Rochester woman speaks out after living with mold in her apartment for over a decade

Woman finds mold in her apartment

Woman finds mold in her apartment

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Finding mold where you live can be scary. But what happens if you discover it in an apartment you’re renting? What should you do? What can you expect from your landlord?

News10NBC’s Lynette Adams takes you through one woman’s experience who didn’t want to take any chances when she suspected mold was making her sick.

Shirley Billups-Bell tried to tackle this problem on her own. But when she suspected mold and couldn’t get her apartment management to budge on new windows, she called News10NBC.

“I’m angry because I’ve been telling them more than 12 years about the windows,” says Billups-Bell. 

Billups-Bell had been cleaning her apartment windows with bleach for years. That’s what her landlord had advised. That didn’t stop her from regularly asking for new windows. When Billups-Bell, a Rochester City School Teacher, was injured at work and forced to stay home, the windows became a big issue.

The windows in her bathroom are original to the building, constructed in the 70s. The old windows appear warped and don’t even quite fit this space any more. Moisture gets in.

“They come in, paint over, they paint the window sills once, maybe twice,” she says. “I’ve been here for 12 years. Every time a new manager has come, I asked for new windows and the answer has been ‘No.'”

Billups-Bell started noticing residue on her dishes, on the blinds — everywhere. She suspected mold and hired a company to come in and test. She hired the Mold Law Group, a Georgia firm.

“They sent a federal certified mold inspector here the next day,” she explains.

From air samples, swab tests, and tests for humidity and moisture, testing found what she feared.

“Well, I cried. I think I was so shocked that I’ve been living in mold for 12 years,” she tells Lynette.  

A finding in her bathroom of 48 million colony units of bacteria caught Lynette’s attention.

“We get concerned when we get over a million of the brand negative bacteria,” says Austin Roof, the director of client strategies for the Mold Law Group. “That number is telling us how many colony forming units were able to be regenerated during that set time perimeter.”

Lynette asked Roof to interpret the report. He says it’s simple. Billups-Bell is at risk in this apartment.

“If it’s me and my family, and they’re not doing anything, I’m getting out of there,” says Roof.

National Property Management Associates owns Susan Apartments and 69 other properties nationwide. Lynette attempted to speak with the property manager. She locked the door and said “No comment.” She did give Lynette the regional manager’s number. Lynette called Erin Henry several times and left messages. 

She has yet to call back.

Lynette also reached out to what she was told was another office in buffalo. No call back from there either. So what recourse do tenants like Billups-Bell have?  

Ryan McCall is a senior associate with Tully Rinckey, an Albany law firm. 

“If it reaches the point where she can’t breathe and she needs to leave, at that point the landlord can’t charge her anything additional if she vacates the premises, because they failed to take care of the issue,” says McCall. And there’s a strong argument to be made pending the outcome of this situation. Her accommodations should be paid for by the landlord.”

“You have a head injury, post-concussion syndrome, dizzy, headaches. Sometimes you don’t know the days of the week, and then you come up with mold and you have to leave everything,” says Billups-Bell. “How many people can deal with that?”

Billups-Bell is essentially homeless. She’s staying in a hotel, while she searches for a new apartment. She’s also undergoing medical testing to see if her health has been affected.

A fundraiser has been set up to help Billups-Bell. Donations may be made using the QR code below: