“Because I’m so allergic to the mould spores and they’re being microscopic they’re literally in everything,” she says.
Deneau says that shortly after the family moved into the three-bedroom house they noticed the foundation was leaking water.
Management said they were aware of the problem and it might be fixed pending budget approval in late 2017.
Then, just after Christmas, the family started finding mould under the basement stairs, along baseboards in the master bedroom and bathroom, growing up the wall in the closest of the children’s bedroom and along the walls of the basement toy room.
“It is so awful and we are all sick,” Deneau says.
“We also had to euthanize one of our dogs after she was seriously injured on the uneven patio.”
Deneau says other of the agency’s homes are in “various states of disrepair” and she has heard from former residents who have also complained about Essex Non-Profit Homes.
“I’ve had numerous people come to me, said, I used to live there, I lived there for four years and I had the same problem, they never fix anything.”
Bondy says the name of the company gives the impression it is municipally-owned but that isn’t so.
“Most people think that that’s the case and it’s not.”
Even Essex town councillor Sherry Bondy, who’s been looking into the issue, thought Essex Non-Profit Homes was a municipal agency.
“I assumed as well,” she said.
“Is it part of the Windsor and Essex County housing? And are we not getting enough grant monies here to fix it up? So, that’s what I assumed as well but it’s not, it’s private.”
In fact, the agency is affiliated with the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada, said Essex Non-Profit Homes’ property manager Heather Michano.
“We have 120 homes that we rent in Essex - they are three, four and five bedrooms.”
“Some of the houses are subsidized, some of them are market rents.”
Michano said a senior official would be returning a call but WON.com, one day later, still has not heard from that individual.
“Essex Non-Profit Homes Inc. purchased 131 houses (a discrepancy from the number given above) in Essex Ontario after the previous owner fell into receivership and many of the original occupants had left,” the agency says on its website.
Homestarts, a Mississauga-based non-profit agency, manages the homes including collecting rents “and keeping the houses in good repair.”
Over the past 40 years Homestarts has provided management, maintenance, restoration, training and consultation to as many as 150 co-operative housing projects across Ontario.
The Deneau family has launched a GoFundMe page because of the financial distress the mould has caused.
“We have all been sick to some extent including our dogs,” Deneau says on the page.
“I myself am already at risk due to having Lupus, Crohn's disease and a blood clotting disorder."
The family is looking for a new home but its many possessions should be left behind because of contamination.
“This is a great financial burden as I am unable to work and many of my medical costs such as insurance and some medications are paid out of pocket to the sum of $600+ a month.”
Deneau told WON.com: “Half of our possessions are sitting in a storage bin outside and we have to go through everything to figure out what is salvageable that can be donated, what’s garbage, and what can be cleaned.”
Meanwhile, town councillor Bondy said the town’s chief building official carried out an inspection but found no problem.
“Right now he’s saying that it’s cleaned up,” she said.
Bondy added she’s been told by the town that “the owners have been very cooperative with any issue that the town has brought forward to them.”
Bondy said mould “is one of those tricky things..… the landlord can clean it up and then, you know, it can reappear. So, I don’t really know what to say.”
Deneau says her family has to give up the premises by April 30, and “Essex Non-Profit Homes actually brought two families through my home on Tuesday for viewing to rent it out starting May 1st.”
Photo: Katie Godin