NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida -- A single mom renting a New Port Richey apartment says she complained for months to management about the mold inside, but nothing was done. She called 10 News, and management got to work.
Nicole Nikolic says the mold inside her apartment grew so out of control it started growing on her furniture, on her clothes, and on her shoes. In November, her father hired an air quality control company, Pure Airs Control Services, Inc., to inspect the apartment. Test results showed abnormally high mold count on surfaces and in the air.
Management says a water leak caused the mold issue. On Thursday, district manager Tori Boyd assured 10 News repairs will be finished in a few days.
Management says they cut out and replaced the sheet rock in Nicole's daughter's room. "No, they did not," says Nicole. She says she has no confidence in the work being done in her apartment.
Last week, the peeled back pink wallpaper unveiled walls covered in mold. Her daughter's closet also had mold. Nicole says she complained for months to the property manager, but nothing was done. Then, their health problems began.
"It's a death trap," says Nicole.
She says there's still mold throughout the apartment. "There's black mold growing in there," says Nicole as she points to the air conditioner.
Nicole opens the doors underneath the kitchen sink to show mold covering the inside of the doors. "My kitchen is condemned with mold."
In a statement, the district manager for Elon, the managing company, says there are "fail-safes" in place to address mold. Tori Boyd says, "Bottom line, it starts with reporting by the resident. If we don't know about it, we can't fix it."
Nicole says for months she complained, by phone and in person, until her attorney sent a letter to management. Martin Lawyer with Bay Area Legal Services says that's not enough. Lawyer says, "Number one: put it in writing."
Lawyer says be specific when you write that letter. "Describe the maintenance problem, say to the landlord they have seven days to fix or correct it, what you would do if the landlord doesn't fix it in seven days, withhold rent or terminate the tenancy."
Even if the mold problem is corrected, Nicole says the damage is done. She says, "I would not move in here, not risk the health of my unborn child, my daughter's health, or my health."
Lawyer says the tenant has to be up-to-date on their rent for that 7-day notice to be legally binding, and if the issue is mold, health problems have to be documented by a doctor. You can file complaints against a landlord at the Department of Consumer Services under Florida's Department of Agriculture.
Boyd says to finish making repairs in Nicole's apartment, she will have to move out her furniture. 10 News asked Boyd for a detailed list of the work being done, plus the contractor's name, but we have not received that information.
Nicole is not alone; we have other tenants at Ranchside Apartments, and at another complex managed by Elon, who say they too are having mold issues.