Suing the government can seem like a losing battle. Remember the song “I Fought the Law and the Law Won?”
Fortunately for some military families at Keesler Air Force Base, the corporation which manages the on-base housing is a private entity and not the government which means they are not protected against lawsuits.
Eleven military families recently filed suit against the Hunt Southern Group and Hunt MG Property Management which manages Keesler’s on-base housing. The lawsuit claims the company did not adequately treat mold in the properties. The families have accused the property management company of fraud, conspiring to conceal dangerous conditions, breach of contract and gross negligence. Residents began complaining of mold in 2015, according to the residents, maintenance attempted to treat the mold with soap and water.
Search “How to Remove Black Mold” online and you will be instructed to use products which contain chemicals such as bleach and ammonia. Soap and water does not populate in the search.
In 2017 environmental testing of the properties discovered high levels of Aspergillus and some Stachybotrys. Aspergillus is a common mold, however high exposure can lead to allergic reactions and lung infections which can spread to other organs.
Stachybotrys also known as “Black Mold” affects the respiratory system. Symptoms of Stachybotrys exposure can include a chronic cough and wheezing, headaches and exhaustion. Additional symptoms can include hair loss, anxiety, confusion, memory loss and numbness in limbs. If not treated, long-term mold exposure can lead to severe illnesses and possible death, especially in very young children and people with pre-existing health conditions.
I bet this makes you want to run right out and sign a lease with your on-base housing office, right?!
The lawsuit contributes the mold to poor insulation of the air conditioning system which resulted in sweaty air ducts and water damage.
The combination of the water damage and humid hot weather in Biloxi, Mississippi, created a perfect nesting ground for the mold to grow and spread.
Residents say they repeatedly requested the property management company to address the issue but say Hunt failed to do so.
According to Cindy Gersch, vice president of corporate communications for Hunt companies, the corporation created a plan of action to address the mold concerns, which included an HVAC modification plan to remedy the condensation issue in the ducts.
It was unclear whether these changes were made prior to the lawsuit being filed. I can’t imagine anyone filing a lawsuit if this “plan of action” was put into place after the residents first complained.
All rental homes have flaws – creaky floors, leaky faucets, a noisy refrigerator – these things may be aggravating, but they won’t kill you. Mold is not just a minor inconvenience. It can cause some terrible symptoms and illnesses.
As members of the military community, we have all heard of or experienced buildings on bases which contain black mold. After all, mold is common in humid climates.
It is the failure to remedy the problem which is concerning in this case.
Unfortunately, the alleged mold found in the Hunt Southern Group properties is not an isolated incident among military housing.
Lawsuits have been filed against Lincoln Military Housing in the past and some monetary judgments were made in favor of the residents. Based on these cases the families at Keesler Air Force Base may stand a good chance of winning their lawsuit.