Doreen Kelsey’s son has been hospitalized with suspected mould-related issues. It took months to fix the problem.
PASCO COUNTY, Fla – Over the past 10 months Tampa Bay has heard from people in our area dealing with poor living conditions in low income housing. This was sparked by our coverage of the Silver Oaks Apartments in East Tampa.
Residents reported mold, broken appliances and sewer backups. It wasn’t until the coverage of several local media outlets that tenants began to see the change.
“Me living in mold, I can’t accept it and I won’t accept it,” Vonnesha King said. King became the face of mold issues and spoke about her concerns on camera and to lawmakers.
Senator Marco Rubio has advocated for low-income housing complexes that receive funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to be inspected more regularly and frequently.
“HUD frankly stopped talking to us and answering our questions,” Rubio said. “Which is outrageous. But we’re going to keep the pressure on them and that’s what we’ve done in the past.”
The same property management company, Cambridge Management Inc., owns Silver Oaks and has properties throughout the state of Florida. Rubio previously contacted HUD about Cambridge Management Inc. for poor living conditions at one of their Jacksonville properties.
“We’ve had a hard time getting HUD to take this seriously, but we’re hoping to make progress here…Nobody should be living in these conditions, especially if the taxpayers are paying for it,” Rubio said.
The Florida Department of Business and Occupational Regulation has received complaints about Silver Oaks describing plumbing backups of human feces and continued mold growth.
“It makes me sad that we have to keep going through this and they don’t understand,” King said.
Now tenants are seeing upgrades, new appliances and light fixtures. The most recent report shows the complexity of “respecting inspection standards”.
Others took note of the changes and asked for help.
Doreen Kelsey lives at Hudson Ridge Apartments in Pasco County. She receives Section 8 housing checks, which are applied to her rent costs. Kelsey noticed a musty smell the first day she moved in and has been trying to fix the problem for months. Her son, Michael Walach, was hospitalized several times and Kelsey suspected mold was to blame.
“Michael started going to the hospital on January 17. They diagnosed him with pneumonia and rhinovirus the first time around,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey repeatedly asked her resort to test for mold. She said they rejected her claims, so she bought her own home mold test kits. The samples were sent to a testing company to determine if there was mold and what types were present.
“…They got back to me and found three different types of mold, all different, caused by humidity in the air,” Kelsey said. The report showed Aspergillus spp., Aureobasidium spp. and Cladosporium spp. were detected in her home.
With promises of resolutions from her apartment management company, Kelsey contacted the Pasco County Housing Authority. The response wasn’t immediate, but Kelsey was able to get a scheduled inspection for her unit.
The inspection resulted in a “fail rating” with her resort given 30 days to resolve the issues.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey fears losing her home or losing her Section 8 bonds because of her demands for mold remediation.
“We’re not in this position to have money to move again,” she said.
Although Richman Property Services, the company that owns the Hudson Ridge apartments, did not respond to our requests for comment, Kelsey said they had stepped in to help since an inspection was scheduled.
On Wednesday, she moves into a hotel for a week, paid for by the apartment complex. During this time, maintenance consists of removing and replacing walls where mold is a problem and inspecting the HVAC system.
What makes concerns like Kelsey’s all the more difficult is that Florida has no mold regulation laws that hold homeowners accountable.
If managing your apartment is not helping you, Florida Housing advises you to contact them directly. Your county housing authority and HUD can also help.
Click on here to contact the Florida Housing Authority.
Miami Field Office
Brickell Plaza Federal Building
909 SE First Avenue
Miami, Florida 33131-3028
LUIS M. ROLLE
Field Office Director
Jacksonville Field Office
Charles East Bennett Federal Building
400 West Bay Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
ALESIA SCOTT FORD
Field Office Director
Click on here to contact your county housing office.