'Slumlord' addresses mold issue only after tenant moves out

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A north Charlotte apartment complex allegedly waited until a family moved out of their apartment before addressing mold issues that were complained about for years.

Jessica Smith, a mother and former tenant at North Cross Townhomes said this was retaliation against her family.

"I'm just waiting for karma to bit [them]," Smith said.

North Cross receives $698,000 of taxpayer money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development each year. Smith's use and approval of HUD funding is, specifically, tied to the unit at the property. This means she cannot use that money on any other apartment except for the one at North Cross.

Smith complained about mold issues that she believes made her toddler sick for years.

FOX 46 confirmed that the apartment tested positive for "very heavy" levels of mold on two separate occasions. FOX 46 had her toddler, who was allegedly sick from the mold at the apartment, take a urine test for Great Plains Laboratory in an attempt to pinpoint a correlation.

The child tested "extremely positive" for mycotoxins, which are produced from mold. Specifically, mycotoxins Roridin E, Verrucarin A and Ochratoxin A.

North Cross' attorney, Janelle Lyons, with Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, referred to FOX 46's reporting (prior to seeing the initial story) as "grossly negligent." 

Management for North Cross repeatedly denied mold issues. In fact, they attempted to evict Smith multiple times after she came to FOX 46 Charlotte with concerns.

"We went to court twice," Smith said. "I won both times."

Smith eventually moved out of the unit but said several days after she moved out, NorthCross finally brought in a mold remediation company.

"Because they didn't want to admit that there was mold there," Smith said. "That they were making my son sick."

FOX 46 spoke with employees of 911 Restoration and they confirmed that they were at the unit to treat mold in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom.

Those were the main areas that tested for mold during FOX 46's investigations.

North Cross did not respond to FOX 46's request for comment. Management inside their main office would not answer the door when our crew showed up.

North Cross already failed an overall inspection of the property as a direct result of FOX 46's reporting in 2017. They were ordered to make a lengthy list of repairs or lose HUD funding.

FOX 46 submitted a FOIA request to HUD back in 2017 for those specific violations and HUD, more than one year later, has failed to provide FOX 46 with those documents -- despite a lengthy list of emails, phone conversations and requests.

HUD said it will be stepping in for more inspections.

"HUD is rescheduling the 2018 site visit as soon as possible, as well as, the Dec. 2018 REAC inspection of the development as both were canceled due to the after effects of the hurricane and also the government shutdown," spokesperson Joe Phillips said. "Additionally, HUD is looking into the mold remediation effort you mentioned as well and would advise the affected tenant to please contact the local housing authority regarding Section 8 housing or other affordable housing options and/or our HUD Greensboro office. 

"Based on the results of previous REAC inspections, the forthcoming HUD site visit and REAC inspection HUD will take all necessary actions to ensure that property management has and will ensure that tenants are living in safe and clean affordable housing."

HUD is scheduled to decide whether or not North Cross will be renewed for their government funding this year.

North Cross is ran by F&W Management in Roanoke, VA.

Smith is worried about the other families who she said are going through similar issues.

"I fear for them," she said.