In the article below, the Aguilar family from Austin, Texas were renting an apartment unit at the Georgian Acres apartment complex when they found black mold growing on a wall behind their children’s bed. After further inspection, they were horrified to find the mold had spread and was also growing on the carpet and the leg’s of the furniture.
They informed the property manager and demanded that the mold be cleaned. The manager complied, but the family was offered no alternative living accommodations while the apartment was being repaired. To make matters worse, the Georgian Acres apartment complex allegedly botched the mold clean up job which may have been the result of not using a licensed mold remediation company.
The Aguilar family finally had enough of the abuse, and decided to seek legal action against their property management company.
Georgian Acres is not yet a fashionable part of Austin. But for Rocio Aguilar, her husband Yeyn, and their four small children, it’s where they want to live. Being close by the elementary school where Yeyn teaches first grade, and the church where both of the Aguilars volunteer, is important. Yeyn likes that he lives in the same apartment complex as many of his students – he’s not just their teacher, he’s part of their community.
Since 2013, Yeyn has been living at the Woodland Heights apartment complex, located off I-35 near Rundberg. He moved there from the Aguilars’ home in El Paso to take his current job. Rocio stayed behind with the kids to tie up loose ends. When Rocio and the kids moved to Austin at the beginning of 2015, they asked if they needed to fill out a new lease listing the children, but they say they were told by management it wasn’t necessary.
Last December, the couple were horrified to discover black mold growing on a wall behind their children’s bed. The Aguilars had noticed that there was moisture on the windowsills after it rained before, and had mentioned it to the complex’s manager, but the sight of the mold – which spanned the entire length of where the bed had been against the wall, and on closer inspection, was in the carpet and on the legs of the bedroom furniture – prompted the Aguilars to demand immediate action. Since the windows were letting in moisture, the Aguilars believed they should be replaced.
After much back and forth, management finally decided to replace the windows, a process that wound up involving removing the Sheetrock on the walls. The family was offered no alternative accommodations while the apartment was being repaired. Living on Yeyn’s teaching salary, they couldn’t afford to rent a hotel, and so managed as best they could, sleeping in their living room, and then on the floor of a building belonging to their church.
The repairs were completely botched, according to the Aguilars. The new windows, instead of leaking slightly, allowed water to flood into the house when it rained. Naturally, they requested they be redone properly – but Yeyn said the manager told him it wouldn’t be possible to fix, because it was a “structural” problem.
The situation was profoundly frustrating to the Aguilars, who felt that their initial request – a mold-free apartment – was within their rights as tenants. But their complaints ultimately resulted in a notice to vacate, saying they’d violated their lease by failing to disclose that their children were living in the apartment.
The Aguilars find that claim laughable. Not only, they say, did they ask about putting the kids on the lease and were told not to worry, but the apartment’s current manager, Nicholas Haigh, lived in the same building, and would see the Aguilars with their kids regularly.
Now the Aguilars are in court, both plaintiffs in a suit demanding repairs and damages for retaliation, and defendants in an eviction filed against them. (While evictions usually are heard by the Justice of the Peace, because of the multiple filings, both sides have agreed to combine the cases and go before a Travis County Court judge.)
Read more from the Austin Chronicle