Monday, May 13, 2013

Mold a Tricky Problem for Condominium Owners

By: Nathan Lamb

A mold outbreak is causing legal and financial headaches for residents of a Palm Strings condominium complex, according to this story from the Desert Sun.

The problem was discovered more than a year ago by retired school teacher Rita Siegel, who found a water leak from a neighboring condo had seeped through a shared wall and into her closet.

Siegel blames the damp conditions for causing a mold outbreak in her unit, and she moved out of the Riviera Gardens complex shortly after. Living in hotels while waiting for the problem to be fixed, she’s also been locked in a lengthy dispute with the homeowner’s association, its insurance company and the bank that owned the neighboring condo unit—the condo unit with the leak was vacant following a foreclosure.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained that mold in shared walls is a complicated issue that’s outside their jurisdiction. Since no state agency has direct authority over mold, those disputes are typically settled through the legal system.

Los Angeles attorney Robb Strom is not representing Siegel, but he averages at least 10 mold lawsuits per year. He said homeowner’s associations are often involved in such cases and can be found liable. He added most cases settle out of court.

The homeowner’s association claims they were responsive to the issue when it was reported, and that Siegel was uncooperative. The association claims the mold problem at the unit has been fixed, but Siegel retained an environmental consultant who says otherwise.

Siegel told the Desert Sun she’s hired a lawyer, but was uncertain if she’d file a lawsuit.

According to the EPA, mold outbreaks can occur almost anywhere there’s moisture and oxygen. Health impacts vary according to age, allergy sensitivity and level of exposure. Common symptoms include headaches, breathing difficulty, allergic reactions or aggravated asthma. Mold spores can also be toxic in some circumstances.

No comments: