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Mold causes health problems, spurs extensive litigation in San Diego

Jeff Mcdonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Business News

"We regularly make improvements at our communities designed to reduce moisture-related problems," it said. "Due to the many causes that can lead to mold-related issues, however, effective management requires that any issue brought to our attention by a resident be evaluated on an independent basis in order to find and resolve that specific situation."

To be sure, any organization that manages thousands of apartments and millions of square feet of commercial space is destined to be the target of complaints by some tenants. Fenton properties in the Tierrasanta and Mission Valley communities of San Diego also have been the subject of mold-related lawsuits.

Fenton officials "were aware that water damage and mold constitute a health hazard and can result in a breach of the implied warrant of habitability," a 2012 lawsuit against the company alleged.

The case was filed by then-Fenton Tierrasanta resident Vanessa Terry, who claimed she was forced to evacuate her apartment after suffering toxic allergies and infections as a result of the mold.

Terry claimed Fenton made cosmetic repairs but never fixed the source of the problem.

"Defendants were aware that the home suffered from long-term moisture intrusion and mold problems prior to renting it to plaintiff," the complaint said. "However, defendant did not disclose these problems nor fully and properly repair them prior to plaintiff renting the home."

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The Tierrasanta suit was dismissed the following year at the request of the plaintiff, court records show, meaning the case was likely settled privately.

Health threat

According to federal health officials, mold can cause asthma and other respiratory problems in healthy people--and more severe symptoms in children and others with compromised immune systems.

Establishing a definitive link between exposure to mold and ill health can be elusive. The adverse physiological effects can take years to turn up, and even when they do it is not always clear that mold is the culprit.

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