VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Lincoln Military Housing has had issues with mold over the last decade. They have been the spotlight of TV stories, sued by military families and chastised by lawmakers.
So why are families still having an issue?
“I honestly don’t know what to do,” said Navy wife Kimberly Purcell.
As a retired Marine and Navy wife, Purcell learned the importance of organization. She had no idea those skills would be used so much over the last year.
“The houses don’t get fixed,” Purcell added.
14 binders are now stacked on her kitchen table documenting a four-month horror that started last May when the family got orders to head to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
“Honestly, we were kind of in a panic,” she said. “We needed a place for our kids. We have five kids and we didn’t even feel that hotels were safe at the time, because of the pandemic.
The Purcells were given a home on base managed by Lincoln Military Housing. They say things weren’t right from the moment they arrived.
“The smell,” Purcell added. “It kind of hits you as the door opens. I started going through my inspection and I think I only made it through a half bathroom and the kitchen and I had four pages of notes.”
The house had new carpet and fresh paint, but that musty stench just continued to linger.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I prayed over my children every night that they wouldn’t breathe in that air. I wrote over 100 maintenance requests essentially pleading that they fix this place. My children were getting sick. We didn’t find out until later that all of these symptoms could be related to the mold.”
Purcell says there was mold everywhere she looked.
“I was afraid what was in there and asking Lincoln Military Housing to test and they refused to, asking them to control the humidity and they wouldn’t, asking them to fix the HVAC,” Purcell added.
In October, the Purcells had enough. They moved out and left everything in their home behind.
“We didn’t take couches or beds,” she said. “There are still clothes on the hangers. All the schoolbooks are left in the house. It’s a big loss.”
The Purcells had a private company test for mold. The results shocked them.
“Stachybotrys, the one that everybody considers black mold, but it wasn’t the only bad mold,” Purcell added.
The EPA tests for 36 different types of molds. 31 were found in the house.
“We were positive for mold in the kitchen, in the living room, in the master bedroom, the kids’ bathroom, the kids’ bedrooms, crawl space and attic.
10 On Your Side has reported the mold issues inside the Lincoln Military housing in the past.
“We represented 13 families at that point in time and there were a lot more, and there are still more,” said attorney David Holt.
Holt took Lincoln Military to court in April 2016. A jury found in favor of his client. Lincoln Military then settled with the 12 remaining families.
“I think until these companies, not necessary Lincoln, but all the other companies who have these types of contracts who are responsible for housing our military have to pay in the pocket in order to make it right, I think you are getting lipstick on a pig,” Holt added.
Lincoln Military is 20 years into a 50-year contract with the Department of Defense.
“This issue I started working on 2011,” added Senator Mark Warner. “We have sailors deployed and family is back at home and an unsafe living condition. That’s outrageous.”
Over the last decade Warner has continued to call out Lincoln Military. He believes the contract needs to be broken.
“I think it is time to say these guys have violated time and again we need to rebid or rethink this whole arrangement,” Warner added.
In 2020, Warner helped get Congress to pass a Military Housing Bill of Rights aimed at protecting families. Part of that would include the right for military family to withhold rent if issues aren’t resolved.
“Our families should not be put through this,” Purcell said. “This is not something we asked for. We send out loved ones to protect our country, but when we ask our country to give us a safe place to live, there is nothing they can do for us.”
“We’ve embarrassed companies, we’ve embarrassed the Navy, we’ve passed legislation and we still have these circumstances,” Warner added. “This is wrong. I hear her in tears, and she is 100% right.”
Lincoln Military wouldn’t do an on-camera interview, but did send this statement:
“Lincoln Military Housing (LMH) was actively engaged with the Purcell family beginning in October 2020 through their move-out date of April 30, 2021. During that time, LMH responded to each of the family’s concerns timely and courteously, in line with the family’s lease, Virginia law, and with the concurrence of our Navy Partner.
Per Navy policy, the home was inspected by Navy housing personnel prior to the Purcell’s moving in, and the Navy certified the home for occupancy. LMH performed multiple inspections of the home and the Purcell family’s personal property during their occupancy, utilizing both LMH Team Members and third-party certified microbial experts. Additionally, a multi-disciplinary Navy team, including structural engineers and public health personnel, conducted an independent inspection of the property. To date, no inspection has found any issue inside the home that renders the home uninhabitable. Further, no evidence has ever been found that the home caused any damage to Purcell’s personal property.
LMH remains committed to providing a high level of resident satisfaction. When a maintenance situation requires a family to be displaced, the company pays for their hotel stay or offers temporary housing on base at no charge to the family. This case was no exception. Despite there being no evidence of the home being uninhabitable, and as a gesture of goodwill, LMH voluntarily covered the Purcell family’s hotel and per diem expenses during the duration of the time, they were out of their home and has made other attempts to resolve the matter with the family, to include reimbursement of rent.
Lincoln has a three-step process for dispute resolution and maintains an industry-leading mold management program. All homes in the LMH portfolio are routinely evaluated for their habitability. Before any move-in, each home undergoes a multipoint inspection with several LMH Team Members and the Navy Partner. We work diligently to ensure that we exceed industry standards.“
“It’s been torture,” Purcell said. “They don’t care. They just don’t care about us.”
The Purcells are exploring legal options against Lincoln Military. Just last week 15 families filed lawsuits in Washington state against Lincoln Military because of issues with mold.