Student and her family attempt to break Pointe lease over toxic mold issues

Zach Henson

Assistant News Editor

Caitlyn Sebastian, a junior biomedical sciences major from Birmingham, said she was recently offered a $50 gift card by the Pointe at Troy’s property manager to replace a negative post on the Troy Students Facebook page with positive comments about the Pointe apartment complex.

“With that $50 gift card, she (Jennifer Earles, the Pointe’s property manager) wanted me to post other stuff about the Pointe, the good stuff and all that,” Sebastian said. “I wasn’t going to do that.

“To me, it felt like she was trying to bribe me. It almost seems like she’s trying to hush the problem.”

The Pointe and its management declined to comment on the gift card.

Sebastian moved into her apartment in the Pointe at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year. She soon discovered a steadily leaking window, which was only the start of her troubles.

Water damage from a leak causes the drywall around Caitlyn Sebastian’s bedroom window to fall apart (top) and be discolored (bottom).

Now, almost two school years later, her window has been repaired four times, but she is still facing issues in her apartment, including a plague of water damage and mold throughout her apartment.

This semester, Sebastian has been dealing with episodes of sinus and bronchial issues she attributes to the mold. Due to mistrust in the Pointe’s maintenance system, Sebastian’s family hired Wiregrass Environmental, which tested for mold around her bedroom window, pantry door and balcony door.

Using a tape lift method of testing, Wiregrass Environmental sent a sample to IMS Laboratory, which found stachybotrys fungi covering 26 percent of the tested area. According to the written mold report from IMS Laboratory, stachybotrys grows in areas “with persistent moisture” and should be assumed toxic.

The report states the mold is currently dormant, but “that condition will change if water is added.”

Toxic mold around her pantry door prevents Sebastian from cleaning dust and debris in the same area because the mold cannot be disturbed.

In the report, Wiregrass Environmental states that “the mold in this apartment is significant and requires professional attention” and that “the site contractor should not perform any service on the HVAC unit or drywall without an environmental consultant present.”

According to Steven Sebastian, Caitlyn Sebastian’s father, “Our consultant said that someone had tried to cover this issue up prior as there was paint over the mold and a spot (of drywall) that had been cut and replaced.”

The Sebastian family said they presented Earles with this information Tuesday, March 20. The next day, Earles and two maintenance workers attempted to replace the HVAC filter, disturbing the area the contractor warned about in his report.

“The contractor we hired believes more of this mold is in the unit, and if disturbed could potentially cause harm if inhaled,” Caitlyn Sebastian said. “Due to that, my mom (the co-signer of Sebastian’s apartment) is now attempting to contact Jennifer … to either have her break my lease, or she is going to sue.”

Caitlyn Sebastian said her mother, Kimberly,  called Earles on Wednesday, March 21, and was told Earles was at lunch. Two days later, Earles returned Kimberly Sebastian’s call.

Earles told Kimberly Sebastian that the Pointe is working to schedule an HVAC consultation with a company in Pelham, according to Caitlyn Sebastian.

“We are in the process of identifying any issues,” said Mark Evans, a public relations representative at Asset Campus Housing, the management company for the Pointe. “In the meantime, we have offered to either transfer the residents to another unit at the property or to put them up in a hotel at our cost.”

According to its website, Asset Campus Housing, which owns the Pointe at Troy and the Arch at Troy, is “the nation’s largest 3rd party student housing property management company.”

According to Caitlyn Sebastian, the Pointe has confirmed hiring a contractor and is set to examine the HVAC system on Friday, March 30.

“Knowing my parents, they aren’t going to let this fade easily until some sort of action is taken,” Caitlyn Sebastian said.

In the comments of Caitlyn Sebastian’s original Facebook post, Earles said a Tropolitan reporter could contact her, but later referred the Tropolitan to her regional manager, Aryne Linder.

“I am not able to do interviews as this is only done by corporate,” Earles said.

Linder declined to comment regarding the situation, but referred the Tropolitan to Evans.

Upon being presented with further questions regarding the handling of the issues presented in this story, Evans responded by email.

“I really do not feel comfortable getting into the details of what is a situation that we are working hard to resolve with our resident,” he said. “We are doing the very best that we can to take care of this situation to everyone’s satisfaction as we do any time a resident has a concern.

”Our residents’ well being and their enjoyment of our property have and always will be given our highest priority, and this situation is no different.”

No response was given to the Tropolitan’s questions regarding standard procedure of inspections, maintenance or cleanliness. Additionally, Evans gave no response to specific questions about offering residents gift cards for social media advertisement or about performing dangerous maintenance without the presence of expert professionals.

Related posts