Archive for the ‘Toxic Mold’ Category

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 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.