She’s Leaving The Nest, A Moms Lament.

May 12, 2010

I have a 19-year-old daughter who’s a great, smart, funny & beautiful girl. She has certainly presented  challenges along the way to 19.   My plan for my daughter has always been graduate High School & then attend College for a minimum of 2 years.  If she hated it after the 2 years; she’d be permitted to leave College & start working full-time. The stipulation has always been that as long as she was in school she could live w/me rent free but if she chose not to attend; she’d be working full-time & paying something in rent.  My latest challenge started the other morning during a conversation I was having with her about her ambitions in life. I wanted to help her decide what she wanted to be when she grows up & find a focal point for her education. So begins the back story.

Her ambitions have ranged from cosmetologist;  tattoo artist/body piercer; working w/developmentally disabled teens; to being an Irish Lit teacher.  She enrolled in college last Fall & took basic classes due to her indecisiveness.  Soon there-after I realized we had a problem.  She wasn’t going to class.  She wasn’t waking up for her early A.M. classes; & just wasn’t going to her afternoon classes.  I was foolish enough to believe that if she could get herself up everyday to go to High School, why would College be any different? OK credit where its due; she does work for a fast food chain in the evenings that’s open to 1 AM or later as a ‘closer’.  There are nights (mornings really) when she comes home very late. So Mom to the rescue; I will call her from work & wake her up so she can make these early classes.  It worked; until she started turning her phone off.   One day I came home early from work & there she is; playing video games when she was supposed to be in class.   After almost 3 months of being her personal alarm clock/day planner & failing; knowing she’s still not going to class despite all my attempts to help her; I stop trying to wake her up, or do anything to get her to attend classes in utter frustration.  I’d paid her tuition, she took it for granted; & I wasn’t going to do that again. I decided on some tough love & told her that I wasn’t going to pay for Spring semester, only to watch her not attending classes I’d paid for again.  If she changed her behavior; I’d reconsider paying her tuition for her second year.  I was trying to teach her a lesson in responsibility.  HA!  She continued not going to class & snaked her way into getting me to pay 1/2 her Spring Semesters tuition by not applying for Financial Aid or student loans as I’d directed her to in a timely fashion.  Before I knew it, it was the day before the semester starts & I’m finding out if 1/2 the tuition isn’t paid she can’t attend.  Fearful if I didn’t give her the money despite my previous ultimatum; & she didn’t attend the Spring semester; she’d never go back to College. So Mom to the rescue; I paid it & was explicit that the other half was her responsibility.

So begins the Spring semester.  I seriously injured myself in late February & have been home on disability for the past 2+ months.  What an education I’ve gotten on just how infrequently she attends any of her classes.  The first 2 weeks I was home; I was heavily medicated & mostly slept, but anytime I woke up she was home & hadn’t been to class. By week 3 I was getting more acclimated to all the medication & was able to wake her up most days to get her to class. There are still days I sleep too long & am not awake myself to get her up for class.  Yes, she does have an alarm clock but she sleeps right through it. Matter of fact she has 2 & sleeps through both. Then there are days when I’m in a medicine haze, get my days confused & don’t realize I need to wake her; so she’s still missing classes.

Her school called the other day to remind her she needs to schedule her classes for next year.  Being the brilliant & resourceful MOM that I am, I decide that if we can pinpoint an interest; some ambition & get her away from the basics; make college more interesting & fun she’ll want to wake up & go to class. Thus ‘The Plan’ is hatched.  I start suggesting different careers; until we hit on Business Management.  The fast food chain she currently works for is grooming her for a promotion to Crew Trainer & she says she wants to work her way up to a manager someday. I’m thinking what a brilliant MOM I am, she’ll sign up for Business Management related classes & someday she’ll be a CEO for a Fortune 500 Company. She’s interested, & excited by The Plan. She’ll continue working where she does; move through the ranks while going to school to get a degree in Business Management.  When she graduates, she’ll have management experience & a degree; how irresistable to potential employers she’ll be.  MOM to the rescue, problem solved.  I am great!

I reminded her there’s a financial aid seminar I want her to go to so she can apply now for grants or loans whatever she needs to pay for the upcoming school year.  I’m sticking to my ultimatum; I’m not paying for her education when she isn’t getting one. Prove you’re taking it seriously & I will.  Proud of myself I make another cup of coffee, thinking we’re going to continue talking about her brilliant future & the classes she’s going to take next year.  Instead; she tells me something that makes no sense. She’s thinking about getting her own apartment because she has to pay me rent if she’s not in school.  (But you’ll be in school so why even bring this up? Right?)  She says she’s considering moving out next summer after her second year is over.  Now she’s got a notebook & is making a list of what she’ll need for her own place.  Before I know it I’m explaining exactly how little money she’ll have left of her current salary after paying ‘real world’ bills. I think I’m reinforcing what a great idea The Plan is, not really taking what she’s saying seriously.  It’s not till later that something went BANG! & I saw the light. 

When I reminded her about the Financial Aid seminar; I also reminded her to schedule her classes. Her response was if she didn’t qualify for financial aid, she wasn’t going to schedule any classes, quickly adding she’d schedule them the following day.  She came home from school later & informs me if she saves $60.00 a week she’ll have $600.00 in 10 weeks.  The importance of this being; when making the Real World budget, she’d mentioned that she could get an apartment for $600.00 a month & of course she’s going to have a roommate.  $600.00 represents her share of the first months rent & security deposit. Suspicions on the rise now, but cats got my tongue.  Oopsie, did she have a slip of the tongue; or is it a blatant hint ’cause she thinks I haven’t gotten it yet? She tells me she’s decided to move out after the summer after goes on a road trip w/friends, Oh! wait she means next summer, tee hee hee.  Next she wants to know if I will continue to keep her car insured on my policy; & her cell phone on my plan when she moves out.  She’s asking a lot of questions for someone not moving out for over a year.  I remember that while hatching “The Plan” she said she’d been reluctant to tell me she wanted to be a manager w/her current employer because she didn’t want to disappoint me.  Disappoint me? Why on earth would her wanting to work hard & be promoted to a manager be disappointing to me?  Unless her “plan” is to drop out of school in order to do this.

OK I get it; the move will be after this summer is over, not next.  I’m paralyzed that ‘her plan’ is to not go back to school & work at the fast food restaurant.  I don’t think she’ll tell me the truth either from when she said “if I’m not in school I have to pay you rent” while discussing my Plan.  Obviously I’ll charge her rent for whatever period of time she lives w/me until  she gets her own apartment, if I confirm that she’s not going back to school. Her district manager has her ‘Glamoured’ with the three cars he owns & she is too young to realize how long it will take her to make it to district manager; or how few opportunities there are within a corporation to be one.  I’m dismayed by her naivety in thinking that an assistant manager who makes $10.80 an hour, makes a lot of money. I thought I was Brilliant Resourceful MOM who had taught my child about the realities of life.

 I realize that it’s been about 2 weeks since I’ve heard her alarm clock go off at all.  If I hadn’t been home to wake her up, she would have missed all her classes. Or maybe she just gotten accustomed to me being here to wake her?  I think about just how many times she’s missed class in all this time I’ve been home on disability. It’s a lot, more than I’d like to admit. I think about all the days her alarm clock has gone off for over 45 minutes before I get fed up hearing it & storm downstairs to get her up & shut it off. Or just how hard it is to wake her up every day, no matter what time she gets home from work. If she’s missed this many classes while I’ve been home, I can’t even imagine how many she missed before I hurt myself.

Yesterday was a day when I didn’t wake up until after she was already supposed to be in class, but she also had a 2nd class @ 12:00.  I woke her up around 10:30. I’ve had a hinky feeling since our talk the other day & yesterday was test day. She was up in plenty of time to make her 12:00 class & I waited for her to go get herself ready & go to school; I didn’t remind her. She didn’t go.  Surely the school has an attendance policy? She’s missed so many classes; can she even still be in school? I check the web-site & the attendance policy is between the instructor & student; at the discretion of the instructor. I have the  user id & password to her college account & it’s about time I use it. I try it, can’t log on & I don’t know if it’s because she changed it; or she was thrown out of school for lack of attendance.

And now I don’t know how to do what I know I must.  I can’t force her to do anything obviously.  If she’s made up her mind to drop out; if she hasn’t already; I can’t force her to stay in school. If she wants to work @ this chain & get her own apartment @ 19; how do I stop her?  I want her to understand what she’s missing out on; & the doors she’s forever closing by leaving school, but I can’t tell her anything.  As a firm believer in the Forbidden Fruit theory if I try to stop her from moving out so young; she’ll only want to do it more. 

I’m going to have to let her do what she wants to do & make her own mistakes. But I don’t want to. My maternal instincts are screaming at me to protect her. I can’t; I have to let her make this mistake so she can learn from it. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face as a Mom. I’m all about action & solutions; ‘fixing it’.  There’s nothing I can do, I can’t fix it. I hate this. I can’t talk to her about it; I don’t want to make it easy on her. I want her to tell me whatever her plans are, knowing she’ll have to face me, my disappointment & disapproval. I will not let on that I got the hints she’s dropped. I hope by continuing to play stupid & not confront her; it will buy some time for her to  realize she’d be making a mistake. (Or at the very least, the potential room-mate changes her mind.)  I don’t want to let her go. I don’t want to miss her. I don’t want her to leave the nest.  She’s my baby.

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My Toxic Mold Nightmare part 3 Aftermath

April 27, 2010

When I first went to look at this house; it was listed as “Back On the Market’. On the day of the home inspection the sellers agent, myself & my agent were present.  My agent asked the sellers agent why the previous deal had fallen through.  He stated that they were denied the financing. Note that on this day the sellers’ of this house had 2 Rottie’s; both of these dogs had been put into the room where the furniture was stacked in front of the wall. In hindsight I think I can safely state those big dogs were in that room for one purpose.  To deter the inspector from inspecting that room.  Also in hindsight; I knew that financing falling through was *not* the reason the prior sale didn’t go through  & I made it my mission in life to obtain a copy of that home inspection report.

A Dept of State licensing investigator, investigating the complaint I filed against the sellers agent, obtained a copy of the prior inspection before I did. That report was completed in September 2003, 1 month prior to my seeing the home. It clearly indicated the dormers were “illegally and improperly constructed without a building permit”, specifically mentions the flashing being caulked indicating that it was “inadequate to prevent water intrusion”, structural problems with the property, including multiple notations of moisture problems through out. Neither the sellers, their agent, nor his employing broker disclosed any of this information to me. Their agent-father-father in law admitted to the investigator he helped his son paint, and install a new drop ceiling in the 1st story. I can only conclude this was ostensibly done to further conceal evidence of the multiple leaks throughout the structure. There was a hearing in 2006, & I was able to testify. The Dept of State never officially notified me of the outcome of this hearing, but I can say that the father is no longer listed as a licensed real estate agent in the Dept of State web-site. However, his broker still is.

I have always felt that the bank & the state agency that held the mortgage for this home should have been co-plaintiffs in my lawsuit with me, for had I known the true condition of the house I would never have sought to obtain a mortgage for the purpose of purchasing this house.  They refused to involve themselves as co-plaintiffs, but were more than willing to put a lien on any judgment I might have been awarded. They had the option of writing the loan off as a loss, & refused to do so. They were made aware of my circumstances in February of 2005 after I’d abandoned the house in January. I ceased making mortgage payments, as obviously I could not afford the monthly mortgage payment in addition to paying rent on an apartment I should not have even needed! So while refusing to help me, or write the mortgage off as a loss, they reported my ‘delinquency’ to the credit reporting agencies and in doing so destroyed my credit. In August of 2005 I suddenly found myself the recipient of ‘retroactive’ cancellations, and large reductions of available credit on long time established credit accounts. The bank acting on behalf of the state agency then attempted to coerce me into selling the house for them for $30,000.00, an amount they had the property appraised for in May 2005. This is when the person broke into the house referenced in part 2.  Due to the condition of the house I was not able to find a realtor willing to list the property. They then insisted I sell it myself, w/o disclosing the toxicity inside and I refused. I could & would not in good conscience expose others to the poisons in the house, thereby perpetuating the fraud that I was a victim of.  They threatened foreclosure, I laughed at them & told them to do their worst; it couldn’t be worse than what was already happening by that time.

In October of 2005 I resolved myself to my attorney’s advice, and filed for bankruptcy protection. In doing so, I stood to lose the last thing I owned, my 3-year-old Xterra.  According to bankruptcy laws an applicant may not own a vehicle worth more than $2,400.00. Because I had more equity & value than that amount in my Xterra, I was at risk that it would be seized and auctioned off, despite my still owing $7,000.00 on that loan. The proceeds of the auction would have gone toward repayment of all my creditors, after satisfying the lien holder. Since I had no other means of transportation, any credit or savings left, I risked losing my job if my vehicle were seized. I live in Upstate New York, you need a car to get to the bus stops up here & the only train is Amtrak. I had been a single, self-sufficient mother for 10 years.  I didn’t know how I would be able to continue to support my daughter and myself if I lost my job or how I would find a new job without transportation, while being homeless. The prospect of losing my job in addition to everything else I had already lost was devastating, depressing and frightening to me. It resulted in months of torment, nervous days & sleepless nights while awaiting my discharge papers. I was then forced to deal with the aftermath of bankruptcy that affected me adversely for years & still does, simply because I wanted to own my own home.

When I filed my tax returns for 2004, I had my tax preparer look into the possibility of writing off the more than $29,000.00 cash I’d invested in the house in the form of permanent repairs, improvements and updates, and was advised that I could not. Instead they told me that I could claim the house itself as a casualty loss, which I did. In January of 2006 the IRS audited me, and decided that I didn’t qualify for a casualty loss filing. They cited a ‘sudden & unexpected event’ clause in their by-laws that excludes my circumstances and house. My preparer was unaware of this clause when they completed my return. The federal government was seeking restitution from me in the amount of $9,344.00 w/interest & penalties. The State of New York sought almost $3,300.00. Needless to say I didn’t have this kind of money as the house had left me financially devastated and bankrupt. The preparer limited their liability for their error to $4,000.00 based on available insurance coverage. What a world we live in, when the people who have fiduciary responsibilities make mistakes and then limit their liability for them.

As part of my bankrupcy; I signed the deed of the house back over to the bank & state agency. In spring of 2006 I received a phone call from the reporter with The Record, who’d written numerous articles about my dilemma.  He had received a phone call from someone who had made an offer on a house.  She’d told a friend of hers about this house, & the amazing deal she was getting & gave the location, her friend recalled the articles & they looked them up on Google. Naturally when she realized she was buying my Mold House, she withdrew her offer.  The bank had thrown some shingles up on the roof, removed the majority of the tarps & was trying to re-sell the house in “As is condition” to avoid disclosing the true condition of the house. Mind you, the bank had copies of all the engineering reports I had on this house, including the last one I received in May of ’05.  This last report indicated that stacchybotris, aspergillus, penicillium, & 2 other types of toxic mold were in fact present in the 1st floor, as well as the wood rot & decay. Their new recommendation at that time was to gut the house to studs & completely rebuild it. The report contained very specific instructions on how to dispose of the contents to avoid exposing the neighbors to the mycotoxins. When the banks construction company went in to do whatever they did; they took the contaminated contents & threw them all on the front lawn w/no consideration for protecting the neighbors.

It gets better. When I abandoned the house in January of ’05 obviously I shut off all the utilities.  As you can tell from the pictures in part 2, the tarps didn’t survive long.  One of the inaccurate statements the sellers made to me on their disclosure statement, was that the basement was dry. The basement flooded 9 times in the 11 months I lived there; basically anytime it rained harder than a drizzle. Every time there was a hard rain or a prolonged shower, that was basement flooding.  The lack of a proper or complete roof hardly made it waterproof. So while the basement was flooding; water is entering this house through the roof & making its way through the 2nd & 1st floors & into the cellar.  Since I shut the utilities off; the sump pump was not able to turn on.  The next door neighbors who shared the same driveway, noticed at some point that the water in the basement had reached the windows. I know this because the Town called me to ensure there was no power in the dwelling, before the Fire Dept would enter to pump the basement out.  When the bank was attempting to sell the house; the floors on the 1st floor were warped & the entire house reeked of mildew. When the potential buyer questioned this, they told her there’d been a minor leak & made it sound as though this were a recent occurence, to explain the smell & minimized what was going on in that house.  Of course the windows & doors were all open when they had this open house but the odor was still present. 

The reporter & I did what we could to shame the bank, state agency & real estate agency trying to sell the house in As Is Condition. I called the Town of Brunswick, & they revoked the Certificate of Occupancy. They were fully aware of the condition of the house after receiving copies of my reports & were now liable.  They hired their own engineer to examine the home. His opinion exactly concurred with those of the engineers I had hired; gut the home to studs & rebuild it. The Town stated they would not re-issue the C.O. until their engineer’s exact specifications & Mold remediation requirements were met. The last I was aware, the bank successfully sold the house to a flipper. The flipper did not gut the house, instead tried to make repairs internally. At some point the flipper ran out of money prior to completing the ‘flip’ & the house remains vacant & a Certificate of Occupancy was never issued.  Although I haven’t been anywhere near the house; nor heard anything about it in the past 3 years, this may have changed. I consider this my victory. No one will ever be able to live in that house & slowly be poisoned to death ever again, lose their life savings, all their possessions, or be separated from their child out of fear a house is killing their child. That is quite some victory & I am proud of it.

It was utterly frustrating that there were no laws to protect consumers in these extreme circumstances. There was no accountability or consequences for the people who victimized me; there was no real justice for me. It is inconceivable that I had no civil recourse. It’s absurd and ludicrous that all of this happened; I lost my home, my life savings, nearly all of mine and my daughters possessions, over a year out of both our lives, my good health, peace of mind, and my good credit. The people who did this to me reaped the benefits of their dishonesty and moved into a brand new home  because of the mortgage that I was responsible for re-payment of. Their agent & family member reaped the benefit of a commission dishonestly earned.

It seems to me that if new legislation were passed that actually protected consumers; the innocent citizens of this state, there would not be a need for a Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau, or a seller’s disclosure statement. Consumers are not the ones who take advantage & deceive. If there were enforceable Mold Standards; if Home Inspectors are forced to be accountable for their reports; if a seller of real property were held accountable for misleading a consumer on a disclosure statement and withholding information from the consumer, this could not happen to anyone ever again. Laws need to be changed, and the public protected from those that would take advantage of them. Something has to be done to have Toxic Mold Standards enacted in this state. The public needs to be made aware that Mold is not just something that grows on leftovers in refrigerators. What has happened to me needs to be prevented from happening to anyone ever again. & that is why I write this blog.

Fighting this battle for unrealized justice went on for more than three years. It left me financially destitute, ½ way to bald, a spotty memory, a bad complexion, a constantly runny & frequently bloody nose. I can’t be in a room where the scent of chemicals, such as those used for routine cleaning are strong, it causes tearing of my eyes, severe coughing fits including gagging & choking, with sore throats that last for weeks. I suffer the same reactions to any aerosol sprays. I still get short of breath; suffer from tightness in my chest & feelings that I can’t breathe similar to those of an asthmatic. For weeks after exposure to anything resembling the odor of mildew, I gag, my eyes will get itchy & watery, my sinuses burn & my nose runs even more, sore throats & bloody noses increase in frequency. I still have severe headaches & feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. When I catch colds, they invariably turn into sinus infections. It now takes much longer for me to recover from a simple cold than it used too. I still get depressed, and I still get angry that I had to endure all of the indignities & injustices described here in. I suppose I always will. I can report that it has been 3+ years since I’ve had a fungal infection also known as scaling, on my face or scaling/peeling of my eyelids. I pray every day that I never have to experience either of those again.

SO CAVEAT EMPTOR NEW YORK. Until laws are changed; you’re on your own.

My Toxic Mold Nightmare part 2 The Fight

April 24, 2010
 
Through out the drama, the most popular phrase I heard over and over again is that New York is a “Caveat Emptor” state; or “Buyer Beware”. In the case of real property, NYS attempts to protect the consumer by having the sellers complete a Disclosure Statement and giving the purchaser the right to have a home inspection completed. The people who sold me this home were not honest when they completed the Disclosure Statement. They stated the roof did not leak, along w/numerous other misreprentations.  There are no penalties for inaccurate, misleading or false reporting on the Sellers Disclosure Statements. Despite contacting numerous law enforcement agencies, I was advised that what the sellers had done was a ‘gray area of the law’ and no one would prosecute them for falsifying this document. Instead, they fought over whose jurisdiction it was; the County within which the house was located, or the County where the closing occured.  If sellers of real property can misrepresent the true condition of their property in this required document without penalty, then it is not worth the paper it is written on, and it does NOT protect the consumer.
At the time I bought this house; home inspectors were able to hide behind strongly worded contracts that severely limited their inspections; contain Hold Harmless and Limit of Liability clauses.  After being named in the lawsuit my home inspector stated that because it was drizzling he was precluded from going on the roof to inspect it, in contradiction of his findings at the time, that the roof had 5-8 years remaining in its lifespan.  It would seem logical to me that if the weather precluded a thorough inspection from being completed, then the inspection should have been rescheduled & a report should not have been written. I based my final decision on whether or not to purchase this home upon his conclusions & findings. I know that I am among the majority of people who put their trust and faith into these inspection reports. If the home inspector had discovered the problems with this house as I feel he should have, after all that is what I was paying him to do, I would never have bought this house. How is the consumer protected in NYS when, after being encouraged to rely upon their opinions, home inspectors are not regulated, or held accountable for the information or lack thereof contained in their reports? I know that NYS now over sees Home Inspectors & I would like to think that my fight had something to do with that change.
In June of 2005, desperate for help and frustrated by my lawyers’ abandonment of me as a client, I wrote a letter detailing what was happening to me in what turned out to be a futile attempt for government intervention. I sent this letter to the Mayor, then Governor Pataki’s office; to 12 Legislators in Rensselaer County, to Senator’s Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Hugh T. Farley, Neil Breslin, and Joseph Bruno. I received a response from Sen. Schumer’s office thanking me for my interest in anti-environmental (pollution) legislation, a topic that had nothing to do with my letter. The only other responses came from 2 of the 12 legislators who were very sorry to hear of my plight, but could do nothing to help me.
 
I sent my letter to the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Hudson Valley Poison Control. The CDC & EPA responded that because they are a Federal Agency they couldn’t help me and told me to contact my local Dept of Health. The irony being that I had already been in contact with both State and Local divisions of the D.O.H, with no relief. I sent my letter to numerous people and divisions at the NYS Banking Association and the NYS Board of Realtors. The majority of these letters were ignored, but a select few did respond to tell me they could do nothing for me. I sent letters to multiple areas within the Dept. of State; the Dept. of Insurance; AND the Dept of Health anyway, to no avail. When I originally contacted the Dept of Health for help, both State and Local divisions told me that they wouldn’t get involved in my dilemma as NYS does not have Mold standards and mine is not a landlord/tenant dispute. These representatives told me that professionals who investigate Toxic Mold exist to scare the public, that Toxic Mold doesn’t really make you sick, and there is no need to abandon your possessions unless they got wet. When I offered to send pictures of my peeling face & eye lids caused by the Mold and medical documentation of all my other symptoms, it was declined quickly. When advised that my furniture did in fact get wet as the water poured down the walls & floor of the 2nd story into the contents of the 1st story, and water in the 2nd story saturated carpeting and furniture there, I was wished good luck and they couldn’t get off the phone quickly enough.
 
I sent letters to the Consumer Frauds, and Consumer Protection Bureau at then, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office. Both agencies responded that because the sale of the home is considered a ‘private sale’ and did not involve a corporation, they would not get involved. The Consumer Protection Bureau recommended that I pursue a claim against the sellers through small claims court, where the limit for recovery is 3 to 5,000.00 dollars; depending upon the venue. The ridiculousness of this being that it had cost me more than either amount to attempt to repair the roof, and obviously neither amount even begins to come close to what it would have cost me to fully repair the home.  
 
I learned in October 2005 that the residents of Magill Ave were petitioning to have the house condemned and torn down. They were fearful that the Mold from my house might make them and their children sick.   The Town of Brunswick refused to get involved, although they admitted that there was no building permit issued to add the dormers to the original structure, and stated that they were not aware of this addition until the year 2000. They admitted they did nothing when they discovered the altered condition of this house. However, if my neighbors were so concerned that the wind was blowing the poison from my home to theirs, you would think they would have attempted to help me in a constructive manner vs attempting to thwart my efforts to get someone to repair the house & remediate the mold. The roof was already covered w/ a blue tarp due to my inability to pay the additional 25-35K to complete repairing it. The bank holding the mortgage sent an appraiser out to the house after I’d abandoned it & this person tore the screen door off & broke the lock to get inside. The police refused to arrest this person for breaking & entering because they didn’t steal anything that I could tell them about. I couldn’t tell what if anything was stolen due to my refusal to re-enter the home, after the physical condition it had left me in. This person just threw the screen door to the side of the property & made no attempt to secure the premises.   So…. using Yellow “Caution – Do Not Enter” & bright red w/silver reflective “Danger” & “Hazard” tape I covered the exterior of the house. I mean due to the toxic conditions inside, I had a duty to the public to warn them against entering.  Didn’t I?

It’s the opinion of the roofers and engineers I hired that the dormers were constructed improperly as no step flashing was used when they were built, & that this lack of step flashing is the cause of all the problems with this house. They further opine that the dormers & roof were leaking since the dormers were added; 14 years prior to my purchase. They all shared in my opinion that the people who sold me this house were in fact aware of its condition prior to selling it to me.  I’m aware that they knew the roof and dormers were leaking as one of the residents of Magill Ave., witnessed the sellers of the home and a relative of theirs attempting to fix the roof & dormers less than a year before I bought the house. The sellers left roofing felt and products used to treat Mold in the cellar of the house when they moved out. Ironically enough, the sellers moved out/abandoned the house four months prior to our closing. They moved in with their father, the same person who represented them in the sale of the home to me.  

So that’s it for part 2.  Thanx for reading & please feel free to leave comments; ask questions & subscribe.

My Toxic Mold Nightmare part 1

April 24, 2010
The majority of my friends know I went through a nightmare; but not many know the details of the battles I fought or the crimes I was a victim of. 
On February 12th of 2004 as a single Mom, I purchased my first home. The property is located on Magill Ave. in the Town of Brunswick in NYS. In August of 2004, as the remnants of Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, and Jean arrived in New York State; I became aware of the fact that the house was leaking from the 2nd story, into the 1st story. I investigated to determine the source of the leak and found what I can only describe as a 15” in diameter ‘water balloon’ in the fresh paint of a 2nd story wall & about 1/2 an inch of standing water in a 3 foot radius of my brand new carpeting!  The day after closing on this house I’d gone there to start cleaning and painting my new home, and saw this same wall had extensive water damage. I had been unable to see the water damage when I initially looked at the home as the sellers had stacked furniture in front of it, thereby concealing the damage. They put a dresser and desk next to each other, with another dresser placed on top of them in front of this wall. Naturally being a woman, I was judgmental of the then owners, as there was no way to use the desk & you’d have to be over 6 feet tall to use the drawers of the dresser. I berated myself at the time for being judgmental….. had I only known.  When I did finally see what all that furniture was hiding I assumed, due to the structural inspection completed prior to purchase that had no indications of any existing water problems in the home; that the sellers had fixed whatever had caused the water damage but did not cosmetically repair the wall due to all the furniture in front of it & attributed the lack of repair to sheer laziness. As I searched for the source of the leak I noticed a black growth on an upstairs hallway wall and I had no idea what that was. I repeatedly wiped it away thinking it was dirt from one of the kids, but it kept coming back in the same exact spot.
I filed a claim with my homeowner’s insurance company, and began calling roofers to obtain estimates for repairing the leaks. All State promptly denied coverage for the cost of repairing the roof, dormers and the contents of the home as the cause of the leaks and problems with the roof and dormers were deemed to be a pre-existing condition. There were exclusions in the policy contract specific to damage caused by Mold and mildew that they cited in their denial letter. In September of 2004, after receiving this denial, I retained attorneys to file a lawsuit on my behalf against the sellers; their agent who also happens to be their father/father in law; his employing broker; and the home inspector for the cost of replacing the roof.
Every company that looked at the roof told me that the entire roof needed to be replaced (my home inspection report indicated 5 to 8 years were left before the roof would need replacing) and that the black growth on the wall was mold caused by the leaks. I contacted mold remediation companies to get estimates to repair that problem. One of these companies turned out to be Engineers who came to the house and diagnosed the Mold growing on the walls. Their report indicated I had multiple types of Mold inside the house, including Stacchybotris and Aspergillus, and informed me that these Molds were Toxic. Stacchybotris is the most toxic of all the Toxic Molds; its spores are airborne and poisonous. When told that this Mold causes allergies, chronic asthma, and other serious health problems, I immediately made the decision to send my then 13-year-old daughter, who was an athlete, to live with har father.  Obviously I did not want to expose her to these poisons any more than she already had been by that time. My daughter competed in Track and Field events, holds numerous records and medals, including a silver medal in discus that she won in 2002 at the Junior Olympics. Stacchybotris is referred to as the “silent killer”. The documentation regarding fatalities and serious illnesses directly related to exposure to this Toxic Mold is extensive. I have learned that there are no Federal or State Mold Standards, and I fail to comprehend why there aren’t any considering how detrimental the mycotoxins produced by any of these Molds are.
In October of 2004, the roofer I’d hired began repairing the roof. They found extensive structural damage to the rafters, and support beams. The dormers and roof decking were almost completely deteriorated from years of water intrusion. The original estimate to replace the roof was $7,250.00. When all of this additional damage was discovered, I had already paid them $7,000.00. They estimated it would cost an additional $25,000.00 to $35,000.00 to finish the roof replacement. The ‘Mold’ engineers came back out to the house to inspect all of the additional damage uncovered by the roofers. They estimated that it would cost over $85,000.00 to repair the roof, dormers, support beams, the entire 2nd story, and remove the mold. This estimate was conditional on there not being any Mold, rot, or decay in the 1st story, which couldn’t be determined until after the roof decking & subfloors had been removed.
As the months passed while my attorneys attempted settlement with the insurance carriers for the home inspector and the sellers’ real estate agency I learned more about the Toxic Molds that were present in my home. I realized that the Mold in the house was poisoning me. I lost over half of my hair, suffer from itchy and irritated skin, scaling of the face due to fungal infections, diarrhea, fatigue, extreme dry skin, severe headaches, burning sinuses, a constantly runny nose, memory loss, sneezing, coughing, swollen red eyes, peeling eye lids, feelings of tightness in my chest, loss of breath, frequent bloody noses, forgetfulness, and abdominal cramps. Once I learned that all of my ailments were symptoms of Mold Poisoning and permanent conditions, I was forced to abandon the house and all my possessions and become homeless to escape being poisoned to death.
In March 2005 I had the Mold engineers return to the house. The insurance company for the home inspector was requiring proof that the Toxic Molds had contaminated my possessions, and that the spores were actually airborne. They randomly tested the contents in addition to the ceiling of the 1st story, and confirmed that the Toxic Molds had contaminated my furniture; that the Molds, wood rot and decay were present in the 1st story in addition to the 2nd. The engineers’ new recommendation was to gut the house and rebuild it citing that the contamination in my home was the worst case he’d seen in his career. In April of 2005 I hired air quality experts to go to the house for indoor air testing. The engineer who performed this testing, advised me that the house had “massive quantities of airborne Stacchybotris spores”; the worst case he’d seen in 10 years. He also recommended gutting the home.

In June of 2005, my attorneys advised me that they did not believe I could successfully continue to pursue civil remedy, citing the following reasons:

1. The language of the contract from the Home Inspector contains Hold Harmless Clauses and Limits Liability to the amount that the inspector was paid to perform the inspection. His insurance carrier, A.I.G., denied liability and even cited Mold exclusions that existed in their policy.

2. Despite the agent for the sellers being a blood relation, I had no physical proof that he was actually aware of the true condition of the house. Without having proof that he knew his son & daughter in law were lying on the disclosure statement and concealing damage (or helping to conceal damage) that indicated the problems with the home, I had no civil recourse against him, his employing broker or that agency. Additionally, the agency was operating without any liability insurance.

3. While having proof that the sellers themselves were aware of the problems, it was the opinion of my attorneys that they had no liquid assets and while they believed I would win my case against them, I would never actually be able to recover any damages.

4. The statute of limitations had already expired with regard to the prior owner who had built the dormers improperly, and he could not even be named in the suit.

5. All of my legal fees were my own responsibility, as this type of litigation is not accepted on a contingency basis. My attorneys estimated $20,000.00 to $40,000.00 in legal fees incurred over 4-6 years and felt I would be throwing good money after bad. They recommended that I abandon the lawsuit and file bankruptcy.

So that’s it for part 1.  Part 2 will be posted in the near future. Part 2 will be about the Fights. Pictures of the house are posted in my Facebook photo album.  You’ll find out why it looks the way it does in part 2.

Thanx for reading.  If you have any questions please ask. Also please feel free to leave a comment &/or subscribe.

An Out Of Control Child Or Is it Parents Fault?

April 21, 2010

I was reading my friend Rose’s blog when a comment someone made caught my attention. Rose’s blog was about things she hated that most people she knows seem to like.  The comment that caught my attention was from a friend of hers that hates “parents who let their children run the family/home/life”.  This comment caught my attention because of something that happened earlier in the day at my house.  While I hadn’t intended to blog again so soon I find myself w/a topic & a story to tell. Yesterday, my boyfriend Brian’s son “D” was having his friend “Z” over for dinner; & “Z” is the reason for my story. 

Let me acquaint you w/”Z”. When I first met him I thought he was a sweet boy, both Brian & I were glad for “D” to have a friend to play with who lives just around the corner.  There aren’t a whole lot of kids in our neighborhood; it’s rare to see kids outside playing; riding bikes etc.  The first time he came over to play at our house both he & “D” were jumping off the furniture in “D’s” bedroom; but mostly “Z” was. I believe this is when the box spring for “D’s” bed broke. I was downstairs in the living room & I thought they were going to come through the ceiling & land next to me on the couch!  The next time he came to play they were crawling, bouncing & jumping all over my leather sectional & ottoman in the family room. I noticed a hole in one of the sectional cushions the next day.  Mind you, I’m talking about 12-year-old boys. They should have grown out of jumping on (& off) furniture years ago.   A couple of weeks ago “D” called Brian from his cell phone to tell him that he’d gotten in trouble on the school bus & had his bus privileges revoked for 2 months, as a joke. Obviously, this is not a joke we’re going to laugh at & “Z” was clearly heard in the background coaching “D” on exactly what to say.

Day before yesterday; the boys were in the yard getting “D’s” bicycle from the shed. “Z” decided to grab the tree limb cutters & started swinging it around like it was a sword, breaking & smashing branches off trees & bushes.  He swung that thing like a baseball bat & sledge-hammer; really intent on breaking everything in his reach. It’s a miracle he held onto the thing (it’s quite long & heavy) & didn’t hurt himself or “D”.  I’d gone out to bring the dog inside, & saw what he was doing.  I stood there watching frozen in place w/disbelief at the disrespect to our property; but more afraid to call out & startle him for fear he might lose his grip & the cutters would go flying ‘into’ “D”.  “D” saw me watching, told “Z”, who promptly threw the cutters into the bushes, picked up a branch he’d just smashed off a tree & pretends that was what he saw swinging around the whole time.  (Yes, I did just fall off the turnip truck.)  But…. he’s not my child so I just walked over, found & picked the cutters up, put them away & told him he was lucky he hadn’t hurt someone. No apology forthcoming.  The boys leave without picking up the mess “Z” just made.  I told Brian what “Z” did to the yard & he’s not surprised. By now we’ve had numerous discussions about him & neither of us are so glad for the friendship anymore.

Yesterday, Brian told me that “D” asked if “Z” could have dinner w/us. I was hoping he’d said no considering the behavior from the day before. Instead, Brian tells me his parents went out & left him behind because he wanted to stay outside playing, so he’d said yes.   In come the boys & Brian sends them outside to play until dinner’s ready. Brian was  grilling up some burgers & therefore was outside to witness what happened.   The boys were on the trampoline at the rear of our yard when a couple 6-year-old girls from the house behind us go out to their yard.  “Z” saw them & proceeded to pull his pants down & is yelling to the girls “Hey! Wanna see my balls?” (for those sensitive to language reading this, my apologies.)   Obviously Brian heard the taunting, looked up from the grill & saw the boy with his pants down. We won’t tolerate that kind of behavior, & he was sent home. 

Brian called “Z’s” parents to tell them what their son did, & that he’d been sent home.  I couldn’t tell you what their reaction to the phone call was; because I didn’t bother to ask.  The reason?  These are parents who allow their child to rule their home. “D” tells me this boy is in constant trouble at school, on the bus, & at home.  I can’t count the # of times “D” has stated “Z”  is grounded;  but the kid shows up 5 minutes later ringing our doorbell looking for “D”.  According to “D”,  groundings’  last for an hour or less @ “Z’s” house. The moment his parents ground him, he throws a hissy fit of a tantrum & they rescind the punishment.  I get the whole don’t ‘overly’ punish your child for bad behavior philosophy, if the child feels like he’s already lost everything, there’s no incentive to behave.  On the flip side; how does grounding a child for an hour or less; or relenting on a punishment when the child throws a temper fit & pouts, teach a child there are consequences for their actions & behavior?  This is irresponsible parenting at it’s finest.  These parents need to realize their failure to act, be firm, establish rules & boundaries, as well as consequences, extends beyond their front door.  “D” went on to say that “Z” always yells at his parents & never listens to them. Brian & I have long speculated that the reason “D” is so welcomed at “Z’s” 24/7;  is so that his parents don’t have to deal with him.

I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of trouble that boy will  be in by the time he’s 16; I just hope & pray that he & “D” are no longer friends by then.  And I hope that those little girls couldn’t hear what “Z” said & that their parents were near by to hear Brian scolding him, & realize the offending child is not a member of our household.

Real Housewives of New Jersey; lies exposed

April 20, 2010

O.K. this is my first blog so to get me started I’m going to blog about one of my guilty pleasures; Reality TV shows. Currently I am enamored of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. The women are feisty & most assuredly drama prone.  For those of you not familiar w/the cast, it centers around Caroline & Dina Manzo; sisters who married brothers. Caroline is the matriarch, is very outspoken, tough as nails & is my 2nd fave on the show.  Dina is more subdued & is frequently the center of drama. Next is their sister in law Jacqueline who is as sweet as a peach & had the misfortune of befriending Danielle Staub who is definitely the shows antagonist. Lastly & my personal fave is Teresa Guidice.  She’s a bit ‘dizzy’ but to quote Jacqueline, she ‘clearly has no limits’.

The second season of this show is about to begin on 5/3 & I can’t wait to ‘watch what happens’.  During the first season Caroline unearths a book written, in part, about Danielle. The show mainly centered around the womens discovery & reactions to the content of the book as it pertains to her.  The book was written about the exploits of Danielle’s ex-husband who was a police informant. In it,  he alleges that Danielle was a prostitute, a crack whore, coke head, & of being arrested for kidnapping. Mind you these crimes took place 20+ years prior to the women’s discovery of the existence of the book.  Caroline & Dina saw to it that word of the book got around town, & understandably so due to the nature of the crimes discussed w/in.  I mean who can resist a good scandal?  Danielle categorically denied the allegations, only admitting that 2 things written about her were true: 1st that she was arrested & 2nd that she changed her name afterward. The show culminates w/all the ladies having dinner together; Danielle brings the book w/her & places it on the table (drama) so that she can achieve clearance on it w/the other ladies.  Arguments & accusations fly & the show culminated w/Teresa’s infamous table flip. 

During the re-union show Danielle (tearfully) continues to deny the allegations in the book w/the exception of the name change &  having been arrested, insisting she was in the wrong place @ the wrong time & had no knowledge of what was going on in the house she lived in.  At the end of 2nd part to the re-union show, Caroline is reduced to tears because Danielle has done something unspeakable, & despicable to Dina. They never disclose what it is that Danielle has allegedly done that was so devastating. Dina insists that Caroline not mention the specifics, Caroline honors her request & of course Danielle denies having knowledge of what Caroline is talking about. Talk about your cliff hangars?!!  The world is desperate to find out what Danielle did to Dina, including yours truly!  I searched the internet numerous times trying to uncover the treacherous answer. Speculation ranges from Danielle attempting to hire someone to ‘rub Dina out’, to the general consensus & most plausible explanation, that Danielle gave Dina’s ex-husband a phone # to contact the authorities accusing Dina of having abused her daughter. Danielle in her final blog of the season, vaguely admits to having given someone a phone # when asked, but in retrospect wishes she had remained uninvolved.   Danielle is described as being a pathological liar, so who can believe anything she says? & the not knowing is killing me!  🙂

Since the show is about to resume airing; I again commenced my ‘investigation’ to see if anything new had developed w/regard to Danielle’s unspeakable acts against Dina, seeking new information or confirmation of the old.  Unfortunately for my enquiring mind, I wasn’t able to unearth any new info on that topic 😦  BUT what I did find out is juicy to those of us enamored of this show.

I found a link to the smoking gun, which contained the 26 or 7 pages of indictments etc. against Danielle; AKA Beverly Merrill.  Contrary to her claims of being arrested as an accessory & being in the wrong place @ the wrong time; the indictment specifies her direct involvement in the kidnapping plot. This woman went so far as to call the father of the victim threatening the victims life if a certain amount of money wasn’t paid. How does that equate to being in the wrong place @ the wrong time? Umm..  she had no knowledge of what was going on?  Puh-leez!  The kidnapping occurred over a cocaine deal that went bad involving the victim. Danielle agreed to testify against the main man behind the kidnapping, pled quilty to one felony charge & was sentenced to 5 years parole & enrollment in a drug rehab program.  An F.B.I. report in these documents confirms she was working as an  escort. No offense to anyone in the profession; but what is an escort; except a nicer term for a prostitute? Don’t get me wrong I’m all for a woman doing what she to to make money; especially in today’s economy lol, I just don’t put much stock in ‘titles’.  My point is she denied the allegation from the book. So what? The F.B.I. investigator was lying?  PUH-LEEEZ!  

Kilo’s of cocaine were found in the residence she shared w/the main man behind the kidnapping. She denied the allegations of coke usage insisting she was a pot head. However; contained in the docs I found, was a letter written by her rehab counselor 2 years after her sentencing stating that while all of her tests were negative for drugs for the duration of treatment to that point; due to the nature of & her past heavy use they recommended she not be released from the program. Although the report does not specify the drug she was heavily using; my point is she denied having a coke problem. I can’t imagine anyone who was only a ‘pothead’ receiving a recommendation (after 2 years of cleanliness, thanx Teresa, for the terminology) to continue in rehab.  It just doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

What I find so unbelievable about all this is Danielle’s denials in the face of these court documents.  There’s no way she couldn’t have known this paperwork existed (she signed it) & would ultimately become public. They prove what everyone suspected already that she’s a pathological liar. Or maybe pathological narcissist is a better term. I find it incredulous that anyone w/these kinds of skeletons in their closet would volunteer to be on a reality TV show.  While the exposure of the book certainly made the show worthwhile watching, was the embarrassment worth it?  I understand everyone has a past; everyone makes mistakes. This is some hella scary dirty laundry for a woman w/children to risk having brought to light on nationwide TV.  What I find the most disturbing though, are her denials. In my opinion knowing that paperwork exists that proves out the allegations in the book, she would have been far better admitting what she had done; what she had ‘been’ & then focusing attention on whatever good (is there any?) that she may have done in her life since then.  

She’s writing a book of her own & has accused her ex-husband from the book of raping her on broken glass; & killing her dog by hanging.  Her ex-husband has voluntarily taken & subsequently passed a liar detector test, that he did no such thing.  He issued a public challenge for her to take her own lie detector test, is suing her for $5,000,000.00 & her deposition is about to go down.  His lawsuit is filed in California where lie detector results can be admissible in Civil actions. Will Danielle take her own lie detector? What will the results be? Will her deposition be publicly available? 

Danielle’s tag line on the show is “You either love me or hate me.  There is no in between w/me.”  I have to beg to differ; there is an in between & that’s pity.  I pity Danielle & I pity her children. I think she’s shameful & very lucky child protection services have not stepped in & removed her girls. She blatantly & repeatedly exposes them to adult topics beyond their years to comprehend or understand. Discussing phone sex w/a 10 & 15 year old? Showing them nude pictures of herself? Puh-leez! She exposed them to her criminal past under the guise of  ‘preparing them’ after the books discovery. Seems to me, she could have avoided having to do that simply by not being on the show. Just because she served no jail time does not make her innocent of the crimes she was arrested for. She plea bargained; struck a deal so the bigger fish could fry; but she’s not innocent; & not a victim, except to her own stupidity & vanity.  I pity her not seeing that she’s her own worst enemy & then attempting to portray herself as a victim, she brought about her own demise.  But she certainly does make that show more interesting to watch.