‘Home’ isn’t always ‘sweet home’ — mold stymies tenants in the valley

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, David opened the garage door of his rented home in Ascot Park at Peccole Ranch. He was in for a nasty surprise.

His hot water heater had burst, flooding his living room. About three-quarters of an inch of water remained as a souvenir. He called his landlady. Next came water extraction and the pulling back of baseboards.

Old mold lurked beneath the baseboards — not something that had developed in a day. According to David, it extended throughout the living room, near the air conditioning unit. It had invaded the laundry area. And, it was ensconced in a kitchen wall.

That’s when the “parade of people started,” said David, who asked that his last name not be used. After the initial emergency visit, other companies dashed in and out. A well-known damage and restoration company arrived on the scene, cutting drywall along the way — without completing the job. Then came a carpet-cleaning company.

“The guy came in and said, ‘I’m not equipped to do this kind of work,’ ” he recalled. “It was pretty bizarre.”

Two guys in a pickup truck arrived, with no business license, David said. They simply replaced the drywall.

“All the mold is still in the (heating ventilation and air-conditioning) unit,” he said. “Every time the air conditioning would come on, it was circulating mold throughout that house.”

Mold presents special challenges for tenants, who often don’t lack the money necessary to prosecute a claim against negligent landlords or insurance companies that try to avoid paying out what is covered under a renter’s insurance policy, said Judd Balmer, an attorney specializing in mold contamination, construction defects, and insurance bad faith claims.

Losses can include personal injury caused by mold exposure; personal property damage and replacement, which helps avoid cross-contamination of a new home; out-of-pocket moving expenses; security deposits on a new home; additional living expenses when someone is left homeless; and storage.

There’s also the cost of testing by mold experts at a home to support a claim.

Balmer said he often takes promising cases on a contingency fee, helping to level the playing field.

“Landlords take full advantage of the fact that many tenants aren’t in a position, either because of finances or just general knowledge and experience, to know what their rights are and to know how to exercise their rights,” he noted.

One bullying tactic landlords use: filing eviction notices to frighten tenants into paying rent despite their moldy habitat or get out in five days.

Balmer estimates that 25 to 35 percent of his cases deal with rentals — numbers that he said have grown steadily over the past two years.

Jim Berchtold, an attorney with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and directing attorney of the Civil Law Self-Help Center, said people visit the center regularly seeking legal information about handling mold issues. Visitors are trying to represent themselves in the Clark County court system.

“Most of the people we see are usually trying to fight some kind of eviction, raising mold as a defense,” he said. “ ‘I’m not paying my rent because there’s mold in my home.’ ”


But having mold isn’t a defense for withholding rent, Berchtold said, unless a tenant has given written notice to a landlord, raising mold as an issue. While most tenants might argue that mold is a health issue, the assumption that mold is dangerous can be fuzzy, unless backed by documents, such as a doctor’s note and/or a report from a mold expert who has visited the home. The landlord then has 14 days to fix the issue or make a good faith effort.

“If the landlord hasn’t repaired the issue, then the tenant has a couple of options,” Berchtold said. “Under the law, they can start withholding their rent. You do not have the right to withhold your rent unless you give written notice.” Tenants also can terminate their lease and leave or sue their landlord.

If the tenant withholds rent, Berchtold said, the landlord will fix the issue — ensuring that the tenant pays — or opt for eviction, giving the five-day notice. The tenant has five days to come to court and file an opposition to the eviction, landing the fight eventually in front of a judge.

Balmer said Chapter 118A, Nevada’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, provides some protections for tenants who have given notice orally.

“If a tenant has not given the written notice of a condition, that doesn’t mean that the tenant doesn’t have the right to make a claim,” he said. “It means that the landlord has one more defense.”

The Southern Nevada Health District considers mold a “nonessential complaint” and an issue over which it has no authority, according to public information manager Jennifer Sizemore said. She added, though, that tenants can file a complaint with the building code department in their municipality. The health district also refers tenants to Nevada Legal Services, she said. David said that he and his wife sent an anonymous letter to Code Enforcement, but they have no idea about whether there would be consequences.

The “happy ending” to his story, he said, was his family’s escape from the lease and the house, after much legal wrangling that depleted his finances. The family exodus took place over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.

His wife, he said, summed it up: “If anybody wants to know how long it takes two adults and a disgruntled 15-year-old to move a 2,000 square foot house on their own, it takes eight days.”


After the move, the family dog stopped wheezing. David, his wife and son stopped having headaches. Looking back, he said, the headaches had begun the year before, when the family first moved in.

He said he recently noticed a “For Sale” sign in a window of the house.

Indoor environmental professional Todd Osmundson, owner-operator of Earth Resource Group, said mold sensitivity seems to vary: some people he’s met are sensitive to different types of mold; others aren’t sensitive at all.

His company does inspection and mold testing for homeowners, insurance companies, property management companies and building owners who suspect a problem.

“If you’ve got a mold problem, it can compromise immune systems,” he explained. “For anybody with severe asthma and health issues, you want to make sure it’s taken care of.”

Mold can remain long hidden, he said, perhaps in a plumbing leak in a wall behind a kitchen cabinet, which might not become visible for years.

Michael Becker, a contractor and president of PJ Becker &Sons Construction LLC, attributes some of the valley’s mold to the building craze of 10 years ago, when “not everybody was necessarily looking with an eye toward quality. They were looking more with an eye toward getting more done and making money.”

Mold often can be caused by oversized air conditioning units sweating during Las Vegas’ stormy, high-condensation summers and autumns, Becker said. Faulty construction can cause the condensation to dump into the roof.

Whether landlords address mold’s consequences responsibly, “It’s the flip of a coin,” said Will Dellaechaie, president of Summit Restoration, which works with insurance carriers and landlords to remediate mold.

Dellaechaie said he has worked with some landlords who “absolutely want the property fixed the correct way. It’s an investment.” But, he added, “there are definitely landlords out there who don’t see it that way. They’re extremely hard to work with. I would say we probably run into one or two of those a month.”

His company no longer works on apartments, which management companies often handle in-house. Management hasn’t always agreed with Dellaechaie’s company on how best to handle mold, especially when multiple common walls complicate the job.

Ultimately, the valley’s mold nightmares might result both from tenants’ ignorance of options and landlords’ ignorance of consequences.

“Some of these landlords don’t realize that it’s probably not going to cost as much as they think,” Dellaechaie said. “If they would take the time to turn in the claim and have an insurance adjuster come out to look at the property, and know what some of their options are, and they were a little more educated on what their policy is going to do for them, they might go a different road.”

Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
Las Vegas bartenders who worked the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival question what they were paid
Reneé Black, left, and her husband Griffin Black talk to the Review-Journal at their home in Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Reneé was a bartender at Route 91, and Griffin was a bar back. They were hired as independent contractors, but received forms months later indicating they were employees. They also were never paid their last day of tips. Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bad-beat jackpot money will finally be awarded
People who thought they had won in Station Casinos’ “bad beat jackpot” poker promotion were unhappy. They waited months to get paid. And now the bad-beat jackpot is gone.
New developments coming to Las Vegas' Craig Road
Gina Gavan, economic and business development director for North Las Vegas, discusses new development projects on Craig Road in North Las Vegas. Art Marroquin/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Dallisa Hocking And A Grandmothers Psychic Gift
Dallisa Hocking’s new “boutique soul center” pays tribute to her late Grandma Ellie. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Can't pay the IRS? You do have options
There's a little more than five weeks until this year’s tax filing deadline of April 17. But many small business owners are wondering, “How am I going to pay my taxes?” When owners haven’t set aside enough money to cover what they owe the government, they have options. — The easiest and cheapest alternative may be to dip into personal savings. — If you have available credit, you may want to borrow from a lender or credit card. — Also, the IRS can work out an installment payment plan.
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients Individuals with a valid Medicaid or Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card The $5.99 membership can be renewed every year for up to four years. The reduced Prime membership comes with the same benefits of a standard one, including free two-day shipping, Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Now. Last year, Amazon also joined a USDA pilot program that allows those receiving government assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy groceries through online markets like Amazon's FreshDirect or Walmart.
Jeff Bezos New Net Worth Revealed, Still Richest Man Alive
At the end of 2017, Bezos was estimated to be worth $112 billion, earning the top spot on Forbes' world's billionaires list. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon founder's net worth is now $127 billion, which the report states is the combined wealth of 2.3 million Americans.
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting The retailer announced the move in an open letter and an appearance by CEO Ed Stack on 'Good Morning America.' Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Dick's is also ending the sale of high-capacity magazines and sales of guns to people under 21 years old. The company ended the sale of assault weapons at Dick's-branded stores after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting in 2012. However, they were still selling them at its 35 Field & Stream locations. Nikolas Cruz, 17, shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.
Black History Month panel gives Las Vegas entrepreneurs advice
Five people with experience in business and government spoke Friday to the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas Among their advice: line up potential clients before starting a business, attend networking events and seek advice from experts in the industry The chamber, founded in 1980, has hundreds of members and focuses on the welfare of black-owned businesses in Las Vegas
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like