Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Gina L. and I moved into the apartments at La Venezia in November 2002. We moved out in April 2003. My husband, 3-year-old son and I were very impressed with the spacious apartment we moved into (Apartment 212). We wanted to make it homey and nice.
We were welcomed with open arms and given a checklist. We were asked to write down any problems we thought there were with the apartment. We noticed a stain on the wall in our master bedroom and reported it to the maintenance person, Chris, (no longer with La Venezia). At first we thought we might have spilled coffee or tea on the wall and my husband painted over it. The stain reappeared after it had rained. We called maintenance again, but the problem was never fixed. At the time we rented the apartment, the complex was not owned by LaVenezia, L.L.C. It was operated and managed by Epoch Management.
FEELING SICK Around December 2002
My son began getting cold symptoms. We started bringing him to the doctor and he was placed on antibiotic after antibiotic. He had diarrhea, green mucous discharge constantly running from his nose, temperatures, ear infections, etc. I remember one day driving in the car and he was on antibiotics and he tried to blow that discharge from his nose, but it would not come out. He said, “Mommy, look, I can breathe!” I thought, thank God. Hopefully this will be the last of it. However, it just kept continuing. We were constantly called to take my son out of daycare because of his high temperatures and vomiting. Let me state that his symptoms began well before he was placed in daycare. I was constantly out of work because of respiratory problems, bronchitis, ear infections, diarrhea, headaches, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, etc. Someone would ask me a question and a minute later I would forget the question or I would begin slurring my words. I was so forgetful. I never had any problems with asthma or my breathing before moving into La Venezia.
We moved out of La Venezia in April, however I am still sick. I keep getting ear infections, my body constantly aches like the flu, I am exhausted all the time and I am going to be seen by a specialist shortly. The doctors are perplexed and my family is very worried about me. This has been a constant battle and I just want my health back so that I can enjoy time with my family. After work, I just go home and go to sleep. I sleep the weekends away and I am constantly taking Advil or placed on antibiotics. My husband was very ill while living at LaVenezia also. He also had breathing problems, diarrhea, headaches, etc.
THE NEW OWNER AND HIS CONCERN FOR RESIDENTS
In January, I had spoken to David Taylor and he told me that he was not aware of the problems because he had just bought LaVenezia in January. He offered to move us into another apartment building after many letters and he was very cooperative when the health inspector came to point out the mold, the roof leaks, the cracks, poor paint jobs, window leaks, etc. He was somewhat apprehensive, but moved us into another building. We were also not obligated to the Lease Agreement from that day forward as I knew a little about Florida Law and the responsibility of the owner. Even though the health inspector showed him the problems and the mold in apartment 212, David Taylor would not admit to mold. He would only admit to water or plumbing problems. I find that quite peculiar, as water damage is the cause of mold.
When Bob Kallotte (the health inspector) mentioned court to David Taylor and made a comment on David Taylor’s Rolex watch, David Taylor said that he wouldn’t be wearing that Rolex watch in court if he had to go. David Taylor also said to me that he had to worry about the buildings because of the next rainstorm. I find it strange that Florida has had an unusual amount of rain this season. Have you noticed any water intrusion in your apartment? The maintenance person, Ryan Berry came into our second apartment to look at the air conditioning unit and the window leaks we were complaining about. He said to my husband that he did not understand why we had window leaks as they had cleaned those windows up real good. Did you know that painting over mold or putting sealer over the mold only masks the problem? In fact, David Taylor sent us a letter from an ‘inspector’, Tony Posa. This ‘inspector’ did inspections for hotels, yet we received an inspection from this man stating that there was no mold in our apartment.
I thought it was a coincidence that the maintenance manager was hired by David Taylor and previously worked in the hotel industry. I found it interesting that we received a notice on our door from management saying they were doing air quality testing. What type of air quality testing? How thorough? How objective? Was it because they were looking out for our health or was it an attempt to make us believe that there were no mold problems with inadequate testing? Have you noticed the late night commercials regarding renting apartments at LaVenezia? They show the beautiful property, but they don?t show any remediation.
DANGER – APARTMENT NUMBER TWO AND THE THREATS BEGIN
It was not long before David Taylor and Beverly Crafts changed their attitude to nasty. I was approached by Beverly Crafts and David Taylor in a golf cart outside of my apartment (1875) before a gathering at the clubhouse. They were trying to intimidate me and I was in the car with my mother and son. David Taylor asked why I was still living there and why I was smoking if my mother had COPD. I responded by telling him that I was not smoking inside the car and I would not subject my mother and son to the smoke. Also take into consideration that when we did smoke, we went outside onto the lanai. We never smoked in the apartment. Of course he tried to blame our health issues on smoking.
I found it ironic that he would bring this hypocrisy up in front of Beverly Crafts who does smoke. I also know the risks of smoking and health, but I have never heard that smoking contributes to memory loss, urinary tract infections and yeast infections. I chose to put a cigarette in my mouth and light it, however I did not choose to breathe in mold spores, I was forced without my knowledge. I also wonder how my son and mother (both nonsmokers) could develop breathing problems and a list of medical issues. Beverly Crafts called me crazy. At that time, I suggested to Mr. Taylor, if he wanted us to move he could waive our cost of rent and we would immediately move out. He did not respond well to that. In fact, he said, “It’s all about money with you, isn’t it Gina?” I say to myself, all about money? Here we were paying for a hotel room, throwing away all of our belongings because of mold contamination, out of money, robbed of our health, out of health insurance, a child constantly having diarrhea and a green discharge from his nose, etc. and here is a man who has a wife and son highly allergic to mold.
I wrote David Taylor a letter offering him and his family to live in Apartment 1825 while we were staying at the hotel. Of course he did not subject his family to the mold spores. I don?t think the man cared if we were homeless and sick or not. All he could think of was his business and his money. He then asked if my employer was aware that I was faxing letters to LaVenezia’s office. I explained that my employer’s assistant was well aware of what I had been doing. He also pointed out that he and his brother knew Larry Sewell (employer at the time) very well. I found it no coincidence that I lost my job soon after that.
THE POLICE KNOCKING ON MY DOOR
The same exact day following the golf cart incident, I was stopped by Beverly Crafts as I proceeded to go into the clubhouse to follow a neighbor (Pam Billichuk). She told me that I could not come in. I told her that I could and I did go into the clubhouse. The next thing I know, David Taylor pulls me to the side and tried to hint to me that he was my friend and that I should leave or Beverly would call the police. I gave him a wink and said sure you are my friend David. After all, who is in charge at LaVenezia, David Taylor or Beverly Crafts? I was peacefully handing out factual informational flyers and I believe that they did not want this information known to the other residents.
I went back to my apartment to cook supper. Let me point out that we were paying rent at LaVenezia and paying for a hotel room at the same time because the apartment was uninhabitable. We could not cook dinner at the hotel so I proceeded to go to the Apartment 1825 and cook dinner when I heard a loud knock at my door. It was the police. They said they received a complaint that I was screaming across the clubhouse. Of course that was not true. I was told to remain silent and listen to what I could and could not do there. I patiently listened. I am legally allowed to send mail and also to stand outside of the clubhouse and hand out informational flyers to those who are willing to receive them. The second choice was not an option as I knew that David Taylor and Beverly Crafts would lie and call the police on me again. I thought this was funny?..after I received the riot act, one of the policemen asked me who he could call regarding mold in his home.
MOM UNDERGOES UNNECESSARY SURGERY
My mother got very ill in Apartment 1825 after staying there for just a few hours. I had to fly to her home because the doctors could not understand what was wrong with her and thought she might be having heart trouble. She underwent a catheterization and the doctor did not find any blockage. Finally, she was placed on Prednisone an inhaler and an antibiotic. She was on her way to feeling better, but it was very stressful and scary.
IF WE HAD ONLY KNOWN!
In short, I am deeply disturbed that we rented from management and they were aware or shortly became very aware of mold issues. However, they continue to partially work on half of a building while the other half is still occupied. That is unheard of. There are dumpsters filled with wood and the smell of mold. There are apartments occupied that have not been re-mediated. People are getting sick and they don’t even know that it is caused by water intrusion leading to mold spores. Take a walk around your apartment complex and you will see for yourself. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that they are fixing the outside of the apartment buildings, but yet they are not tearing down the inside walls? We only saw the water damage in our apartment when management opened the wall and the ant infestation poured out. David Taylor had maintenance come in to work in apartment 212 while my husband was still moving.
My husband had no idea the maintenance person was going to open the wall while he was in there. The man opened the wall and ants came pouring out onto the ceiling, the walls and the floors. My husband pulled out the video camera and taped it. That would explain the ant problem that we constantly had. Ants follow the water. Two movers from Two Men and a Truck were present that day and could not believe their eyes.
MOVED OUT AND STILL FACING HEALTH ISSUES
Beverly Crafts has called me crazy, she has also told me that I should move from Florida because there is mold everywhere, I have been threatened, I have lost jobs and my health. My husband has also lost his job. I have been harassed and threatened, however, I will continue with my freedom of speech and my purpose to make residents aware of this issue. I urge you to contact your Sarasota County Health Inspector, Bob Kallotte if you have been sick. The Sarasota County Health Department (Robert Kallotte) inspected our apartment at 212 in February 2003 and it is documented quite clearly that there was mold throughout the apartment due to water leaks. These records are public. Anyone can call and request any inspections done at LaVenezia. Don’t believe me. Make a call. See for yourself.
WHY I CHOOSE TO SPEAK ABOUT THIS
The purpose of this letter is to create awareness in your LaVenezia apartment complex. Take a look around and see the cracks on the buildings, wood all over the place in dumpsters, etc. You will also see and smell mold. Now look to see if that building is unoccupied. The building should be empty while they are doing this work and the residents should be notified. Why? Simply because those microscopic mold spores cannot be seen with the naked eye. I do not want anyone else to experience this unhealthy exposure and the domino affect. However, I already know people who have lived there and have been sick.
This issue has become so important to me that I am joining other groups to volunteer my time to set guidelines through the Environmental Protection Agency and legislature. Don’t kid yourself. This issue should be very important to the health insurance industry. After all, there are so many people who go to the doctor repeatedly because they are sick and they are initially told that they have a cold. Our tax dollars pay for this. The elderly are at stake and what about the out-of-pocket costs to pet owners? You should be concerned for your health and your family’s health. You should also be concerned for your neighbor’s health.
Cc: David Taylor
Most people think that if they have mold, they must be a horrible housekeeper. Let me assure you that I have videos of my apartment and it was very clean. People are afraid to bring this issue up as they feel they may be accused of being a dirty person. Mold has nothing to do with housekeeping. Mold is caused by poor construction and water intrusion. Water that is dormant for 72 hours turns into dirty water causing mold. It is the mold spores that cause people to be ill. I have heard so many people defend themselves by stating they are clean people. Mold does not discriminate. Mold should not be growing in your apartment.