Mold-filled home forces out LI family

February 21, 2008 3:15:38 PM PST
A Long Island family says their home is filled with mold. So much mold, they say, they walk around wearing masks.The family says they've complained to their landlord but nothing has happened. Now, they're being forced to move out.

Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has more.

At first glance, it looks like a nice place for a family. And it's for sale for half a million dollars.

Yet the renters say its a death trap.

"It's either stay here or live in my van," Jo-Elynn Vega said.

Vega wears a paper mask because she says her home is infested with mold spores and believes they originated from leaks in the walls improperly patched up before they moved in.

"Our skin was itching, our eyes burned, nose burned, we were coughing," she said.

So the Vegas called their landlord, refusing to pay their rent of $2,400 a month until the mold was removed.

They also hired a private company called AMBIC to come in to inspect the house for mold.

Inspector John Bivona says on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 9.5. He wore a heavy duty respirator mask throughout the interview.

"I absolutely will not jeopardize my health in this house right now," he said, in reference to the mask.

When we walked in the door, the family offered us one of the face masks. But the inspector says they're not doing a thing to help. He says mold spores can go right through the mask. He says the only safe option is to leave.

Jo-Elynn says because of the rent dispute and the mold, a landlord-attorney settlement in district court Wednesday mandates that the Vegas moved out before the end of the month.

The landlord, George Rhein, refused to comment.

Meanwhile, the Vegas plan to sue him for rent payback and lost property.

"I have a whole house of everything we've ever owned," Jo-Elynn said. "And it all has to be thrown out."

The Vegas say they can't take anymore and finally chose to leave their home today. They do not know where they'll go or when they'll be back.