David Sawyer and his roommates were excited to move into their Saint Petersburg rental home. “It all looked good. Me and my two roommates were excited to have the chance to move in,” he said.
However, upon moving in, the air conditioning in the house abruptly stopped working.
“We immediately contacted them (property management). They took a week to kind of get back and it was the middle of July so the house was getting to one hundred plus degrees,” said Sawyer.
The company that manages the property, Invitation Homes, eventually repaired the air conditioning unit, as well as some plumbing problems that had developed. According to Sawyer, raw sewage was being pushed up into his shower.
Soon after the repairs were made, however, Sawyer became ill.
“I had massive headaches. I had constant drainage from my nose, nose bleeds… I was going through a box a day of tissues,” he said.
Sawyer decided to hire a private inspector to assess the property. He found toxic black mold in the bathroom and told Sawyer and his roommates that they should leave the house, which is located on 74th Ave. Northeast, immediately.
Sawyer says that he reached out to Invitation Homes on several occasions, but they delayed proper remediation.
“It was a solid 20 days where we just didn’t hear from anyone and we just decided to pack up and leave,” he said.
Sawyer’s ailments turned out to be a fungal infection, which required sinus surgery. His attorney says that the infection was caused by the toxic black mold that was growing in the rental house.
“I worry that someone else would move in there. I also have worry that there are other people living with the same problem. There are some people that react to black mold differently than others. Some people it takes longer and they don’t know why they’re sick,” T.J Grimaldi, the civil attorney who is representing Sawyer, said.
Invitation Homes merged with Waypoint Homes in 2017. The conglomerate company now owns thousands of rental homes throughout the country. As many as 4,800 of those homes are located in Tampa Bay.
Several complaints documented by a local news station exposed similar stories from tenants who experienced constant problems that weren’t resolved as quickly as they should have been.
“Good communication and honesty and owning up to things would have just gone such a long way,” said Sawyer.
His former rental home is currently empty, but there’s a “For Lease” sign out in the front yard. If the toxic black mold hasn’t been properly addressed and someone else rents the home, they could develop health problems, too, and that’s exactly what Sawyer fears will happen.
“You report it. They’re sympathetic. But nothing ever gets done,” he said.
Mold Inspection & Testing Tampa has performed countless mold assessments in the Tampa area. We strongly urge Invitation Homes and Waypoint Homes to perform mold testing in all of their rental properties before renting them out to avoid the development of health issues in their tenants. To speak to an MI&T representative, call 813.358.4768.