Two Chesapeake mothers reach out to 10 On Your Side about mold, gun violence after calls for help go unanswered

Chesapeake

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Imagine living with mold or a bullet coming through your child’s bedroom: it’s a real-life situation two single mothers in Chesapeake say they’ve battled for years.

10 On Your Side first reported about issues residents say they experienced with Lawson Companies back in August. Since then, two more residents, desperate for help, reached out to us about similar problems in two separate Lawson Companies properties in Chesapeake.

Both women wished to remain anonymous because they were worried about retribution.

It all started with an anonymous woman, who we will refer to as Starr.

She lived in The Rivers apartments, a Lawson Companies property, off of Great Bridge Boulevard for almost five years.

She moved in when she had her first child and noticed black spots popping up on the walls.

As much as she cleaned, even in the hours before she gave birth to her second baby, the spots kept coming back. She suspected it was mold.

“Before I went into the hospital, I cleaned my house. Like, flipped it, mattresses, everything. I bleached it, cleaned it, everything. When I came home, I noticed that there were more black spots,” she said.

Starr says the problems only got worse from there. She said maintenance cut a hole in her kids’ closet to fix the HVAC system, a hole that stayed there for months and allowed for rodents to come in.

“I have young children and I’m really big on hygiene,” she said. “So in my mind, I was terrified because I’m like, you know, rodent feces and pee can cause health hazards.”

At the same time, she says she saw the mold keep growing in her children’s room and even spread to their clothes.

She was eventually moved to another unit in the complex, but only after months of pleading with her property managers to believe her when she said it was mold.

“It’s mold. I’ve been told numerous times it’s mold and to go to the health department and the health department says to me in my face, ‘Yes, this is mold.’ And then to go to them and they’re telling me it’s not mold, I’m not crazy. The health department is not going to lie,” said Starr.

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Just six miles away at the Forest Cove Apartments, another single mom, who we’ll call J, dealt with mold and other maintenance issues. She and her two children were also moved to another unit in the five years she’s lived there.

While she and her children were quarantined with COVID-19 at the end of September, she says her situation got worse.

“I noticed that there was like a hole in the ceiling. So, I’m thinking like, it might be something like in the wall or something that’s like deteriorating or something like that. But no, it was like a bullet hole. And I was like, it can’t be,” she said.

A bullet came through her child’s ceiling, luckily missing them, which she says came from an upstairs neighbor.

She called Chesapeake police and pleaded with property managers for help, but was told there’s nothing they can do.

J got emotional talking about how she’s tried to get someone to listen and says she was desperate, which is why she reached out to 10 On Your Side.

“It just hurt because I try so hard and it’s hard with three kids and then you have to deal with stuff that shouldn’t even be an issue and they make it an issue,” she said between tears.

We reached out to Lawson Companies and were told they don’t do on-camera interviews.

The company addressed both of the mother’s issues in the statement below.

A variety of factors can contribute to mold in households, some of which are controlled primarily by residents including proper housekeeping and use of HVAC controls. When mold occurs we rely on residents to report issues to management promptly so we can inspect the unit and remediate the situation quickly. Sometimes residents don’t report issues to property management until the problem is more serious, and more difficult to resolve.

The mold in the units referenced at The Rivers has been remediated. Recent inspections indicate there is no recurrence, and we have not received additional reports of mold.

Regarding Forest Cove, the work order to address mold on an air vent was received on 9/13. Our maintenance team evaluated it and could not determine if it was mold or mildew. We made an appointment for a mold contractor to evaluate and remediate. It will be remediated 11/2 or sooner at the contractor’s earliest availability. Like the rest of the world we’re unfortunately experiencing COVID related service delays and contractors are not always able to come out as quickly as we’d like.

The resident notified our office of the shooting on 9/21. We notified Chesapeake Police and our private security company and reviewed statements from both involved parties. The Chesapeake Police Department is investigating the matter, but no arrest has been made, which limits the options we are able to pursue.

We take the well-being of our residents seriously and respond as quickly as possible to emergency service requests or those that may affect someone’s health. 

Dan Hankin, Director of Marketing, Lawson Companies

We tried again to get someone to speak on camera and went to their offices in Virginia Beach. Their doors are locked because of COVID-19 protocols, so we called the number on the door.

Still, no one in reception picked up.

J is still living at Forest Cove with her children and says maintenance has come to fix the problems she reported, but only after we reached out.

They covered up the bullet hole, fixed her vents and the entrance to her door, but she says the issue they can’t fix is how unsafe she feels living there with her children.

“I’ve been trying to look past it because at the end of the day, I’m only one person,” she said. “I can only do but so much. So, I’m just gonna do what I have to do to get me and my kids out of here.”

Lawson Companies says the lack of an arrest by Chesapeake police limits the options they’re able to pursue.

As for Starr, she and her children have since moved out of The Rivers apartments.

10 On Your Side followed up with Lawson Companies about why it’s been so difficult for these mothers and other residents to get help from their on-site management, even after notifying them of problems.

In another statement, the company gave some recommendations for residents who aren’t getting immediate help from their on-site management.

Residents can contact property staff by phone during business hours. If a resident does not get a satisfactory response, feel their concerns are not being addressed, or are not able to get in contact with on-site property management I would encourage them to call our corporate office at 757-499-6161 and ask to speak to the Regional Property Manager responsible for their property. We also have an answering service in place to take calls when staff is not available. If a resident says they left a message that was not returned we can look at the call logs to confirm the call if the resident can provide the date and approximate time they called, and we can then follow up with property staff.

Residents can also submit and track service tickets online via the resident portal. All Lawson residents have access to an online resident portal allowing residents to submit and track service requests and pay rent online. The portal is available 24/7/365 and helps to protect residents and staff from COVID by providing a no-contact transaction option.

The health and safety of our residents and staff is always a top priority and our goal is to address resident concerns appropriately and in a timely manner. If there are specific resident complaints outstanding we will escalate them and look into why they are unresolved so that we can address the issue and determine if there is a need for training or coaching of staff. In order to do that we need the affected residents to reach out to a Regional Property Manager with a timeline and description of their frustrations. We can’t address issues effectively if we don’t have all of the information. Assuming we share a common goal of assisting residents with resolutions to complaints, we would appreciate your assistance in promoting communication through the channels described above. 

Dan Hankin, Director of Marketing, Lawson Companies

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