‘Make it right’ | Family continues fighting rental company over moldy, ruined furniture
Better Call Harry Investigation pushes Main Street Renewal to increase settlement over a moldy nightmare
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Cynthia Gray, her daughter Delicia Davis, and Delicia’s 3-year-old daughter spent Christmas in an empty house, but at least it’s theirs. The Snellville family closed on a house in October after fleeing a rental home with a moisture issue that destroyed most and possibly all their belongings.
“As much as I am thankful, there’s an emptiness here because it’s like, half of a house,” Davis said.
The family contacted Atlanta News First Investigated and Better Call Harry in October to complain about their corporate landlord, Main Street Renewal (MSR). They rented a home in late June but fled in early August after a mold test confirmed an extreme mold count, with the humidity levels in some rooms over 70%.
The Texas-based company owns thousands of rental properties across the U.S. and nearly 2,000 complaints to the Better Business Bureau.
After Atlanta News First aired a story, lawyers for the company raised its settlement offer from $2,500 to $7,500. In December, it raised the settlement offer to $20,000, but the family said the offer isn’t enough. They estimate their losses at nearly $60,000.
“What they are offering us is like a slap in the face because it does not replace our time, our things,” Davis said.
Better Call Harry received a copy of the settlement offer, which comes with a caveat. The homeowners have seven days to remove their belongings or “MSR will take legal action to regain possession of the Property.”
Davis said she cannot retrieve the family’s belongings because they’re covered in mold. She and her mother rejected the offer and hired a law firm specializing in mold contamination claims.
“This is my plea to Main Street Renewal. Make it right, make it right.”
Cynthia Gray masked up for a tour of the home she rented this past summer. As she stepped into the living room, she exclaimed, “I’ve never seen mold this much in my life!”
Cynthia and her daughter Delicia Davis moved into their Snellville rental property at the end of June. They’ve been fighting with their corporate landlord ever since.
“I didn’t know mold could grow on a television,” Cynthia said as she gave Atlanta News First Investigates a tour of her granddaughter’s bedroom.
Less than two weeks after moving in, Delicia Davis emailed her corporate landlord about the moldy smell but said Main Street Renewal did little to address the problem.
When mold started growing on her daughter’s furniture, she knew it was time to go.
Not long after the family moved in, Stacie Khayyam, the previous tenant, knocked on the Grays’ door with a warning. Khayyam said she and her husband moved out of the home two months earlier. Khayyam returned to pick up leftover mail but said when she saw someone was living there, she felt an obligation to warn them.
“I wanted to find out if the person who lived in that home was renting from Main Street Renewal because they needed to know the truth about what could happen to them, what could happen to their belongings,” Khayyam said.
Khayyam provided Atlanta News First with an email from a Main Street Renewal employee who acknowledged receiving pictures of “organic growth” and apologized. Khayyam said Main Street Renewal’s solution was to add a dehumidifier.
“I was terrified because when she opened that door, and I saw that they had moved all of their furniture in their living room set their dining room set, I knew what was going to happen,” Khayyam said.
Gray took Atlanta News First Investigates into the master bedroom to show a forest of mold growing on her shoes.
Gray and her daughter paid $2,500 to two different mold-sampling companies. Atlanta News First Investigates asked J.D. Ortega, a mold expert and the owner of No Mold Atlanta, to analyze the results.
Ortega said the house’s outside penicillin aspergillus level - which is a common type of mold - was around 194. “But in this particular house, when you compare it to the inside which was the master bedroom, it was 3,327,” he said. “That is an astronomically higher number than the outside.”
Ortega said at a 55% humidity level, mold spores will grow after three days. Results from the test show the humidity level in the family room was 78%.
On Oct. 4, Main Street Renewal relocated the Davis family to a hotel. Delicia said the company offered relocation to another property and reimbursement for their mold tests, but after Atlanta News First’s investigation, Davis said the company offered $7,500. She said their expenses, not including their lost belongings, are more than double that amount.
Here are the takeaways to this story:
When renting a home, particularly if it’s owned by a very large company, do a pre-move-in inspection.
If you don’t know what to look for, hire a certified home inspector to check the appliances and the HVAC, and have them look for any major problems that could make your life miserable. A few hundred dollars for an inspection could save you thousands of dollars in damages.
If there’s something you would like Atlanta News First′s Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry to look into, fill out this submission form.
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