Five military families are suing private housing companies over disgusting conditions at a Florida air base where the carpets were so dirty they grew mushrooms, rats ran rampant and there was so much mold the servicemen and women’s children became sick from it.
The families all lived at one time at the MacDill Air Base in Tampa which is operated by The Michaels Organization, a private company.
They say that the conditions at the base were so poor, they were all forced to move into motel at times to escape the filth.
Among their complaints are of maggot-ridden dishwashers, moldy air vents and carpets and filthy walls which the management company allegedly made no effort to fix adequately.
All of the families at some point had to move into hotels or other temporary accommodation because the conditions were so bad.
They say the company offered ‘cosmetic’ solutions like ‘washing or painting over the mold’ without fully inspecting them.
The carpet in one of the units of housing was so moldy it had started to grow mushrooms
Another family trapped an enormous rat in their house. Others found maggots in their dishwashers
There was pervasive mold which left the families and their children suffering headaches and sore throats
Because their accommodation at the air was automatically paid-for, they could never refuse to pay rent.
Every month, they receive a Basic Allowance for Housing which, near MacDill, starts at $1800-a-month. The military provides the money and it is then automatically deducted from the families, to be paid to the Michaels Organization.
The families say the mold problem at the base was so pervasive they suffered ‘pulmonary and respiratory problems, sinusitis, enlarged lymph nodes ,allergies, headaches and rashes, among other medical issues.’
Because their rent is automatically deducted from their salaries, they don’t have the option to withhold it, unlike other tenants.
‘Even when they were forced to live in motels, hotels, or other temporary housing’.
‘Mold areas were sanded without the proper mold remediation measures in place, dispersing air-borne mold pores throughout the residence and contaminating the entire residence and personal property belonging to members of the US military, their spouses and their children.’
They say they also suffered headaches, rashes and fatigue. In at least one instance, they went treated for so long that the mushrooms grew out of the floor and carpet.
Michael Lenz, a Master Sergeant in the US Air Force, his wife Traci have three young children aged 17, 13 and three.
They moved into the base in June 2018 on a one-year lease. The family says they were unable to view it beforehand and had to rely on a floorplan.
More examples of the rotting mold inside the homes. The families attorneys say they deserve better. Lawmakers agree
Once they moved in, they found maggots in the dishwasher and mold in the air vents, they said.
The housing office told them to ‘run bleach’ through the dishwasher and that the mold on their vents were ‘typical and harmless Florida mold’ which they could solve by wiping it with bleach.
Not long after moving in, the family says they started suffering itchy throats, burning eyes, coughs, headaches and difficult breathing.
The symptoms worsened over time but their three-year-old was rushed to urgent care two days after moving in with an upper respiratory infection and ear infection.
The men and women of our country’s armed forces deserve better treatment than what they have received.
The families’ lawyers
They repeatedly asked for their vents to be cleaned, but were told that they would be put on a list.
After months of back and forth which they say involved maintenance workers showing up but not conducting tests on the home, they moved out.
They also carried out their own tests which they say proved there were 23 different types of mold in the property including strains which contained ‘dangerous mycotoxins’ that can ’cause illness’.
Eventually, they moved out. Before they did, the got the full report from their inspection which found 23 different types of mold.
The father now has lung, liver and spleen damage which doctors say was caused by the mold. His wife says she suffers pneumonia-like symptoms and that an MRI proved she has suffered ‘brain changes associated with exposure to a water damaged building.’
The 17-year-old girl has spots on her skin that were biopsied and contained melanoma cells. The 13-year-old had a rash on her skin. She also has a lump on her wrist.
The three-year-old ‘continues to struggle with cognitive development and neurological episodes and suffers from unexplained seizures’.
The family says they spent $28,000 as a result of the conditions.
Some of the wives of the families involved appeared on CBS This Morning on Wednesday
Jason Norquist, a Special Forces Officer, and his wife Amie Norquist, suffered similar problems.
They and their four children, who are aged between one and 12, moved onto the base in July 2018.
But over the course of several months, they said the mold made the children sick and ruined their possessions.
Between ruined goods and hotel stays, they say they spent $60,000.
Ryan Morgan, a Staff Sergeant, his wife Erica and their two children aged two and seven have spent 58 days living in a hotel since moving on to the base in February this year.
Gary Elbon, a Staff Sergeant working as a criminal records and data manager, his wife Kayla have three children.
All of the men involved served at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida
They too have been forced to move on and off the base and say they have spent $47,000 doing so.
Jason Genrich, a Chief Warrant Officer Three, and his wife Jenny complain of similar conditions. He has completed four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The mold in their home gave her rashes and caused him such severe chest pain that he thought he was having a heart attack, they say in the lawsuit.
They have now lived off-base for seven months.
The issue has made its way to lawmakers who earlier this year called the private companies ‘slumlords’ and accused them of defrauding the federal government.
Now, there is a chance that some of the landlords may face criminal charges.
The Michaels Organization has not yet responded to the lawsuit.