Posts Tagged ‘destitute’

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.