rental deposit back.
The scariest part is that Jesus is no longer able to work because of his health problems, and doctors found a spot on his lungs that is getting larger at a rapid click. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause significant lung issues, as well as cancer. He is currently waiting to see a toxicology clinic and an appointment with a pulmonologist.
No legal help for the mold and toxins - and still more questions
Despite approaching several attorneys, none has decided to take her case – there’s not enough money in it for them to make it worth their while.
“That’s kind of the part I don’t get,” Andrea said. “It’s affected us in a major way… I don’t understand really what else could have happened to us beside death… I really don’t think it’s just a coincidence [Jesus started] having lung problems and us just happening to come in contact with formaldehyde. We resided in that apartment for nine months. With the proof of exposure, I am finding it hard to believe nobody is interested in taking our case.”
Perhaps the attorneys fear the inevitable causation issue – were those health problems caused by the insulation? Was it really the formaldehyde that caused Jesus’ lung spot? Without spending more money and trying more tests, it will be difficult to establish a causal link. From an attorney’s perspective, not taking the case might make financial sense.
But what about from a human’s perspective?
Beside shining a light on this very large problem and hopefully getting someone to notice, Andrea seems left without options. Maybe a pro bono attorney with experience in this area can provide assistance. If you are able to help Andrea and her family, please contact us.
I am 72 years old have been in and out the hospital for mod got paper work that show its mod thats making me sick.
Lance Buchanan says
Thanks for commenting, Lavada. Unfortunately, we’re not a law firm, but we can help you find someone who can help. We invite you to use our free attorney directory to find a law firm near you: https://www.enjuris.com/directory/. Schedule an appointment with an attorney (the first meeting is usually free) and be sure to bring your paperwork. Best wishes and we hope you get well soon!
Deanna Ropp says
My name is Deanna and ive been living in an apartment complex in Bartlesville ok. When it rains real hard it floods my bedroom carpet, closet , hallway and bathroom floor. . Ive had a tenant tell me that thats been going on for years before i moved in. I was not aware of this when i moved in in 2017. I was diagnosed with COPD 2016. So i knew i had COPD a year before i moved into my apt. I often smelled mold in my apt but didnt know where it was coming from until then had to take out the piece of wood that lead up into the attic. Upon doing that that ripped some of the paint off my wall and low and behold there it was black mold on the sheet rock. ! My COPD has gotten worse since ive lived here , i am now on 24/7 oxygen and have developed a cough i cant control. The owners have known about this for years and neglect to fix. I need advice of an attorney one who will not charge me until the case is over.
Ian Pisarcik says
Most personal injury attorney’s charge on a contingency fee basis (i.e., they won’t charge you until your case is over). I would reach out to personal injury attorneys in your area to see if they’ll take on your case.
Yes, I want to file a claim against the Apartments for the unit I’m renting since I’ve lived here is June 21st 2021 and nothing has been done, as well as me I’m disabled, With health issues such as COPD This place is moved!!
Harold Hyams says
AWThe biggest problem with mold claims are the judges who favor the landlord owner industry and defense lawyers who will hire “experts” to muddy the waters, cause confusion, draw out the length of the case and generally make it very difficult for a tenant victim to obtain compensation.
Almost all injury lawyers flee the prospect of a mold case because of the above and because there is so much mumbo jumbo surrounding mold when actually the issues are quite simple.
But here is a list of some of the problems I have faced, and perhaps someone has the resources to overcome them:
1- For any lawyer to do a mold case, there has to be a potential pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Initially, this was possible –but all of the insurance companies now have clauses excluding mold type injuries from being included in compensation. If there is no deep pocket, a Tenant’s lawyer will not get involved because it usually takes years to resolve these claims, expert witnesses are needed to prove that the mold etc. were causes
of the injury and that the landlord was negligent in not repairing the problem. Thus, It is both frightening and uneconomical for a tenant lawyer who will have to spend a lot of money and a lot of time to get involved in your case. HOWEVER, IF YOU CAN SHOW THAT
THE APARTMENT OR THE HOUSE WAS NEGLIGENTLY CONSTRUCTED BY A BUILDER, OR THAT A PLUMBER SCREWED UP AND CAUSED A WATER LEAK LEADING TO MOLD, THE INSURANCE COMPANY MAY BE FORCED TO COVER IT. “May” is the operative word, but it is a way for your lawyer and you to be able to get money–and ultimately this is what all these cases are about.
2- There has to be some proof that mold is a cause of your injuries. So you have to find a doctor who has some knowledge about mold ( which may be hard to do). and you have to take photographs showing the mold , or pay for a mold tester to know enough to document carefully what he does, and test for the mold.
This will be necessary for the case to proceed thru the court since this will be admissible evidence that can keep you running with the case. The truth about mold is that the best tests are can you see it and if so does it take up a lot of space and/or is there a strong odor. The mold can be any color of the rainbow–it doesn’t have to be black. The more there is of it, the more likely that it will make you sick because the moisture plus
materials often creates a soup of mites, bacteria, cockroaches etc. which all play a role in making you sick. There are many US government agencies that back this principle and conclude that llargevisible mold spaces or strong mold odors are the best tests for dangerous amounts of mold. The fact is, if
you get sick in the apartment dwelling when inside it, cough, rash, get brain fog, depressed, asthma–etc. these are all bases for legitimate claims.
3-The law which makes mold causation admissible in courts depends on what state you live in and where you bring the case. “Frye” evidence states require you to show the level at which mold causes injury. If the judge is very
conservative and that is the law of the state, the judge will not allow a case to proceed to trial because you haven’t been able to show the scientific level at which mold causes injury. This is pure B.S.– how many cigarettes do you have to smoke to get cancer? Nobody knows and each person is different!
The good news is that many states follow the Daubert Evidence rule which allows proof that the mold was a cause of the injury based on expert opinion backed by various proofs and that the doctor expert is using ordinary good reasoning based on the amount of mold, your symptoms, and the fact that other doctors who are legitimate hold the same opinions on how mold causes injury and what injuries they cause.
3- There should be a consortium of lawyers helping each other to win such cases–but there isn’t. Unfortunately, a number of defense law firms co-operate [they have the money} and create game plans which they can all use to defeat your case–and which often works!
4-If you can find someone to help you great ! If you need a resource for a willing lawyer to become involved, I will help –not for money, but because there is a need to do so.
Hello I am in desperate need of a mold litigation lawyer im expected to keep making payments on a mold cover up. Misrepresentation house in a predatory loan scam and discrimination
Ian Pisarcik says
I’m sorry this happened to you.
You can contact a personal injury attorney using our free online directory. If you think you qualify for free legal help, contact one of these resources.
I desperately need your help in Minnesota
Kimberly Quick says
We just got A family out of the house that the landlord has fixed at but never completely fix the problem in the basement constantly flooded every time it rained I took a mold swab test kit to safety environmental laboratories out of Pelham Alabama because it Is accredited Lab. The family has lived in a five years one of her children was just diagnosed before his third birthday was stage four cancer the results from the swab test were very bad I got the results back within a couple hours the media has aired this on the news it’s on CBS 40 tail under PINSON. I have had tons of Volunteers We suited up and hazmat suits and cleaned out her basement where it has flooded for five years every time it rains but the landlord wouldnt fix it properly.. Unfortunately I have come to find out Alabama does not have laws against mold. The family had been sick a lot constantly going to the doctors I’m just lost don’t know what to do can’t find a lawyer for this family
Ian Pisarcik says
I’m sorry this has happened, consider reaching out to the Alabama Bar Association for a lawyer referral.
I went through the same thing in my apartment. I lived their for 13 years. I often seen furniture and belonging in the dumpster I never gave it a second thought until all of my belongs were in the dumpster. I started smelling mold in a bedroom after hurricane Harvey I reported it several times but management kept ignoring it. Shortly after AC stop cooling. Around Oct,2017 I notice my hair falling out. Then I started to feel really bad. Lips turned black, then the large scales formed on my scalp. Then I started feeling something moving in my head. When i would wash my hair felt like bugs that I couldn’t see would attack me. Well I felt like death for a couple of months.. Finally I called in a mold inspector . 3200 black mold spores in the living room alone, of a 2 bedroom apartment. I was told to leave. Owners allowed their painters to come in and cover them self up inspite of my certified letters urging them to get proper remediation. Painters vacuumed the gutter where the black mold was falling from and the spores multiplied all through the apartment in the air. In the end after contacting state licensing and my refusal to sign a non disclosure form to break the lease they sold the whole apartment building and change manegment. I’m still homeless struggling to stay in hotel and get food.
Melissa Gold says
Hi, Janet. I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. A personal injury attorney can advise you of your rights and what your recourse is if your illness was caused by the conditions in the apartment. Please consider using the Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory to find a lawyer in your area who can help. When you meet with the lawyer, bring the letters you sent to the landlord, along with relevant medical records and any other related documents you have. Most lawyers don’t charge a fee for an initial meeting, so you can likely get their opinion of your situation without incurring significant costs. I hope you’re feeling better soon and can get back on your feet.
Hi, I’m seeking assistance too here in San Diego California and I’ve been turned away from two lawyers now, my complex won’t help, won’t test for mold, and won’t break the lease. I went to urgent care for respiratory issues and breathing issues, I’ve also been to the doctor for the past year for headaches, coughs, sneezes, and now allergies that I’ve never had before that I can’t shake, I’m an athletic 30 year old female in great shape. A mold inspector told me that it’s mold they see growing and there doing more tests tomorrow. I don’t know what else to do. I’m going to the doctor as well for blood tests.
Melissa Gold says
Hello, Brittany. Sounds like you need a California lawyer (you can find one here). But first, a few things: In order to make a claim against your landlord, you’d need to have medical records that show that the symptoms you’re experiencing are the result of exposure to toxic mold. There are other conditions that could cause you to have those symptoms, so they would need to rule out other causes or underlying issues. Second, the mold inspector’s report will be important. Not all mold is toxic, so a visual inspection might not be enough to prove that there’s toxic mold. They likely need to run some testing to see exactly what it is. If your medical records show that your symptoms are likely related to mold exposure and the substance in your home is toxic mold, you can ask your landlord for mold remediation. If the landlord isn’t willing to maintain the property in a way that allows you to live in a safe and healthy way, you can find a lawyer who specializes in landlord/tenant issues who can help you to be released from your lease agreement. Best of luck — I hope you feel better soon!
Im having a very similar problem with my landlord in Crowley, TX. The landlord wont fix the mold. I was going through chemo ( I have 3 Different kinds of cancer) and now im having lung problems, chest pains, severe migraines, nose bleeds, and etc etc. Yet no help!!!
Ian Pisarcik says
Your landlord has a legal duty to provide safe and livable housing. Specifically, the Texas Property Code states that your landlord must remove toxic mold if: (1) the condition was not caused by you, (2) the landlord has been given written notice of the problem, and (3) you’re not delinquent in rent at the time the notice is given.
Your landlord has a reasonable amount of time to remove the mold (usually 7 days). If the mold is not removed, you can (1) end your lease, (2) sue the landlord, or (3) have the mold removed and deduct the cost from your rent.
I’m TENANTa rental apartment and I have four children. Both rooms and living dinner have black mould and tell the Landlord no reply
Landlord told to me wait till someone come from Toronto it took almost three weeks plus I go back tell the landlord, my kids, sick because of black mould and saying wait the company send someone come from Toronto
My name Ismail
Ian Pisarcik says
If there is a dangerous condition (such as toxic mold) in your apartment and your landlord fails to repair the dangerous condition in a reasonable amount of time, you can pay to have the dangerous condition repaired and the deduct the cost from your next rent payment.
Kevin Thodos says
Hi me and my wife rent off a landlord that is the worst I work also for her as a maintance man she dose not pay me she just lets me have a motel room to live in this has been going on over a year also I have black mold all over my room and my wife has been I’ll with real bad problems breathing and always feeling ill I’ve summited letter after letter trueing to get thins fixed she dose nothing also these rooms are infested with roach’s bed bugs and other ungodly insects I co help sincerely Kevin and Edith Thodos
Ian Pisarcik says
I’m sorry this has happened to you. In Delaware, your landlord has a legal obligation to supply a rental unit that does “not endanger the health, welfare or safety of the tenants or occupants and which is fit for the purpose for which it is expressly rented.” If your landlord fails to do so, you have certain legal remedies. I would recommend visiting the Delaware State Bar website. There, you can find sample request for repair letters. You can also see if you qualify for free legal aid.
Judy Shirley says
I suggest you call the insiders. Law firm ive experienced the same mold ISSUES and formaldehyde in our couches! As well as our frige has been stamped it causes cancer and toys in the home have produced lead and exposure!