Can’t sell the house because of MOld

Judy Berneske has dangerous black mold in the common wall of her now abandoned townhome in Pelham.

Because of the mold, she can’t sell the home except at a give-away price, she said. But living in it makes her sick, so she’s been forced to rent an apartment.

After a 5-year ordeal dealing with insurance companies, lawyers and health officials, Berneske said she still has no relief, stuck with a moldy townhome and lingering health effects from living there.

She has an engineering report that points a finger at the neighbor for the water. She has a mold laboratory report confirming the presence of high levels of mold, including the stachybotrys chartarum species, commonly known as black mold. And she has a 2010 letter from a doctor saying she has asthma due to exposure to the mold in her home.

Her insurance company paid for an engineers report, which confirmed that the water was coming from the neighbor’s property and that changes in landscaping were a key reason. Berneske’s insurance company, Traveler’s, however was unwilling to get involved, Berneske said. Her insurance company said she needed to make a third-party claim on the neighbor’s policy, Allstate.

 In 2010, she filed the lawsuit.

A mold testing company found “dangerously high” spore levels in her home.

When she was diagnosed with asthma she followed her doctor’s advice and moved out of her townhome to an apartment in Hoover where she lives now.

Jeffrey May, mold expert and author of the Mold Survival Guide, said he is sympathetic to people in situations like Berneske because there’s virtually nothing in the health codes with respect to mold.

“In terms of townhouses, there are several issues that make it difficult legally,” May said. “First you have to show the mold growth is caused by somebody doing something and that is difficult. Then you have to show health symptoms are due to the mold, and that is difficult.

“The first thing you have to do is stop the water,” May said. “It doesn’t matter if you get rid of the mold, it’s going to come right back if there’s water.”

Berneske said the ordeal has opened her eyes to the need for reforms in building codes, the insurance industry and the legal system.

“I am a legitimate plaintiff with a legitimate case and yet I stand to lose everything,” she said. “I’m simply trying to protect what is mine, myself and my property. But it appears current Alabama laws provide no way to do that.”

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