Tenant looks for help after mold mess makes her home unlivable

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DENVER -- Months after feeling ill a Denver woman discovered a big mold problem in the condo she was renting, but weeks later she’s turning to the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers after getting stuck in a blame game between her landlord and the Homeowners Association.

Susan Burnett began renting a place at Denver's Woodside Village II Condominiums more than four years ago, but last October she started to feel sick and the problem didn’t go away.

"I had a headache every day," Burnett said.

Burnett says the headaches started around the time she began noticing black gunk coming up her kitchen drain, but she says the property manager at Woodside Village II wasn’t responding.

"I would come up and say, 'I am so sick. Get in here, do something, help me,'” Burnett said. “And they wouldn't listen to me."

That changed in January, when Burnett says a plumber discovered a rusted out pipe beneath the kitchen. When a crew removed kitchen cabinets to begin making the repairs, they uncovered an extensive mold problem.

Burnett watched as they jackhammered her kitchen and placed moldy items in her living room. Despite the work and the conditions, she remained living in the place for several days because she had nowhere to go.

“That’s when I really started to get really sick," she said.

After the plumbing in the kitchen was repaired, a mold inspector from Schaan Environmental Testing came in to conduct air and surface tests.

According to the report, “Significantly elevated mold conditions exist in the air. It must be assumed that all surfaces that come in contact with the air have been impacted.”

Tests also found total mold spores in the air were more than five times greater inside the condo than outside.

"If it's twice as much inside as it is outside that's a problem,” said Karl Schiemann, supervisor for Denver Public Health Inspectors.

After receiving the report, Burnett called Denver Health Inspectors and decided to move out, finding a co-worker to stay with.

"I think she probably did the very right thing to move out," Schiemann said.

A week after Susan moved out, her landlord, Carole Starkman, sent an email to the Woodside Village II Board saying, "We have a much larger issue with mold in this unit than just the kitchen." Starkman went on to say, "This is not my problem."

Two weeks after Burnett moved out, when she could no longer stay with a co-worker, her landlord paid for her to stay in a hotel. But by the end of the February, Burnett says the arrangement stopped and the condo was still not habitable.

"(My landlord) said, 'You're on your own. You fix it. Take your stuff. Just get out of here,’” Burnett said. “That's where she left me."

Though she's trying to move on, Burnett says nearly all of her things have been lost due to the mold. She says her insurance won’t cover mold and she says nobody has offered to help her with any of the costs.

"It's just been so frustrating not being able to get any help,” Burnett said. “There's no laws. There's nothing to help someone like me in a situation like this. I've talked to lawyers. I tried the city. I don't know what to do."

Burnett’s landlord, Carole Starkman issued the following statement to the FOX31 Denver Problems Solvers on Friday: “I feel horrible! She has every right to be angry... I am too! The association board has not acted on this in a timely manner. It`s an extreme cost that they need to follow through with and have been negligent in responding to me, as the owner, or my tenant.”

The Woodside Village Association Board is working with an attorney on the mold case, but they have declined to provide any comment to the Problem Solvers.

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