Mold Misery: Renters with Infestations Face Growing Frustrations

WSVN — A plea for help tonight from renters dealing with mold infested apartments. Tenants telling 7News they’ve lost everything– even a child to a growing problem. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.

If you have any doubt about the damage mold can do, consider the case of 17-year-old Jared Dussault.

Within a year, he went from being a bright high school student to committing suicide.

Kelli Dussault: “He actually hung himself.”

Jared’s mother, Kelli Dussault says mold in their rental apartment made her son so sick he couldn’t go to school and in the end, couldn’t stand his life anymore.

Kelli Dussault: “The thing that gets me is that this is preventable. You know he would be 18 this month and it’s preventable. And that’s the problem. I know it’s his story, but it’s the story of so many others.”

Mold is everywhere here in South Florida.

When it’s in the air outside– no problem. When it’s in the air inside, it can be a very big problem.

Not only does it damage property, mold can destroy health in too many ways to count. And if you’re a renter with a mold problem, you’ll soon discover there’s no specific law or regulations to protect you if the landlord doesn’t clear up the problem.

Kelli Dussault: “You’ve lost everything, and I guess the hardest part of all is that there is absolutely nowhere to turn.”

Kailey Depriest also could not find help. She moved out of her rental apartment because mold moved in.

Kailey Depriest: “Completely amazed. I was surprised there was no code. I did go to code enforcement and they said there’s nothing they can do. They can stop a leak. They can have them fix a leak that can cause mold, but they can’t make them fix the mold.”

Even tenants in a brand new public housing complex found themselves with help when dealing with mold.

Chanel Charlton: “Oh it’s terrible, the smell is terrible.”

The only option for tenants is finding an attorney and filing a lawsuit. But that can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Attorney Bob Mckee: “The typical litigation time is two to five years on this kind of a case.”

Attorney Bob Mckee represents tenants in several mold related cases and says they are vulnerable because:

– Landlords often have insurance that does not cover mold claims, which can be expensive
– Renters belongings are ruined once they are contaminated
– Landlords can try to hold renters to their lease even if they can’t stay in their apartments

Bob Mckee: “There’s no reason why a state agency or city agency couldn’t do a simple swab test and simple single air test, compare it, see if it’s abnormal and if so, the apartment gets shut down and the lease gets terminated.”

Carmel Cafiero: “Why don’t we have that?”

Bob Mckee: “No one’s been motivated to do it.”

Victims say they hope a lawmaker will be motivated to make changes before more lives are ruined and more lives lost. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
E-mail: clue@wsvn.com
You can also send a tweet to @carmelonthecase