by Chadwick Meyer
Mold Complaint led to Retaliatory Eviction
Riverstone Residential Group
1756 Carmel Dr
Walnut Creek, California
We discovered a severe mold problem on the walls behind our daughter’s beds in the winter of 2008. We reported the problem, they “cleaned” it, but never took steps to address the clear cause. Despite a year and a half of promises to do something about the lack of insulation in the external walls, which causes condensation to form when the warm interior air meets the cold wall, they took no action. And in the end, they sent us a dismissive letter ignoring our real complaint about the walls and talking about “condensation on the windows” which is a minor problem totally not responsible for the mold issues that we experienced. When we pointed out how they totally disregarded our documented complaint, we received a 60 day eviction notice a few weeks later.
My family of four (2 daughters age 3 and 5) have been living in an apartment owned by Riverstone Residential Group (Carmel House Apartments, Walnut Creek CA) and we’ve had a severe mold problem for a year and a half. We discovered during the winter of 2008 that the walls behind our daughter’s headboards were thick with black mold. This is caused by the fact that there is no insulation in the external walls, so in the winter the inside of the external walls is very cold. When the warm interior air touches the cold wall, natural condensation occurs and the walls get wet (as does the carpet up to 12″ away from the wall). If any furniture is within 12″ of the wall, it restricts air movement and mold forms quickly. It doesn’t matter if you leave the windows open, to “air out” the apartment. As long as the air inside is warm, it contains moisture that condenses on the walls.
We complained and they quickly came and cleaned up the mold (which was about 3 square feet, and thick, behind both daughter’s headboards). We didn’t have a chance to take pictures unfortunately. They promised to do something about it, but after a year and a half of false promises and inaction, the management sent us a letter saying that the “the problem with condensation on the windows” was normal and they weren’t going to do anything about it. We were beyond frustrated by this blatant avoidance of the issue. We told them and contractors over and over again about the problem with condensation on the walls. We have 2 documented letters we sent to them, describing the problem, and specifically stating the problem is not the windows, but the walls. So we sent another letter explaining that they are ignoring the problem and just trying to avoid responsibility. A few months later we got a 60 day eviction notice. No stated reason. We will simply not be allowed to renew our lease (despite being model tenants with no complaints against us). Under normal circumstances that would be retaliatory eviction, but since our lease is up, they don’t have to renew it and presumably are legally allowed to kick us out without any reason.
We know of 3 other neighbors (left, right, and above) who have had the exact same problem with mold brought on by condensation due to the lack of insulation in the walls. When I complained about being evicted they told me that they weren’t evicting us, they were just concerned about our health and so that’s why they won’t renew the lease. At the same time, they told me that the contractors that investigated the problem said it would cost only $700 to fix the problem and blow in insulation, but “they weren’t convinced that it would really solve the problem” so they didn’t want to “set a precedent” (so they’ll do nothing at all, even though they admitted there was a problem). They were “afraid of opening a can of worms”, if they fixed our apartment, saying, “where would it end, we might have to fix others.” Simultaneously they told me that it wasn’t a problem with any other units (a lie). But if it wasn’t a problem, then why would they worry about having to fix other units? And if they cared about our health as their “primary concern” then why don’t they care about the the next tenants who will live in this same apartment after we leave?
It’s all beyond absurd. They told me they would reconsider the eviction this past week, and my family waited anxiously, sick to our stomachs about the prospect of having to uproot the home we’ve made here the past 2 years, leave our friends and neighbors, move schools, look for another place to live that we can afford, etc. And after a week, they still hadn’t given us word, despite my asking every day. So I called Sarah Fulk, the regional manager, and she said they had consulted with their lawyers and determined that they would not allow us to renew our lease. Evidently they know how weak the law is on tenants rights and figure it’s cheaper to kick us out and face a lawsuit then to do the right thing.
I’m planning on contacting a lawyer, as well as circling a flyer to all the residents here explaining what the company is doing to us and how little they value the health and welfare of the tenants. And asking them to sign a petition to demand that they address the mold problem and insulate the walls. Also a second petition demanding that they allow us to renew our lease for as long as we are good tenants (we have no complaints, have a great relationship with the property manager and all our neighbors). I’m also going to tell our story to anyone who will listen, to discredit their name undermine their business wherever possible. I doubt it will have any effect, but what more can you do. It’s unjust and evil.
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