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raymoniaJune 28--  A recent drug raid in Vidalia targeted the Raymonia Apartments and, in addition to crime, residents of the complex say they are suffering from unhealthy environmental conditions in their apartments.

One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of eviction, said she had to sleep in her car one night because the mold in her apartment made her sick and that some of her neighbors are experiencing the same problems.

Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet contacted the management company in Teaneck, New Jersey last month, "We contacted the Aspen Company about the concerns the residents have at Raymonia.  We told them we've had a lot of complaints about the living conditions and the criminal activity that has been taking place over there in recent months.  We told them we expect them to make some improvements and they have asked us for some time in doing that.  We certainly will work with them, but at the same time we want to make sure our citizens are living in appropriate conditions.  As a city we can't do a whole lot, but we can encourage the owners to be doing what they are supposed to be doing."

Abe Derhy is the manager at the Aspen Company and told us he's aware the complex "has challenges" and that he "will try to be more proactive" in addressing the problems at Raymonia.

The company is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau which gives it a "C" rating and reports another complaint about low income housing which the company manages in Moultrie.

Both the Georgia Department of Health and the Georgia Office of Consumer Protection say there's nothing they can do to force the company to fix its property, however, the consumer office says Georgia Legal Aid Services can provide free legal help if the residents have a case and are willing to go to court for relief.

The Health Department provided the following information on mold.

WHAT IS MOLD?

Mold refers to many forms of fungi that are found naturally in the environment in places such as soil and on dead and decaying matter. It comes in a variety of colors, such as green, black, white, brown and orange. It appears fuzzy or in slimy streaks. There is often a musty or earthy odor around molds.

WHAT CAUSES MOLD TO GROW INSIDE HOMES?

Some molds release tiny spores, just as some plants produce seeds. They need moisture and a food source. Indoors, mold spores move through the air and settle on surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin to grow and multiply.

Good food sources for molds are cloth, wood, wallboard and insulation, but molds can grow on almost anything. When there is a wet surface or material that is not dried or discarded promptly (for example, water discharged from a burst pipe), molds can grow within 24 to 48 hours in the area.

HOW CAN MOLD AFFECT MY HEALTH?

Mold does not affect all people, however certain people may be sensitive to mold, particularly those with allergies or asthma. Sensitive people may experience symptoms that include:

  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing, and in more severe cases, wheezing and coughing.
  • Skin rash and itching

If you think you have symptoms related to exposure to molds, you should see your doctor.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT MOLD IN MY HOME?

The key to prevent mold in your home is to control moisture, such as a leaking roof, and resolve that issue. However, there are some things you, as the renter, can do to help reduce the health effects from mold:

  • Keep the humidity level in the home below 60%, ideally between 30% and 50%.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows to ventilate while cooking and showering.
  • Keep bathrooms dry and well ventilated.
  • Clean, dry or remove anything from your home that is water damaged within 24 to 48 hours.

WHAT ARE THE BASIC MOLD CLEAN-UP STEPS?

  1. Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible.
  1. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water.
  1. Dry all materials completely.
  1. When cleaning, consider the following:
  • Avoid breathing mold spores, getting it in your eyes, or on your skin.
  • Routine use of chlorine bleach is not necessary or recommended. Some situations may require it, however, so use good judgment to decide if you need it.
  • Consult a specialist if you are unsure about how to clean an item, if it is expensive, or if it has sentimental value. Specialists in repair and restoration of water damaged household items are commonly listed in phone directories. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations and be sure to check references.
  1. Note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, and therefore may also need to be removed.
  1. Absorbent materials may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow in the empty spaces of porous materials, so it may not be removed completely.

More information about clean-up and prevention is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov/mold and your county University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent at (800) ASK-UGA1, and at www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/housing/mold.php.

AS A RENTER, WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

     More information for renters about mold, moisture problems, and the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook can be found at www.dca.ga.gov/housing/HousingDevelopment/programs/downloads/
Georgia_Landlord_Tenant_Handbook.pdf
. This handbook is designed to address common residential landlord-tenant issues and defines the role of the landlord and tenant during these issues. Additional information is available from the Georgia Apartments Association at www.ga-apt.org.

     The Landlord-Tenant Hotline is no longer available to renters, however the hotline recommends using www.lawhelp.org for additional information about renting in Georgia. Some areas may also be able to provide assistance through local housing code enforcement. Contact city or county officials to find out if there are housing codes applicable in your area.