LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A tenant in a Las Vegas apartment came back from a trip to California Sunday to find her home was overgrown with black mold, and she has lost access to everything she owns while an investigation plays out.
LaToya Barnes, 33, her husband Dante Gilmer, 31, and three young children have had to leave their University Gardens Apartments unit. It’s not a safe place anymore, with walls that were once white but are now mottled with black splotches. The floor looks like there’s hair growing on it, Barnes said.
Since then, the family has been staying with friends and using AirBnB rentals.
Photos taken by Barnes appear to show mold that has spread throughout the apartment. Barnes says there is also a roach infestation.
The mold was there before, but Barnes said the complex dismissed the problem as mildew when she reported it. A promise to “wipe” the mildew was never fulfilled. Before the trip to California, Barnes said the mold was in the ceiling, in the bathroom and under the carpet in her daughter’s room.
She alerted management that there was a leak in the shower before she left, but was told that there were other emergencies ahead of that problem.
Three weeks later, she returned to a nightmare. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Barnes said. Her kids don’t have a home anymore.
She recounted the events over the course of three phone calls Thursday as she dealt with the situation, finishing with a trip to the doctor’s office where she was having her children checked for respiratory problems that came back after returning to the apartment on Sunday. The problems had disappeared during the California trip.
She remembers walking into the apartment. “The stove light is on, but it’s pitch dark. And the walls are black with hairs,” Barnes said.
“My daughter was scared, because she needed to use the bathroom,” Barnes remembers.
She has two daughters, one 5 years old and one who just turned a year old, and a 2-year-old son.
Barnes was upset, thinking about everything that was ruined, and how she would pay to replace beds, clothes — everything she owned.
“This situation really made me hit rock bottom,” Barnes said. She is working on creating a GoFundMe page for help.
A spokeswoman for the apartment complex said the locks on the apartment had been changed when they went to check on the leak, and they had to call a locksmith to get in. That’s a violation of her lease, the spokeswoman said.
Details of when the lock was changed are unclear. Barnes’ husband, Gilmer, returned to Las Vegas after a week to get changes of clothes. He saw the mold then — he apparently had trouble getting through the door because of the mold at the time, but the family stayed in California to attend to problems there.
On Friday, Barnes has an appointment with a lawyer.
She says the lawyers have seen the photos, but they don’t know the details of everything that has happened between her and the apartment complex. She said she stopped paying rent in March.
A manager with University Gardens confirmed that Barnes was a resident, but could offer no more information because Barnes has contacted a lawyer. A representative of Westland Apartments, which owns the complex, responded with a statement on Thursday:
Westland University Gardens takes all appropriate actions to provide a safe community and environment for our residents, maintenance technicians, staff, and vendors.
Ms. Barnes informed us of a leak in her bathroom on March 22, 2022. She did not give us permission to enter but instead insisted to be home during the maintenance work. We attempted to enter and understand the situation but the resident was not present. The staff attempted a second time to enter the unit the following day but the resident was not present to open the door. The resident informed management that she had left out of state for an emergency. During all of the conversations had between the staff and the resident, there was no mention of mold in the unit. The resident returned on 04/10 and reported that her unit now had mold. The office staff finally gained access to the unit and immediately called in an outside licensed vendor to remediate any mold issues. The unit was not inhabitable and the resident was offered an exact copy of her unit within the same complex. The resident rejected the offer and left. The resident returned the next day and became angry and belligerent when given the news that she could not enter her unit due to possible hazards. She then proceeded to verbally and physically assault the management staff. The resident was not under any eviction proceeding nor did she withhold rent in March. Ms. Barnes has recently renewed her lease with University Gardens in February 2022. Westland wants to resolve this unfortunate matter with the resident as soon as possible.
— Dena Lerner, Westland Apartments spokeswoman
Barnes had another version of the confrontation on Monday, and said she was simply trying to keep office staff at a distance during a heated argument.