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Two families say mold inside rental house made them sick
North Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Moving into a new house is a new start for some. But for two families that excitement was overshadowed by something they say put their family's safety at risk: mold.
They emailed Action News wanting help, demanding accountability from the company that allowed them to move in.
"Knowing that they moved us in there and put our kids at risk," said Tommy Stauffer.
For Tommy and Karen Lozada the North Las Vegas home seemed like a perfect fit. When they moved in in February, they noticed patch jobs in some rooms but quickly overlooked them.
"We really didn't think anything of it, maybe they had plumbing issues from before," said Karen.
But the couple couldn't figure out why they were being bombarded with bugs outside their home. So Karen went to her neighbor's house to ask if he was having a similar problem.
"He said it's not the gnats you have to worry about, it's the black mold," said Karen.
What he said next shocked Karen even more.
"The previous renters before you found there was black mold throughout the home and they had to move out," said Karen.
That's when all the pieces started to come together.
"The kids have been sick since the first week that we moved here," said Tommy.
Tommy started to look around the house, even going into the attic where the air conditioning unit is.
"The bottom of the pan that's underneath the air conditioner was full of water," said Tommy.
The couple was so worried they hired a mold inspector in May.
His report shows major and abundant types of mold in part of the home, specifically their daughter's bedroom. Tommy and Karen couldn't get to the neighbor's house fast enough to find out who that previous renter was.
"The water had actually leaked all over Autumn's dresses. All over a bunch of her Christmas dresses that I had," said Krista Berglund.
Krista and Lance Koch's eight-year-old daughter also slept in that room.
They moved into the home on Rio Bravo in March 2011. It wasn't long after that they say they noticed the air conditioning unit was leaking.
So Krista called and wrote a letter to The Realty Group Property Management who managed the home. She says someone came out to fix the leak, but the musty smell didn't go away and her daughter became sick.
"She was having trouble breathing she was getting colds constantly," said Krista.
Krista took Autumn to the doctor several times in July and August. Then she became curious about something in Autumn's closet.
"When we originally moved in and I was putting stuff away in the closet, I had seen the cardboard and I just assumed it was an attic entry," said Krista.
Lance peeled off that cardboard, documenting it all on his cell phone.
"I'm going to remove the cardboard now to see what's underneath it. Just as I suspected black mold," explained Lance, talking while he was filming on his iPhone.
Days later they sent the management group another letter, demanding they fix the air conditioning leak that Krista suspected was the source of that suspected mold. If they didn't, Krista threatened to terminate the lease. Meanwhile, Lance continued documenting the problems on video.
On November 28, 2011 he took a video showing a water leak in the laundry room. The couple says The Realty Group Property Management never fully fixed the leak. So they moved out around Christmas. Now they say the management group is trying to collect fees since they broke the lease.
"They were doing Band Aid fixes on a much more serious situation," explained Attorney Kim Price.
Both couples have now hired Price. He says he's trying to figure out why the problem never got fixed properly in the first place.
We called The Realty Group Property Management. They say they quickly fixed the water leak in the home. They say there was never any mold in the house and they have pictures to prove it. But when we asked to see them, they wouldn't send them. They also refused to do an on camera interview and talk about what was underneath that cardboard.
"The lease specifically says that they are not aware of any mold on the property," said Price.
But Karen and Tommy think The Realty Group Property Management was aware of the mold. The couple has since moved into another home managed by the same company. But before they moved, Karen says the company wanted her to sign a waiver.
"Releasing them of any sickness or liability while being on the property," said Karen.
Karen refused and is now fighting to get back money for moving expenses. Both couples say they just hope the home is mold free before the next tenant moves in.
"Whoever decides to move into this house again make sure that it's done right before you do cuz it's not a good situation," said Tommy.
According to the Clark County Assessor's web site, the actual homeowner lives in Virginia. We called him but never heard back. Lawyer Kim Price says he's hoping to come to some agreement for both couples. We're going to keep in touch with him to see what comes of it.