Tenants Fight Mold and Monongalia County Landlord - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Tenants Fight Mold and Monongalia County Landlord

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A Monongalia County couple tried to rent a home outside of Morgantown, but say they found it too hazardous to move in. Now, they're fighting to keep everyone else safe from what they call it's dangers and "negligent" landlord.

"It seemed quiet," Tammy Earle said. "A peaceful, quiet area."

When Nathan and Tammy Earle saw the house for rent in the Sabraton area of Monongalia County, they thought it would be a perfect fit for them.

"I loved it because of my grand kids," Nathan Earle said. "I could take them four-wheeling and fishing and things like that."

Before they even moved in, Tammy says she realized it wasn't their "peaceful" home, but a health hazard. As she cleaned out the cupboards, her chest felt tight.

"It's hard to breathe," she said. "I felt like a burning in my chest."

Soon, Tammy thought she knew the cause of her distress: mold.

The Earles say they found mold throughout the basement, the crawlspace, roof and elsewhere. Nathan has asthma, and couldn't be in the house more than a half an hour.

"It felt like an elephant sitting on my chest," he said. "People's got asthma pretty much have a built in mold detector. We know it's there."

C.J. Cira sees this problem all the time. He's an expert in environmental issues, like mold remediation.

"You can't really shut the door and isolate it and say 'Well, as long as we don't go into that room or go into that basement, we're not going to have a problem,'" Cira said.

That's because mold spreads through air ducts or pipes and once it takes hold of a house, it takes more than some bleach to loosen its grip.

"Unfortunately if the water has started to absorb up into the drywall you can have as much as if not more mold on the backside of it so cleaning off the front is basically just putting a band-aid on a larger problem,'" Cira said.

The Earles claim the landlord, Fred Snider, assured them there were no problems with the house before they moved in.

When we returned recently, the basement smelled of bleach and plastic covered the crawlspace.

"He must have just put all that plastic in, which... a little late," Nathan Earle said. 

After they found the mold, Tammy said Snider refused to admit the problem and hung up on her.

"It was just like, from there... it's been a nightmare ever since," she said.

The Earles already paid a deposit, two months rent, and the cost of a professional mold evaluation which recommends no one live there until the mold is removed and another professional test deems it safe.

The Earles want their money back, but said it's about more than just the money now.

"What makes this personal is his blatant disregard for anybody's health," Nathan Earle said. "He doesn't care. It doesn't bother him one bit."

In a phone call, Snider said there is nothing wrong with that house before saying his lawyer told him not to comment on the issue.

State laws require a landlord to maintain units in a "habitable" condition, but there's little, if anything, to stop a landlord from renting a home full of toxic mold to an unsuspecting tenant.

More on that, later this week.