Local residents say their low income housing is making them sick
CBS Local 2 stands for our viewers and their health after some Coachella Valley residents say their low-income housing is making them sick.
“I feel, at this point, a little hopeless. I know that my condition is irreversible. So, I know that eventually, I am going to die, but how do I live like this.” said 61-year-old Joan Davis.
Davis lives in Section 8 housing at Villa Mirage in the city of Rancho Mirage and says she has been hospitalized three times since moving there this past November. She told CBS Local 2 / KESQ News Channel 3’s Katie Widner that she is sicker than she has ever been, suffering from congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aggravations and repeated bouts with pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections. All of this is the result, she claims, of mold found inside of her apartment, Unit 20.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website cites studies saying exposure to mold can lead to a variety of health issues ranging from stuffiness to severe infections.
“Well, Joan is basically dying because of it,” said John Drenon. “She has good days and bad days. Lately, a lot of bad days because she can’t go back into her apartment because of the contamination that I now know exists through an air test that I had done.”
Drenon was the chief property manager located at the site from August of 2017 until January of 2018. He said he had an air quality test done after noticing Davis seemed to be more sick when she was inside of her apartment than when she was outside.
“The levels of mold in her apartment are toxic and higher than even the mold that is found outside,” he said. “Similar situation next door with Testacia Manning and her family and they’re the family that I moved out of their apartment.”
He provided a copy of those tests to CBS Local 2, which corroborate his claims.
Drenon said he tried in vain to inform the property management company, P.K. Management, of what was going on and that after numerous emails and phone calls went unanswered, he went to the property owners at The Hampstead Company. Drenon claims they eventually stopped answering his calls and sided with the management company.
“They ended up firing me and now the tenants are suffering even more,” he said. “So, I’m trying to still help them.”
Manning lived inside Unit 21, which shares a wall with Davis’ unit, for five years.
“My son is 2 and he looks like he is 4. It’s probably because of all the steroids in his body from the trouble breathing from living here,” she said. “My daughter has a hormone imbalance. She started her period at 5.”
Manning provided CBS Local 2 cameras a tour of the unit where water stains and some sort of substance was growing inside of a disconnected air conditioning unit.
“So, all the brown up here is from the water and it’s going all the way down to over here,” she said. “”This is all the stuff we have been breathing in. My two children and my fiance.”
Manning said all four members of her immediate family have struggled with respiratory issues and battled pneumonia in recent years. The family, which was recently relocated to a nearby unit, now keeps keeps a nebulizer and oxygen tank inside of their home. Before Manning and her family lived in Unit 21, her fiance and future mother-in-law, Shelia Wright, lived there.
“One day, I lost my balance in the kitchen and I went to lean on the wall and my hand went through it. And all they did was come in and putty it, put come bleach and paint over it,” Wright said.
Wright added that for years, she and other members of her family were in and out of the hospital. Both her mother and her father died on the property from pneumonia and congestive heart failure, she said. Now she wonders if the mold was to blame.
“I just need to know that it is going to stop and nobody else is going to hurt or there’s gunna be no more loss of life or that my grandchildren are going to be OK,” she said. “It’s just sickening- the realization that my parents are gone and possibly from this mold. It’s sickening.”
After reaching out to P.K. Management, the vice president of community development, Joyce Walker, provided the following statement:
“New management took over Villa Mirage in November 2017. Upon learning of possible water damage and potential air quality issues, current management immediately investigated and remediated the units in question. The units were mitigated and tested negative in January and February 2018 respectively. Management has no knowledge of any retaliatory acts toward any previous staff members at villa mirage. “
When CBS Local 2 followed up, asking for a copy of the negative mold tests, Walker declined and said it had become a legal matter.
Sean Smith, the public information officer for the city of Rancho Mirage said that after we started asking questions, the Code Enforcement Department received a complaint, which they investigated on Feb. 12. During the investigation, inspectors were unable to find signs of visible mold. Joan Davis, the tenant, provided staff with photos and a mold report from Dec. 4, 2017. Staff discussed the complaint with Tyrone Barfield of PK Management, LLC, who provided evidence that a mold inspection was done Jan. 22, 2018, and that remediation work was completed. At that point, staff concluded their investigation and there is no open case. However, inspectors are only able to investigate for visible mold, as any non-visible issues would need to be addressed through the management company or property owner.
A representative for The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing provided the following outline for renters who may be worried about habitability issues at their residence:
Step 1.) Contact the management company in writing. If you do not feel like the situation is being handled, reach out to the property owners. Then, if needed and applicable, the agency that subsidizes the property.
Step 2.) Contact your city’s Code and Compliance department and file a complaint
Step 3.) Contact The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Palm Springs office: 760-864-1541 City of Riverside: 951-682-6581 Email: email@example.com