Posts Tagged ‘leaking’

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.