Winnipeg family fighting for fix to rental unit’s mould issue

Mould issues in an East Kildonan apartment suite has left a Winnipeg couple who recently immigrated to the city feeling frustrated.

The couple worries the mould in their home may be putting their one-year-old son’s health at risk.

While efforts have been made to address the issue, the family feels more should be done to deal with the problem.

Palak Sharma, her husband Dixit and their one-year-old son have been living in the apartment for more than two years. The couple is originally from India. Sharma said when they first moved in, they liked their place.

“It was really good and everything was really nice,” she said. “I’m very happy because my husband got this apartment before I came here.”

Over the past two winters, Sharma said mould has become a problem in their rental suite, which they’ve been leasing on a yearly basis.

She said last winter the building’s caretaker cleaned the walls and got rid of the mould but it returned in October.

“So this winter it’s like the worst,” Sharma said. “There’s lots of mould and I have a wall and it is cracked. There’s a crack in the wall.”

She showed CTV Winnipeg mould in her living room around the air conditioning unit and on a portion of the ceiling where it meets the wall.

It’s in her son’s bedroom and in the bathroom.

When her neighbours found out, they tried to help the family get the problem fixed.

“I saw it and I was just freaked out because I’ve never seen anything that bad before,” said Tina Lussier, the family’s neighbour.

Major causes of mould growth include moisture on surfaces, water leaks and flooding.

Andrew Halayko, an expert in respiratory illnesses at the University of Manitoba, said mould of any kind in your home can be harmful to your health.

“All moulds can cause allergic reaction. All mildews can cause allergic reaction,” Halayko said. “It’s the degree of response that’s different. So, you don’t want mildew, you don’t want mould of any kind in your home.”

During a brief phone call Thursday, the building’s property manager told CTV Winnipeg they couldn’t speak to specifics for privacy reasons, but in general they said the company takes care of tenants, their apartments and deals with issues as they arise.

Sharma did say someone came in to clean the mould again earlier this winter but it eventually grew back.

“Now it’s worse,” she said. “It’s spreading all over the walls.”

After CTV Winnipeg contacted the company Thursday, Sharma’s husband said a painter showed up at their place to work on the walls.

Still the Sharmas, who both work—Palak at a coffee shop and Dixit as a cook—feel not enough has been done to find a long-term fix to the problem.

“I don’t want to live in this environment because my baby’s not feeling good,” Palak said.

The Sharmas said they’ve taken their concerns to Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB).

The family said they’ve also filed a report through 311.

A provincial spokesperson said Manitoba Public Health regulations and the City of Winnipeg’s By-Law Enforcement Services can address mould infestations.

The province said if a tenant contacts the RTB in Winnipeg they’ll be directed to 311. If the unit is outside the city, tenants can call the provincial health protection unit at 204-788-6735 or 204-945-5204 to request an inspection.

The Sharmas said they’ve spoken with a health inspector but still haven’t had an inspection.

The province said the RTB can order landlords to complete repairs and in certain cases tenants can end their leases early. The Sharmas said they were told by the RTB the latter option was available to them but before they move out they said they need to find a new place to live.

If you find mould in your home, experts suggest identifying how severe it is, fixing any source of moisture and carefully cleaning the mould.

You can remove it on your own wearing an N95 mask, gloves and safety glasses in a well-ventilated area without letting the mould get into the air or, to be safer, you can call in a professional.

“If you have a severe mould infestation, I think it’s important that people recognize that this isn’t something you play with,” Halayko said.  

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