Controversy over paint side effects forces family out of Norfolk apartment


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Paint problems are causing headaches for a Norfolk family — literally. 

The mother asked the apartment complex for a fresh coat of paint, but now it’s giving her daughter headaches. 

On top of that, after they complained, management gave the family the boot, telling them to get out within 48 hours.

Get out within 48 hours, or they must stay while management tries to fix whatever is wrong until their lease is up in September.

But they don’t want to stay. They want to move into another apartment, which they had been promised, that is until a doctor agreed with them that the paint could be the cause of the illness.

“She was complaining of blurry vision, had numerous nose bleeds, and headaches,” says Myriame Lamothe, who is talking about her 7-year-old Samya.

She is a straight A student who fell ill after the walls were painted in their apartment, “and all this started happening the first week of January,” Lamothe says.

The doctor notes Samya’s “history of headaches all through January,” “sent to CHKD,” “Cat Scan Normal,” “Continues having pounding headaches,” “9 on a scale of 1-10,” are just some of the notes made as medical personnel tried to figure out what was ailing Samya.

Myriame remembers, “and then last week I’m sitting here wondering what changed, what took place,  did you move, that’s when it hit me, the apartment was painted on December 31.”

It could very well be the paint. 

Myriame complained to management, who told her to open windows, air out the apartment.

She even went to Google and found putting out pans of water can help clean the air. “We told them the paint was mentioned by the doctor, it is possible he said, yes.” 

They sent to management the medical document supporting their claim. It reads: “February 4: Headache secondary to interior paint fumes.”

Lamothe says before that the document had been sent to Kelli Allen, who is senior regional property manager for United Property Associates, which manages the Azalea Garden Road property.

“If you still would like to transfer to another unit, pay $100 and pay another security deposit,” Allen wrote. 

Lamothe didn’t take kindly to that, considering she already has a security deposit on her current unit. 

“That should be waived due to paint causing my daughter to get sick.”

Lamothe says, “[Allen said] show us documentation … after that she withdrew the offer for the new unit … even though I didn’t agree that I should pay anything … she then told us to vacate premises immediately.”

10 On Your Side confronted the apartment site manager.

“You have to call United Property Associates … Kelli Allen,” the manager said. 

We called, but Allen never returned several phone calls.  As for Allen, Lamothe said, “She came in my apartment and I’m sure she smelled paint.” 

In an email, Allen wrote Lamothe she couldn’t smell any paint fumes. However, 10 On Your Side was in the apartment, and even with open windows the strong smell of paint fumes remains, “and it’s been like that since December 31.”

For now, Mariame and Samya are staying with friends.

They aren’t looking to sue, or want any type of payment. 

All they want is decency, the right to move into another apartment that doesn’t smell like new paint. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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