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Case of House Mold Problems & Concerns

Nightmare Home
By: Brett Davidsen, News 10, Rochester, NY

They bought their house from the United States government but now a couple from Sodus has nothing to show for it. They can't live in the house, can't sell it and can't afford to keep it.

It was supposed to be their dream home, the perfect starter house for Darlene and Mark Sovie. A fixer-upper but a house they looked forward to making their own.

"We lived in a mobile home for 17 years and this is our first home that we owned, said Darlene Sovie.

They spent $40,000 to buy the house, and thousands more to renovate it.

"We got a new furnace, new windows, new roof, new doors."

But three years later it now sits vacant. When they moved in, toxic black mold was growing in places they couldn't yet see. Family members were struggling with unexplained health issues. It only became apparent when Darlene went into respiratory failure.

A pulmonologist had stated that I had the mold spores in my lungs," said Darlene Sovie.

The mold infiltrated the house through the sub-flooring crawl space, an incomplete foundation allowed the moisture to cultivate.

The Sovies contacted their insurance company which ordered a mold work-up on the house. The report found air counts that were 8 to 18 times the outdoor levels and stated "exposure to these levels can be harmful to a person's health."

They tried to file a claim with their insurance carrier, but it denied them saying the mold was a pre-existing condition and not covered in the Sovie's homeowner's policy. As a result, the code enforcement officer from the town of Sodus condemned the house.

"I got memories here that can't be replaced, pictures on the walls that I couldn't take with me. My furniture is still here."

The mold is just about everywhere you turn now. So who sold the Sovie's this house? The United States government did. They bought it from HUD and the contract states that HUD doesn't guarantee the condition of the property. The house is sold, "as is."

The HUD contract warns them to get an engineer's inspection for their protection and they did.

Kim Brumber is with Neighbor Works, a non-profit community development credit union that offers counseling and education to people looking to become homeowners. She says she sees flaws in HUD's "as is" policy.

"When people go into a house and these houses are often lower priced, they see a bargain," said Kim Brumber.

The Sovies have written letters to their elected representatives with no luck. To fix the house would cost nearly as much as they paid for it.

According to Darlene Sovie, the building inspector told them, "The best bet for us was to burn it down."

With everything sunk into their contaminated home, the Sovies now have nothing and have filed for bankruptcy. Their dream of owning a home has become a nightmare from which they can't awake.

The Sovies say they are still hoping the bank will forgive the lien and avoid foreclosing on the property. They say that will allow them to keep the land and perhaps put a modular home on it.

Black House Mold Causes Family Evacuation

A family of six was forced to evacuate their rental home Tuesday after they discovered that it was full of black household mold.

Jerry and Stacy Laughman had lived in the rental home along with their four children for the past seven months.

The situation has prompted the family to question their health and their insurance policy.

The Laughman family has been plagued with respiratory and rash problems during their stay in the rental home.

"I can't believe I'm breathing this," said Jerry. "Some parts are really black. Some parts are green, some parts crawl."

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The Laughmans discovered the problem in late December. The landlord did not check the problem until last week.

"They took a picture and left, and then four days later we got a phone call saying we need to get out of the house right now," said Stacy.

The Laughmans now think the black household mold may have been responsible for the multiple respiratory, rash and flu problems that have plagued the family for the seven months they lived there.

The family moved from a hotel to a condo Tuesday night with very little of their belongings.

"We don't want to bring our furniture or clothes here," said Jerry. "We feel like they need to be cleaned or burned or something."

When Jerry checked his renter's policy he found that he was not covered for this kind of loss or claim.

After Call For Action contacted Nationwide, the company offered to help the family by paying for two weeks of additional living expenses if this problem proves to be dangerous.

The spores from the Laughman's rental home is being analyzed to see how harmful it is. The analysis will help doctors see if the household mold was the source of the Laughman's health problems.


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