FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Call for Action investigation is getting answers about an apartment complex with mold. We've learned the mold issue at Audubon Cove has been an issue for years.
A whistleblower who used to work at Audubon Cove in south Fort Myers said he was fired because he reported the issues himself.
Since our first story in July, WINK News has gotten complaints about mold from current residents and former employees. They've spoken exclusively to WINK News because they have questions of why and we've got answers.
"What was your first impression when you got the job there?" said Genevieve Judge, WINK Investigative reporter.
"Oh my God, what did I get myself into," said former worker.
The man is a former employee of Audubon Cove and wanted his identity hidden.
"Tell me why you think you were fired?" said Judge.
"I was fired for being loud," said former worker.
He worked for Audubon Cove from 2009 until 2011. WINK News verified that with paystubs. He was in charge of electrical issues, air conditioning, dry wall, basically everything inside or outside of the apartments.
"We were told to use bleach and water, wash it off, kilt it, paint it," said the former worker.
"Did that fix the problem?" said Judge. "No.
We got no answers at all on our first trip to Audubon Cove in June. But late Friday afternoon, after a dozen phone calls, five e-mails and two certified letters, we finally got some answers from Jeffrey Libert. He is the owner of Audubon Cove's parent company in Massachusetts.
"What took you so long to get back to me?" said Judge.
"We have a generally policy not to talk to the press. We don't do press releases, we don't have a publicist, we just don't do it, Genevieve, because we're not good at it," said Libert.
"Is mold an issue at Audubon Cove in Fort Myers?" said Judge.
"Yes it is. Its an issue and its an issue that we're addressing as fast as we can," said Libert.
"How long would you say this has been an issue?" said Judge.
"We've been working on it since the day we've owned the building," said Libert.
"So five years?" said Judge.
"We've been working on this problem and attacking it every single year," said Libert.
But after that interview, when WINK News was told we could talk to the local property manager, she insisted the mold wasn't an issue.
"Jeffrey and I were talking not only about this building but he flat out told us over the phone that there was a mold issue here," said Judge.
"There was a mold remediation years ago, even before I came here. They upgraded a lot of the units, 102 apartments here that have been upgraded," said Catherine Hulsinger, property manager, Audubon Cove.
"He said it was an issue, it is an issue, like currently," said Judge.
"If there is an issue, the residents will let us know that they have a leak and we go over and we take care of it. We send our contractor, our engineer and they set up a schedule," said Hulsinger.
But that's not what we're hearing from people who still live at Audubon Cove. One woman, who wants her identity hidden, said she has mold and she's been trying to get it fixed for four months.
"Look at the mold starting up here. Can you see all the mold? Thats all mold and all the putty they put in," said a current tenant.
In documents obtained by WINK News, the woman told management during a move-in inspection there was "front door major water damage" and "front door frame needs replacement."
There is a hole near the frame of her front window. She said she's told management and water still comes in every time it rains.
"I just want them to take care of repairs in a proper way," said tenant.
"She's got mold in her apartment now. She says that she's been working with you guys and letting you know about it for the last couple of months but nothing has been done?" said Judge.
"I can't talk about any of the residents that currently live here or have left. We're not privy to that information," said Hulsinger.
"I have a picture would that help?" said Judge.
"Not really," said Hulsinger.
"If I showed you a picture of this, the wall is deteriorating," said Judge.
"Like I said, that is between us and the residents and if we know of the problem, we're going to handle it and take care of it," said Hulsinger.
And there's another issue. One building at Audubon Cove was shut down after three fires last spring. Deputy Fire Chief Craig Brotheim with the South Trail Fire Department told WINK News, termites and other maintenance issues lead to the fires. But when WINK News asked management on Friday about the termites and fires, they told us a water leak in the roof was the cause of the fires, not termites.
"With the fire department saying they think its termites, you don't think they are right?" said Judge.
"I'm not saying that they're not right, I'm saying there were no live termites found in the building?" said Hulsinger.
"Were there termites found at all? Dead ones?" said Judge.
"Umm I honestly can not answer that. I know that we do have a termite bond on the building. So we have taken care of whatever needs to be taken care of," said Hulsinger.
"They're moving you into something that is potentially dangerous. People are moving out of there like crazy because its on TV now," said the former employee.
Another tenant we interviewed in July told WINK News, she moved out because of mold issues. She got a letter from a collection agency that told her Audubon Cove is trying to sue her for the last three months rent on her lease. Local attorneys have said you can't stop paying rent or break a lease just because of mold.
The current tenants at Audubon Cove told WINK News management has told us they're going to start working with them to get repairs done. Trust WINK News to make sure that happens.
First story aired May 17, 2012
Second story aired July 9, 2012
Third story aired July 10, 2012 - Renter's rights