Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps an Unlucky Tenant

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Dear Bianca,

My apartment building was recently taken over my a small property management company, and they refuse to take care of black mold, a broken AC, and a huge gaping hole in my ceiling (which leaks filthy water onto my carpet).

I've lived in the same place for three years and all was well until a couple of months ago. That's when one of the neighbor's pipes busted, causing my ceiling to break open and water to drip onto my floor. I have a bucket under the hole to catch the water, but I've noticed a thick black mold forming on the ceiling where the hole was.

I've placed numerous service calls with the management company, and they always tell me they'll send someone by to correct the situation. But after 12 phone calls over the past month, no one has shown up. Should I just move out and break my lease?

-- Moldy Tenant

Dear Moldy,

Gross, gross, gross! I'm sorry you have to live in such deplorable conditions. I'm sure you already know this, but black mold can be toxic!

Instead of contacting me for advice, you need to give the Shelby County Health Department and maybe even the city code enforcement office a call, pronto! Black mold can cause allergic reactions, headaches, decreased attention span, dizziness, and even damage to the respiratory and nervous systems.

You'd think your management would rather avoid a possible lawsuit by taking care of this quickly, but some slumlords just don't care. For legal purposes, I'd suggest sending the company a letter alerting them of the problem and your subsequent attempts to contact them. Make a copy for your records as well.

You'll also want to take pictures of the hole in the ceiling and the mold surrounding it as proof that you have a problem. Send copies to the health department and the code enforcement office.

As for your lease, you should contact an attorney for further advice. If you manage to break free of the lease, check on the next company you rent from with the Better Business Bureau before signing a lease.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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