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Tenants Claim Dwelling Ruins Their Health

Shayne Monahan, right, with his wife Amy Denes and her girls, Brooklyn and Sky Denes, in a Club Laguna apartment they say is making them sick. Photo by Andrea Adelson

Shayne Monahan, right, with his wife Amy Denes and her girls, Brooklyn and Sky Denes, in a Club Laguna apartment they say is making them sick. Photo by Andrea Adelson

Two parents called on Laguna Beach’s City Council to take action to condemn some units in the Club Laguna apartment complex, which they contend are infused with toxic mold that has sickened their families.

Mike Thomas and his wife Allison Corradini blame their daughter’s near death on the toxic mold found in her bedroom and believe other tenants in the 421-unit apartment complex are suffering similar problems since managers have failed to eradicate the problem in their home. “I will never forget the look on my 4-year-old’s face when she stopped breathing,” Thomas testified Tuesday during the meeting’s public comment period.

Shayne Monahan, who lives in a unit a street above Thomas, made a similar plea. Two months after moving into the complex on El Toro Road, he and his wife and her two young daughters began to experience numerous health issues that they attribute to poisoning by mold, which the property manager failed to remove when repairing leaks.

Both families independently hired mold-testing companies, whose analysis detected high thresholds of mold in different sections of their homes. The two families also say they hired Los Angeles personal injury attorney David Lira to help them press their breach of contract grievances with the complex’s Texas owners for leasing uninhabitable units.

Neither family wants to vacate one of the few low-cost housing complexes within city limits, where two-bedroom units cost $1,837 to

Shayne Monahan points to a new outbreak of mold on carpeting damp with unexplained moisture in the closed of his Club Laguna apartment.

Shayne Monahan points to a new outbreak of mold on carpeting damp with unexplained moisture in the closed of his Club Laguna apartment.

$2,024 monthly.

The complex’s property manager, Camy Faircloth, declined to discuss the tenants’ claims. An affiliate of Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate, ICRE Laguna Club LLC, purchased the complex for $121 million in 2012, according to the website of Vanguard Commercial, a real estate broker.

In response to a letter Monahan sent to Council members last week, city inspector Dennis Bogle was dispatched to Monahan’s home, but Bogle said he was not equipped to test for mold. City officials are trying to determine the magnitude of the mold infestation and are checking with appropriate agencies, Community Development Director John Montgomery told council members.

Corradini, a third generation resident, teaches at Laguna Presbyterian preschool. Her husband teaches at Anneliese Schools. They moved into Club Laguna because it offered the family affordable housing and a foothold in Corradini’s hometown.

Ten weeks ago, Corradini and Thomas found a slow leak in their apartment along with toxic black mold. The apartment managers cleaned the carpets, drilled holes in the walls, and turned on blowers while the family occupied the apartment, Corradini said. “It was this action we now know that either started or exacerbated an already bad problem,” she said, which “turned our apartment into a petri dish for mold to spread like wildfire.”

A mold inspection showed a count of 60 mold spores outside, but 2,290 in their living room and kitchen and 6,040 spores in their daughter’s bedroom. (Currently, there are no federal standards for airborne mold, says the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.)

They were relocated to guest quarters in the complex and locked out of their apartment, which contains their possessions, including the children’s toys and books, now contaminated with toxic mold.

Now the family, recently sent an eviction notice, teeters on the brink of homelessness as they search for comparably affordable housing that will allow their 6 and 10-year-old children to remain at El Morro Elementary School.

Club Laguna’s managers sent them an eviction notice for failing to pay rent on their uninhabitable apartment. It wasn’t until Thomas’ lawyer intervened that management reversed the notification, claiming a  “mistake.”

Monahan’s family suffers a similar fate. “Our choice is to live here or be homeless,” said Monahan, who claims that his family has suffered from coughing, breathing problems and rashes since shortly after they moved in in January.

In that time, his family’s apartment has experienced nine water leaks and flooded four times, which required removal of the carpets, Monahan said. He claims management engaged unqualified maintenance people that made repairs without subsequent city inspections.

Monahan was in the apartment when workers discovered black mold behind drywall and put a fan on it to dry it out. No one told them about the danger until a plumber told them to evacuate immediately.

The family stayed temporarily at a hotel, while Monahan returned to feed their dog and observed that workers covered the mold with sheet rock after drying it.

Questioning management’s assertion of the unit’s safety, Monahan hired a mold inspector, whose report showed not only unsafe levels of mold but also that the infestation had existed for over two years.

Thomas said previous Club Laguna residents told him they left because of mold.

Monahan said he felt compelled to speak publicly since he fears many of his neighbors may be too intimidated to pursue their rights.

“I firmly believe tonight there are children sleeping out there who will be in danger,” said Monahan, who appealed to the Council to request a county health department inspection.

This week, the property’s attorneys offered Monahan’s family another unit on the property or a $500 moving allowance to terminate their lease. Monahan rejected the offer as unacceptable as the family lacks an alternate, affordable place to stay, can’t afford to move and refuse to move into another potentially moldy unit. He wants “suitable lodging” while repairs are made.

 

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Comments (3)

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  1. Mika says:

    I lived in Club Laguna 15 years ago and my apartment flooded on the day I was supposed to move.. The apartment was 6 inches deep in water. It was caused by an El Nino storm.. but the water and mud ran right off the hill and into my apartment… It was horrible…. I can only imagine if they didn’t fix that problem years of flooding have created a mold nightmare… Best of luck to all…

  2. Denise Bubonic says:

    I knew the minute I saw the cover that said “dwelling ruins health” was Club Laguna. And I’m mad. I too lived in Club Laguna from 2001-2003 AT 342 St. Tropez. I suffered asthma, skin disorders, memory loss. They ended up finding it everywhere. Behind the dishwasher, under the bath tub. My neighbor who had twins were affected as well. They {the children} never spoke. As I looked around everyone looked ill. The picture I have of the mold in the electric room would blow you away!I posted a sign that said “Got Mold? Call me” and they did. Tons of tenants. The units I went into there were unbelievable! And Brian Olsen, the manager did NOTHING. I sued Shea Properties. They have known about this issue for years! Another mans child almost died, and an elderly man 2 doors down would cough so terribly. He was dead 4 months later. And I myself was SO SICK. I too had mold testing done with 77% of my place having aspergillis mold and penicillium. It’s in the air vents, its everywhere! I wrote the health department and notified the mayor of Laguna. They evicted me. Which was fine, because I couldnt “live” there anymore. They wanted me out because I got a class action suit against them. Contact me if you’d like more information. [email protected]. I was too sick to take it to the papers. I’m so glad you did. I still suffer breathing problems due to it.

  3. Denise Bubonic says:

    I forgot to add that it was after my law suit was filed that they required renters insurance to move in.

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