Clancy Hills settles apartment mold case

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
A local woman was awarded damages from a Salisbury apartment complex for health problems she says resulted from mold in her apartment.
Kelly Hosch was awarded $5,750 following a Monday hearing in small claims court. The amount includes attorney fees.
Clancy Hills Apartments, which originally brought a claim against Hosch in February, cited damages to the apartment, 104-B, in the amount of $215.76 that included fire damage, replacement of a broken window and replacement of keys.
Hosch filed a counterclaim saying mold in the apartment made her two daughters and her infant son sick. Her child’s pediatrician, Dr. Christopher Magryta, wrote a letter in January saying he’d seen pictures taken by Hosch that proved to him “their living conditions are very poor and that this child has high exposure to mold and other allergens.”
Magryta said the apartment in its “state of disrepair” was detrimental to the family’s overall health, and he advised them to leave.
When Hosch moved into the apartment in 2005, she said, everything was clean. About six months later, her sink overflowed, causing water damage to the carpets. It continued to overflow every couple of months, Hosch said.
“Over time, I saw mold. It started to stink and smell like mildew,” she said.
Hosch said Clancy Hills maintenance workers told her she was responsible for cleaning her carpets. She did not agree.
Before long, what Hosch believed to be mold began growing on the carpets including inside her children’s closet. The mold also covered the ceiling and along the walls.
There was also sewage backup from her upstairs neighbor’s toilet.
“When my upstairs neighbor flushed her toilet, feces and urine would drip down,” Hosch said.
Hosch said in her counterclaim she’d repeatedly complained to Clancy Hills about the problems. Some of her complaints were addressed, but many were “ignored,” court documents allege.
Hosch called the Rowan County Health Department and says officials there told her she needed to contact the city of Salisbury’s minimum housing inspections unit.
According to a city report, Salisbury Code Services Division Manager Chris Branham inspected the apartment in mid-January and found a number of deficiencies, according to his report, including the absence interior wall sheathing to prevent the spread of fire, standing water under the kitchen sink causing a mildew smell and damp carpet in the rear bedrooms, which also smelled of mildew.
Branham said Tuesday he was not a specialist in mold and could not conclude the substance found in Hosch’s apartment was definitely mold.
“We look at the source. The things that would aid in mold being inside the dwelling,” Branham said.
Her physician suggested Hosch buy a mold test kit from a home improvement store. She did and said the results were positive for mold.
“Rather than fix the damaged ceiling in the bathroom, plaintiff built a false drop ceiling to hide it,” her claim said. “The foam tiles in the drop ceiling continued to collect water and grow mold.”
The surface mold on the carpets “apparently vacuumed off, but the moldy padding and carpeting was not removed and replaced,” the court document said.
Since the mold appeared, Hosch and her children have suffered adverse health affects including skin rashes and respiratory problems, according to the claim.
Hosch said she and her children suffered diarrhea and “excessive nose bleeds. They had them two to three times a day.”
She is awaiting test results on whether the mold and other allergens caused her son to develop asthma.
Clancy Hills “failed and refused to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition,” the claim said.
Despite knowing the apartment was not habitable, Clancy Hills continued to demand and collect full rent, the claim alleges. Hosch pays a portion of her rent while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pays part. At the time of the filing of her claim, she did not owe any rent, the court document said.
Hosch also said in her counterclaim she had returned the key to the complex as Clancy Hills had asked.
Branham said Clancy Hills corrected problems he’d outlined in a pre-hearing notice issued to Hosch and Clancy Hills. The notice was written to inform the parties of the problems and what would be discussed at a Jan. 27 hearing.
He noted it was rare for a company to repair a problem before a hearing.
Hosch said the problem was not repaired but was merely patched over. She took photos of the apartment before, during and after work was complete.
“They just can come in and build or paint over it. When you came in, it looked like a brand new apartment,” Hosch said.
The small claims hearing was held Monday and Clancy Hills representatives did not show up, said Hosch’s attorney Ed Sharp, a Greensboro lawyer with Legal Aid of North Carolina.
“A large part of this was trying to motivate the landlord to effect proper repairs,” Sharp said.
A Clancy Hills representative reached by telephone declined to comment.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.