For some students, off-campus apartments may seem like a great alternative to university dorms. However, one student’s experience might encourage some to fully investigate their prospective housing before signing a lease.
Linda Onwumbiko first noticed water damage in her apartment at The Reserves in Carrollton in Aug. 2022. What continued over the course of the following months led her through financial, physical and mental strife.
The UWG student reported a leak coming from her ceiling to the maintenance team at The Reserves after finding mushrooms growing in her bathroom.
“They took the bathroom apart, but they left it alone for two months,” Onwumbiko said. “They said, ‘just try to find somewhere to go.’”
Onwumbiko says maintenance attempted to fixthe water leak and damage but did so with shoddy repairs that left her bathroom without a real wall.
“The maintenance man told me, ‘they won’t give me enough money to do it the right way,’” Onwumbiko said.
Months later, Onwumbiko found her ceiling leaking again, and this time, mold enveloping the walls of the apartment complex.
Onwumbiko visited the unit upstairs to find the source of the water leak. While the unit laid empty, black mold covered the floors and she noticed the ceiling ripping apart from the weight of water damage. After further investigation, Onwumbiko found her water heater closet engulfed in black mold.
“The manager told me, ‘I’ve lived in worse places than this in the military,’” Onwumbiko said. “I said, ‘you were paid to do that.’ I’m paying to live in a safe environment. So, what do I do?”
Onwumbiko failed to get The Reserves management to act until she posted the photos of her and the upstairs unit’s moldy walls on Twitter on Feb. 1. The post garnered over 48,000 views and 149 comments with some students sharing similar experiences at the apartment complex.
“They kind of brushed it off until I posted the video,” Onwumbiko said. “And they came over with spray paint.”
Onwumbiko attempted to get out of her current lease but wasmet with another hurdle. The management team offered her a contract to exit her lease if she agreed to keep quiet about the mold.
“It wasn’t until the post started getting views that they offered me this,” Onwumbiko said. “I’m not going to sign it because that’s not fair to me and my rights. They do that to college students because they want you to hurry up and sign something.”
Onwumbiko sought outside help from environmental specialists to assess the damage. They found the unit tested for over 75% of mold growth and have advised Onwumbiko to throw out most of her belongings due to mold damage on them.
“I never knew why I was losing weight and throwing up,” said Onwumbiko. “I had high blood pressure for so long. Even at one point in time I thought maybe I was crazy. Now I figured out mold does that to people.”
This incident is not the first time that Onwumbiko found mold in her apartment at The Reserves. While the property was under different management, she was able to move to a different unit within the complex. Now, she wonders whether all the apartments in The Reserves have mold.
The student plans to keep fighting for herexit of the lease as well as the truth to be told.
“I just want them to care about their residents and actually put them in better environments and not just try to take people’s money and sign leases,” Onwumbiko said. “Since this has been happening, I’ve had so many people reach out and tell me the same thing has happened to them.”
The Reserves apartments did not respond when asked for comment.