CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - A Charlotte mother believes mold in her apartment is making her child sicker and that her landlord is turning it into a potentially deadly situation through negligence.
“She (the landlord) knows about his health issues,” Jessica Smith said, talking about her child, 16-month old child Lynden Mitchell. “I’ve repeatedly told her they are potentially killing my child and she takes nothing serious.”
Smith lives at the North Cross Townhomes off Griers Grove Road in North Charlotte. North Cross, a part of F & W Management, cashes in on checks from HUD – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
North Cross is a privately-owned property, but HUD provides rental assistance through a Housing Assistance Payments Contract entered between the two parties. Tenants, like Smith, pay rent-- 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income-- while HUD takes care of the rest, also factoring in a utility allowance.
Smith said her apartment has had water damage and mold for several years. Smith sent FOX 46 Charlotte videos of water coming out of her ceiling, walls and floor, adding, she’s reported these cases to her apartment complex.
“You can tell they do not care,” Smith said.
Medical records for her son request North Cross to take action.
“Due to concern for moisture and possible mold or mildew growth in his home, I recommend that the house be tested for mold and if found, have it removed promptly,” a letter from a Carolinas HealthCare System doctor said.
The same letter, adding, Lynden “is at a higher risk of developing respiratory issues and infections if he is exposed to viruses, bacteria or mold in his environment.”
Lynden was born with a wide-range of birth defects, including, esophageal atresia tracheoesophageal fistula, atrial septal defect, enlarged right kidney, hypogammaglobinemia of infancy and more.
Smith, a mother of three, said she cannot afford to move her family and there’s a lengthy waiting list to move into a different HUD voucher apartment.
Smith said the mold issues have been going on for several years. She wonders if it contributed to any of the 16-month old’s birth defects.
She reached out to FOX 46 Charlotte wanting one of two outcomes: Being moved to a different unit or have her unit completely remediated.
FOX 46 Charlotte decided to investigate her case. Shortly after, her rental company placed her in a motel while it said it would remediate the mold and conduct further testing.
“The only reason they put me in the hotel and are opening my windows to air out the house and all the other stuff is because I flat-out told them I was contacting the news,” Smith said.
Smith was out of her home for several days. FOX 46 Charlotte obtained a video recording where her landlord said, “I’ve had it tested and we’re in compliance and there is no mold found.”
This is where the story takes a turn.
FOX 46 Charlotte learned the landlord only tested the air and did not take samples of the walls or other places where mold was found.
In that same video recording, the landlord said, “You don’t live in the walls, you live in the apartment.”
“That just means they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Page Inspections Plus Inc. owner William Page said. “Because you have still got the spores. It can come through the walls.”
Smith hired Page Inspections Plus Inc. to conduct another mold test. FOX 46 Charlotte asked Page where it was found.
“Every place I checked,” Page said.
Test results show there were moderate, few, light and rare amounts of mold/mycotoxins found. Remember, this is just days after North Cross claimed it remediated the property.
“It looks like it’s been an ongoing thing,” Page said.
FOX 46 Charlotte obtained another audio recording, where the person talking, who Smith said is a maintenance worker, admitted they used bleach to try and fix mold issues in the past.
“I need to put the bleach,” the person in the audio recording said. “Bleach kill. Not regular bleach, they got special bleach to kill the mold.”
Bleach cannot completely kill mold growing on non-porous materials like drywall or wood – which is where it was primarily found in Smith’s apartment.
“Bleach is probably the last thing I’d use,” Page said.
North Cross is gaining money from a government program designed to help families in need. Smith said, instead, they’re potentially killing her child.
“She (the landlord) belittles us, she talks to us like we’re absolutely nothing because we live in government housing. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. My child didn’t ask to be born into this and he didn’t ask to go through it.”
Smith said North Cross has refused to turn over the results from its mold testing, conducted while she was in a motel. Instead, the management group sent her photos of her laundry on the ground that it took while she was in that motel.
In a letter sent to Smith from the property management group, mold is not discussed, but the laundry and personal belongings on the ground were cited as unsanitary and “grounds for eviction” if not fixed.
North Cross Townhomes has continued to avoid comment on this story.
HUD said it is actively investigating the matter. It contracts North Carolina Quadel to work with tenants who have disputes with their property management. It encourages people having issues with housing related to HUD to contact N.C. Quadel at (919) 319-0808.
FOX 46 Charlotte has been in contact with several attorneys who are looking into representing Smith.
F & W Management sent FOX 46 Charlotte this statement:
North Cross Townhomes, an affordable family low income housing community in Charlotte receiving rental subsidies through the Housing and Urban Development’s project based section 8 program, has an on-site management staff and maintenance staff Monday through Friday, as well as 24-hour emergency maintenance, to promptly respond to all resident requests, perform inspections, and maintenance to keep the property in working order, repair and condition, and to provide homes for all residents. Any and all requests from residents are addressed timely.
You have contacted us alleging that a tenant contacted you in regard to allegations of suspected fungal growth. Said tenant made said allegations to us, which we promptly addressed. The property which you have contacted us about, was in fact inspected by a certified indoor air quality technician/certified site assessor with an environmental service, and all samples were deemed within acceptable levels. Furthermore, after the tenant’s allegation was made, the tenant and her family were provided temporary alternative housing by management, until the property was inspected and a report of acceptable findings necessitating no further remediation activities or testing was provided.