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Mold Forces Senior Citizens To Evacuate Greenville Apartments

Former tenant says management failed to take action months ago

Greenville, SC –

www2.wspa.com Click for full story and video

UPDATE – POSTED 2/14/12

A former AHEPA tenant says management should have taken action last summer when she lodged several complaints about mold in her apartment.

Donna Lewis says she and her husband lived in the building for seven months in 2011. She says her asthma flared up constantly and both she and her husband suffered allergy and sinus problems after moving to the building in February 2011. She says she could see mold in their apartment and complained to the property manager on several occassions but no action was taken to investigate the problem.

“Two days before we moved out, they sent the maintenance man to scrape the mold off our window and vacuum the carpet, and that was it,” says Lewis.

She says many of her neighbors were also complaining of breathing problems and management should have done something long before now to protect them.

John Hayes, AHEPA’s attorney, says management responded appropriately once they had multiple complaints from several residents.

“If it was just one resident complaining last summer, (management) would have believed the mold problem was limited to that person’s apartment,” says Hayes.

He says AHEPA will refund the Lewis’ $546 security deposit. Lewis says she and her husband have not had any more respiratory problems after moving out of the AHEPA building in October.

ORIGINAL STORY – POSTED 2/10/12

A mold infestation has forced 27 senior citizens to evacuate their apartment building in Greenville. The group that manages the building also has two properties in Columbia that have mold.

AHEPA Apartments 242 is located on Woods Lake Drive. AHEPA is a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for low-income and disabled seniors in 21 states, receiving funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

25 of the 48 units in Greenville were evacuated Thursday after an environmental testing firm detected “elevated levels of mold” in the 25 units, according to John Hayes, an attorney representing AHEPA. Hayes says some residents complained of allergies and asthma-like symptoms that could be caused by the mold. AHEPA has also partially evacuated two of its apartment buildings in Columbia because of mold.

“We believe it has to do with the way these buildings were built,” says Hayes, who specializes in construction law. “But we have to not only figure out what’s going on; we have to come up with a plan to fix it.”

He says the same general contractor and architect designed and constructed all three buildings. He says AHEPA has filed a lawsuit against the firms, declining to name them because of the pending litigation.

Hayes says the respiratory issues caused by the mold have not created any more serious health problems for the residents.

“I’ve had bad allergies and headaches,” says Caroline Yokim, one of the seniors who was evacuated. “But I’ve had allergies for a long time, so I can’t say for sure that it was caused by anything environmental here.”

The residents are now being housed at local hotels. Hayes says there is no timeframe on how long it might take to get the seniors back into their apartments.

“We still have to find the exact cause of the mold and fix it because if we don’t fix it, the mold will come back,” says Hayes.

He says an investigation of the two buildings in Columbia showed the structures were built without critical moisture-diversion material that is supposed to be placed between the exterior walls and the facade. The Greenville building will be investigated soon.

Environmental crews were busy Thursday de-contaminating the affected apartments and cleaning residents’ belongings.

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