JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A local man said he was forced to move out of his apartment early, after mold took over. Russell Martin said he first noticed mold growing on the ceiling in his apartment at Avesta Baymeadows in late October.
“At first it was a few small black dots on the ceiling, so I called to report it,” he told Action News.
Within weeks, he said it was a nightmare.
“It totally was because we couldn’t do anything about it,” Martin said.
Martin said the mold quickly spread to nearly every room, and eventually forced him and his roommates to abandon their apartment one month before their lease was over because his verbal complaints to management went unanswered. Martin began taking pictures to document the problem, and in November he put the complaint in writing, but said still not much was done.
“They sent someone over and they looked around and brought us one dehumidifier for a five-room apartment. Then, he said, 'We don’t use the term mold, we call it suspect growth.'"
Action News went to the Avesta Baymeadows office Wednesday, but the manager referred us to the corporate office. Within minutes the company's compliance director, Zachary Oseland, called and confirmed Martin’s complaint was filed in late November.
Oseland later sent us this statement:
“Upon very initial investigation, our records show that Mr. Martin notified of a potential issue in his unit on or about November 22. We promptly inspected the unit, did some cleaning, and purchased a dehumidifier for Mr. Martin to use. No further comment until I'm able to do a more thorough investigation, at which point I'll notify you if I have anything to add. Please let me know if I can provide any more information.”
Oseland also provided Action News with a copy of the agreement signed by tenants at all Avesta properties, outlining both the landlord's and tenants' responsibilities. We reviewed it with local attorney Jerry Sessions.
“I cannot believe -- based on these pictures -- that was even close to adequate,” said Sessions regarding the treatment.
Sessions said the law requires tenants to notify landlords about mold problems, and that landlords must also take reasonable action.
“Once it's brought to their attention, they need to act and they need to act quickly,” said Sessions.
Session said tenants in similar situations should be sure to read their lease carefully before signing it, document all complaints in writing and know their rights before a situation develops.
The Florida Department of Health said mold grows in areas of high humidity, and if left untreated, it could increase and form a health risk. If you have a mold complaint about an apartment or hotel, call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395.
According to the FDBPR, the most recent state inspection of the Avesta Baymeadows complex was conducted in May 2014, with four basic violations found, none of which were mold-related.