In Wilmington, North Carolina, Mayor Saffo received a very disturbing report from the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) about the overwhelming case of mold in rental property units.
Mold in Rental Property Units: Wilmington’s Mold Crisis
By late October, 2021, Wilmington neighborhoods—especially those in Creekwood—were so overrun with a mold infestation that PODS storage units and large city dumpsters could be seen at every apartment complex and on nearly every street.
Between October and November, about 80 families were displaced. Tentatively, the Wilmington Housing Authority gave an estimate of $100,000 per month for mold remediation and tenant relocation due to mold expenses.
In November, Mayor Saffo asked for a more concrete report by December 1, but the WHA were not able to come to a satisfactory conclusion and asked for an extension. That extension was granted and the Wilmington Housing Authority gave a final, more devastating report at the end of 2021. Their conclusion was that mold crisis was significantly worse than they could have imagined.
At the end of December 2021, Mayor Saffo was informed that 111 families (and counting) have been displaced from their homes. In addition, over $8 million dollars in remediation and relocation costs have accrued against landlords and the city. While housing authorities claim this next year seems more “hopeful” because they’re remaining “proactive” against this current mold crisis, Mayor Saffo has predicted pandemic-related labor and supply issues will inhibit their ability to reduce mold in rental property units by 2023.
While stating he was grateful for their thorough report, Mayor Saffo added, “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This is a tough one. And we have to get these people [the displaced families] back as quickly as possible.” He continued, “I wish we could get everybody back in there within six months, but I don’t see that as being realistic based on what we’re seeing out in the marketplace—even with the issues that we’re dealing with, even with our projects here at the city, how long they’re taking to get done.” He concluded that he believes that the mold problem will persist well into 2023, despite their efforts.
Because of this gloomy prediction, Mayor Saffo chose to recently reappoint two former members back onto the board to help provide support—former board member Stuart Franck and former board chair Jeff Hovis. Hovis is well-known for his experience overseeing the Rankin Terrace redevelopment.
Despite these reestablished board members, Mayor Staffo made it clear that the Wilmington Housing Authority is an independent agency that is free to handle the mold crisis as they see fit. However, he confirmed the city’s willingness to offer assistance should the WHA request it.
The WHA has announced a few particular needs:
• logistics for repairing apartments
• more contractors
• help in finding housing options for displaced families
• those with legislative authority who can use their sway with state or federal legislative delegates to increase the efforts to mitigate the mold crisis (suggested by Mayor Saffo)
Mayor Saffo has requested that the Wilmington Housing Authority provide frequent, monthly updates so that the public and city representatives can ask questions and offer services to help expedite the mold remediation projects. The soonest update is expected during the Monday morning agenda briefings or the Tuesday evening council meetings. Hopefully, the rest of Wilmington City Council will have an opportunity to get involved and make a difference in cooperation with the WHA.
Tenant Relocation Due to Mold: What You Need to Know
In an earlier article on MoldBlogger, titled, “How Long Does a Landlord Have to Fix a Mold Problem?,” we discussed some of the actions you can take as a tenant suffering with mold in rental property. One of the necessary steps to having a solid case as a tenant is to ensure you have the presence of mold confirmed by a housing inspector.
In cases such as the one in Wilmington, housing inspectors have confirmed the presence of toxic mold, which has permitted tenants to withhold rental payments while seeking safer shelter elsewhere.
Because the number of complaints is increasing, the WHA has adjusted their usual protocol, which normally dictates that they must wait for tenant complaints of mold before inspecting and moving forward. Instead, the WHA are running inspections on housing units without any prior complaints. This is not usual, but the damage to tenant health and the structural integrity of rental properties is far too dangerous to not take preemptive measures.
As this is a special, emergency case, these tenants will not have to jump through as many hoops as those in other regions who are experiencing isolated cases of mold in rental property units, so be mindful that you follow the usual protocols and don’t rush ahead with the “tenant relocation due to mold” option before constructing a solid case against your property owner or manager.
If you are a citizen of Wilmington, don’t hesitate to inform your landlord and/or county health department if you suspect you have a mold issue, too. The City of Wilmington website [https://www.wilmingtonnc.gov/departments/community-services/code-enforcement/make-a-house-building-maintenance-complaint] offers a form that you can fill out (only after you have found your landlord to be unwilling to take the appropriate steps to correct the issue). Below the form is a list of legal steps and professional contact information you can use to help further your case.
Concern for the Displaced Families
As of a month ago, 47 families from Creekwood, 19 from Woodbridge, 19 from Houston Moore, and 12 from Hillcrest have lost their homes and are in need of assistance. Currently, however, that count is at 111 and climbing.
A web search, as well as a GoFundMe search, was conducted to find out if there were avenues through which the general public could offer financial assistance. Unfortunately, no fundraiser could be found for any of the families. If you are aware of any charity option for the Wilmington families, please comment with the information and link below.
There are multiple articles on MoldBlogger that can help you get started on conquering mold issues. Whether you are a renter, a homeowner, or a landlord, you’ll want to stay up-to-date on the legal dos and don’ts, as well as the measures you can take to rid your home or your body of mold infestation. One lesson that can certainly be gleaned from the Wilmington mold crisis, is that you have advocates at your county health department, as well as state laws in your favor, regardless of whether or not it is a mold issue isolated only to your unit or it is a full-blown crisis affecting an entire community.
If you are a citizen of Wilmington, don’t hesitate to inform your landlord and/or county health department if you suspect you have a mold issue, too. The City of Wilmington website offers a form that you can fill out (only after you have found your landlord to be unwilling to take the appropriate steps to correct the issue). Below the form is a list of legal steps and professional contact information you can use to help further your case.
For more information regarding mold, mold prevention, and mold solutions, please check out the rest of MoldBlogger.com.
Article by Amanda Demsky from the MoldBlogger team.