Former residents of The Hills apartments share mold horror stories

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Some JMU students and their parents have expressed concern over the conditions at The Hills at Southview apartment complex. One student and her family are trying to raise awareness after they said she became ill from mold in her apartment.

“I was constantly having colds and this cough developed and everything else like that. I didn’t really worry about it too much but it kept getting worse and worse and we eventually discovered mold,” said Addison Carroll, a JMU student and former Southview resident.

Carroll said that when the mold was first discovered, the Hills management did send a maintenance worker to get rid of it but said they only sprayed and wiped down the spots she found and never checked the rest of the apartment or conducted a deeper clean.

“They never provided a report of the mold or any treatment of it or even got someone to look at to see if there was mold anywhere else. As they continued to clean it I was still sick and still having symptoms so I eventually moved out,” she said.

When she returned home for the spring semester she began to feel better and Addison said that her physician eventually determined that mold in the air vents of her apartment was making her sick. Addison still takes medication in the aftermath of her illness.

Her physician said that it would be unsafe for her to remain in the apartment and recommended that she move out. Addison was able to get out of her lease for the upcoming school year.

“There were instances of aspergillus mold that were on our mold reporter which is related to penicillin which I have an allergy to so that’s why I was one of the few roommates to have an actual reaction to it. So they might not have had an immediate reaction to it but there are other health issues that can arise later in life because of living in an area with a high level of mold spores in the air,” said Addison.

Addison’s family said the Hills management did little to address the problem.

“There’s absolutely no concern on behalf of the landlord not even from a legal obligation but just as a human being, that you can leave your apartments in this condition,” said Cheryl Carroll, Addison’s mother.

After everything her daughter went through with the Hills, Cheryl soon learned that other students had dealt with similar problems so she started the Facebook group JMU Parents Off-Campus Housing Whistleblowers.

“They are taking advantage of the fact that oftentimes the parents are the ones that are on the lease and paying for the apartment. Often times they’re off-site out of state and don’t even come in contact with the apartment. The student is there in the apartment and oftentimes it’s their first time living on their own and they don’t know what is okay or not okay and what their rights are,” said Cheryl.

Macey Kane is a former Southview resident who said she had a similar experience with mold in her apartment building.

“My unit had this foul smell to it, almost like an old garage or shed. As the year progressed, I found myself extremely sick every other week. I spent so much time away from my school work to go to numerous doctors and was prescribed multiple medications almost every other week. I even got an air filter to help, but after one day, the filter would be black. I then discovered mold growing in all the air vents,” said Kane.

Kane said that when Southview sent someone to deal with the mold they simply removed the moldy vents and left them on the floor of her apartment. She said the mold problems persisted and little was ever done.

“When I moved recently, mold came shooting out of my bathtub faucet and shower head. I was extremely appalled, I became sick again and I am still not feeling well since I moved out,” said Kane. “I would not wish living in the place on my worst enemy. I really wish I didn’t have to remember my college year of being deathly ill due to this place’s lack of sympathy, care, and simply just not doing their job.”

Addison Carroll said she has heard many similar stories from fellow JMU students.

“Fleas, their ceiling caved in, they had mold growing in their carpet because they had leaks, our water unit had leaks. Everyone that I know who lived in the Hills of Southview or knows someone who did has either had an issue with it or has some story to tell,” she said.

Mike Donitzen is the owner of Aztec Home Inspections in Harrisonburg and has been conducting mold inspections since 2004. He told WHSV on Monday that the issue is not unique to The Hills and the biggest problem is that Virginia has no requirements for landlords to have regular mold inspections or treatments.

Cheryl Carroll said another problem is that the demand for student housing is so high in Harrisonburg that landlords can get away with poor maintenance.

“Time and time again I’ve heard stories of if this doesn’t work for you we’ll let you out of your lease, we have a waiting list. And they just put somebody else right in it, in the same filth,” she said.

WHSV reached out to The Hills property manager on Monday for comment but did not hear back.

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