Fri Nov 27, 2009
By Jennifer Calhoun
Samantha and Eddie Coon’s house is one of those places that makes you think you’re already home.
Tucked in an acre of woods near U.S. 301 near Eastover, the deeply slanted roof gives it charm, and the brick walls make it look strong and protective.
But as welcoming as the house appears from the outside, inside it is dying.
Mold covers every surface and has taken over the drywall. The ventilation system is rotted through. Cracks in the foundation run down the sides of the house, and, when it rains, water streams from the windows, walls and roof. Estimates to fix the problems have come in at $124,000, and insurance won’t cover it.
The family abandoned the house in August after black mold became so prevalent they could no longer breathe well. However, they still pay the $1,278-a-month mortgage.
Now, the family lives in a 10-foot-by-24-foot space with a half-bath off of a friend’s house.
It is where Samantha will hold Christmas with the couple’s four children, while Eddie – a sergeant first class in the 82nd Airborne Division – is on his fifth deployment. This time, to Afghanistan.
But this is not a story of blame or anger, says Samantha Coon – there’s no one and everyone to blame, including themselves. Extenuating family circumstances caused the couple to forgo an inspection on the house when they bought it in 2005 for $175,000. It could have saved them a lot of trouble, and a lot of hurt.
But it is what it is, as the saying goes.
Instead, this is one family’s story of how times might be hard, but they don’t have to break you.
Samantha Coon stands in the driveway at the house and smiles. She knows what visitors will say, even before they say it.
She watches carefully as expressions change, and new eyes take in the tree-filled yard and the deep, screened-in porch.
Samantha Coon knows the reaction because it’s the same one she had four years ago when she and her husband first saw the five-bedroom, two-bath house.
“I know,” she says, nodding. “It’s beautiful. We liked the rural location. That’s one of the things we were looking for.”
Walking toward the screened-in porch, she waves her hand around the yard, where a trampoline and tree house sit empty.
“At one time, we had over a hundred people here for a party,” she says.
Most of the people were single soldiers who had just returned from a deployment in Iraq, with no one in Fayetteville to welcome them home.
But for that night – or any night they needed it – this house was their home, Samantha Coon says.
She especially wanted the families of soldiers to come here for hope and healing.
“I wanted this to be a safe place where you could just come and have fellowship, where you could cry on each others’ shoulder, encourage one another and strengthen one another,” she says, making her way to one of the bedrooms upstairs. “One military wife came out here with just a backpack and a baby. She stayed for three months.
“We just had huge dreams for this place.”
The dreams started dying in 2007, a couple of years after the family moved into the house.
That was when the family started noticing the leaks.
Some came from an improperly configured heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit installed by a previous owner. Others came from the ceiling, even though the roof of the 20-year-old, custom-built home was supposed to be relatively new. Still others flooded from the floors in the bathrooms.
The chimney also leaked.
Some of the problems were repaired, while others went unfixed during Eddie Coon’s deployments and other military-related absences.
But other, more ominous problems began cropping up.
In 2007, the couple’s then-10-year-old daughter, Summer, developed an infection in her lungs that resulted in a partial-lung collapse.
“We didn’t think about it at the time, but she was always coughing,” Samantha says now. “She was constantly sick with headaches and stomachaches. Since we’ve been out of the house, all of them have been fine.”
As the months passed, more leaks sprung throughout the house, and mold began covering the walls, the cabinets and the furniture.
It was too much – and too expensive – to keep up with.
By mid-2009, they were on their 15th and final repair. Workmen went to repair a leak in the garage ceiling and found black mold.
Not long after, one of the two HVAC units quit. The other one became overtaxed and also died.
Mold took over everything, and the family was forced to move out for the sake of their health.
Estimates for all the repairs came in at dramatic rates. The first was $83,000 to fix the bathrooms, re-tile, clean up the molding, fix the skylights, replace the carpets, gut one of the bedrooms and cut down some trees to get more sunlight in.
Replacing and re-configuring the air-conditioning units would cost $21,000. And repairs to the foundation would cost $20,000.
The Coons have all but given up on the house, even though they know they’ll be stuck with the mortgage for as long as they can pay it.
Foreclosure might be on the horizon, but it would ruin Eddie’s career, Samantha said.
Samantha has called various state and military agencies looking for help, but there seems to be nothing anyone can do. Her insurance company told her the problems won’t be covered, because it’s past the point of recourse.
They should have had the inspection, they know now.
It’s a message Samantha wants other home buyers to know, too.
And while the family may be devastated, Samantha Coon still has hope things may get better.
“There’s a hundred different ways this can go,” she said. “I just know that God answers prayers.”
A letter to the NAA regarding an email they deleted without reading – please retract your amicus in the Abad case in Arizona – it is fraud by a political action committee, the National Apartment Association, that is furthering another fraud by another political action committee, the US Chamber of Commerce
Political Action Committee – NAA – files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer
Information on Riverstone Residential knowingly exposing tenants to extreme amounts of mold toxins at Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana