During summer the air conditioner and dehumidifier run full time to chill the atmosphere (which curbs proliferation of fungi) and draw moisture and spores out. I also run full time electric air filter machines purchased for less than $20 each at Kmart. I just started my 18th year of living with mold in this house, and my New Year's Resolution is to get this report finished so I can move on before the so-called Grim Reaper gets his way.
I will turn 71 on February 12, and have been drained from mold exposure for so long that I don't really remember what optimum health feels like. One symptom is extreme fatigue that comes over me after about five minutes of entering the house. It descends like a curtain being drawn over my brain, making me feel like doing nothing but sleep. I have had three surgeries for para-nasal tumors, the last of which left me looking like a zombie. This doesn't do much to improve one's looks, and it sure puts a damper on day dreams of romance!
Since I am being personal in this introduction, a final note is: I have been giving up my business projects, one by one, in order to focus concentration on resolving the problem with my house, for I do not care to join the toilet when it makes its descent into the crawl space. If you have questions about why I still live here, the answer is, plain and simple: Money. I cannot afford to stay, or leave.
This is what Jeanne refers to when she mentions my "house miseries." If you have house miseries, too, my hope is that this report will convince you you are not alone, and provide motivation for you to do something about it.
At the time of Mr. Echols' inspection in December 2004, various forms of mold were identified inside the house, with one which can be toxic measuring 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. According to Mr. Echols, mold is everywhere because it is part of nature, but the mold count should be higher outdoors than indoors. Not surprisingly, the location of the measurable mold was under the buckling tiles of my utility room and bathroom, which now resembles the hump on a camel's back. Not only can mold be injurious to health, it can rot the wood right out from under you in a house.
According to appraiser Dean Siemer, who produced my property appraisal report in early 2005, the value of my property under current single-family residential zoning, according to the engineering report from which he drew his conclusion, is a total loss he believes is compensable in full by the City of Springfield.
Mr. Siemer investigated conditions surrounding my property's location in a flood area at the juncture of the 1900 block of South Avenue and 200 block of Washita Street, and arrived at his conclusion after a representative of the Department of Public Works told him the sewer systems would not be replaced because cost would "run around $300,000" and "the City doesn't have the money. Therefore, my property's Fair Market Value is $0.
Dean Siemer's conclusion was drawn from the fact that cost to repair my house would run slightly less than $33,000, according to the engineering inspection which he ordered, such expenditure being a waste of money since conditions causing the deterioration would remain and, therefore, cause the same kind of damage and health risks to recur.
The enigmatic aspect of the "miseries"to which Jeanne Streible alludes is that the real estate market in the SASS area exhibited a rise of about 18 percent in Fair Market Value a few months after Mr. Siemer appraised loss value on my property at $78,000.
By my calculation, if he had issued his findings six months later, my house might have been worth an asking price of between $90,000 and $92,040, and, therefore, compensable loss would have been worth $14,040 more than it was earlier in the year.
This rise in Fair Market Value is corroborated by the fact a neighbor on West Washita Street, whose history of flood-and-sewage victimhood included two cars damaged by being filled with sewage-tainted water, listed his home with a prominent local real estate firm and sold it within days for $92,500. The new owners, who soon discovered they had mold and other damage that needed repairs, learned of the history of Infiltration/Inflow problems on the street through literature distributed by SASS in September and October 2005.
The FUNGUS AMUNGUS file has numerous case histories in which home buyers claim they were neither told by the sellers, nor real estate agents handling the sales, about any drainage problems or mold resulting. Not only can the expenses associated with ownership of such damaged or unhealthful properties cause purchasers to go down the financial drain, personal happiness and health can also be severely impacted. One homeowner in the SASS East section of Springfield lost her job because allergies and other illness caused from exposure to mold resulted in her frequent absenteeism from her office. We have on file a case in which a once-happy person became so severely depressed in the energy-draining atmosphere of her mold-tainted home that her marriage was in jeopardy.
The Great American Dream of private home ownership can and does become a nightmare for flood victims who are also victims of Non-Disclosure practices by sellers and realtors they trusted, but who did not reveal the down-sides to the properties in issue and which qualify their case histories to be included in FUNGUS AMUNGUS.
Tenants can move. but homeowners are often stuck with a piece of property they would like to sell, but which they cannot, in good conscience, pawn off on someone else. Or, by selling "as is" there is a risk of not getting all or much equity or profit from the property that's in a known flood or fungi-prone area.
Sound familiar? It is far more common in Springfield than you might think.
If you are experiencing homeowner's miseries because you are a victim of Non-Disclosure Sales Practices, I suggest that you call the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association at (417) 831-2783. They will give free referrals to attorneys who specialize in real estate matters. Set up appointments to consult with the attorneys. The first consultation should be free, so take a list of questions you wish to ask--and don't be aftaid to ask them. The attorney will want to know highlights of your matter, in order to determine whether it is his or her kind of case, so be prepared to give highlights and/or show pertinent documents or photos that might help you explain the matter for which you are seeking legal representation.
Make notes of what each lawyer tells you. After meeting with the attorneys, retain the one you feel right about and can afford. Some lawyers will charge a per-hour fee; others might take your case on a contingency basis, meaning that if you win a monetary settlement, the attorney gets a portion, but if the case loses, you owe nothing.
Perhaps a group of neighbors all suffer the same conditions that are plaguing you, in which case you might consider filing a Class Action; that is, a single legal action that includes numerous complainants.
I believethe common recourse in real estate matters that include non-disclosure or downright fraud is to sue the seller and/or realtor to force him or her to buy the property back from you. At least that's what several homeowners in the FUNGUS AMUNGUS records have done or are planning to do in the SASS area.
Whether you have lived in the SASS area less than a year, or for many decades, the information contained in the body of this report should be of interest--and hopefully of help--to you. I owe thanks to the City of Springfield, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency--Region VII, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, Trail of Tears Association, U.S. National Parks Service, Greene County Courthouse, Greene County Archives and Springfield-Greene County Public Library which made it possible to compile data, incomplete as it is, that focuses new light on the flood/sewage (I/I) history of not only my property but the entire Sunshine/Holland Neighborhood of Springfield which gave rise to the SASS movement in the city where others like me ask:
What has the city done, is it doing, or does it plan to do to fIx the systems causing Inflow/Infiltration (otherwise known as flooding and sewage spillage and backups that pollute public waters and plague homeowners and tenants) problems that affect the SASS portion of the Sunshine/Holland Neighborhood?
Since no two case histories are exactly alike, I will end this introduction by telling you a bit about the history of my property which flooded with brown sludge (known as "blackwater" by sanitary engineers) the first two weeks I lived here in 1988 and has, since July 2000, flooded or had sewage spilage or backup every year since, sometimes more than once. What is in blackwater? Start with this clue: What do YOU flush down your toilet?
I inherited my property from my parents, who were victims of Non-Disclosure back in the 1970s when the couple who owned the house sold it because they wanted to be free of drainage problems. My parents, like so many others who had "been had" and didn't know what to do, so they coped and went on living with the problem as best they could, passed the situation on to me by giving me the house as payment for the nine years I served as fulltime caregiver by living in it with them. Dad, who slowly declined from Alzheimer's died of an aortic infarction in June 1989; Mother died in June 1997 after undergoing a heart attack, series of TIAs, legal blindness from macular degeneration and ultimate Alzheimer's.
With Mother's death, I became sole homeowner and began having remodeling done so I could sell the house, but viral tumors that required surgery and several floods requiring cleanup, remediation and other sale-prevention attention, led me to examine my own conscience. Could I, knowing what I did about the problems plaguing the property, pass the buck by sellirig the place without disclosing the truth? NO. What course of action should I take?
My time and money are running out, and as the old asbestos tiles upheave and break from the tarpaper subfloor the buckling inches toward the toilet, I am preparing to move before I hit the crawl space! Therefore, without further waiting for receipt of the requested information from the city, I have prepared this report in incomplete form--which is better than no form at all.
The outstanding information, with names of persons to contact at the City of Springfield, is listed in the back of this report. Feel free to request the same information, or ask your attorney to do so because he or she stands a greater chance of securing the material much faster than a private citizen like me does. Why do I say this? Simple. Been there. Done that!
Above all other advice I might give, it's that you practice the virtues of patience coupled with persistence, keeping always in mind the wise old trite-but-true adage: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again...
Is there reallyfungus among us?
Read the report, then YOU reach the verdict!