CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi mother living in a real-life rental nightmare with nowhere to turn until she turned to Action 10 News.
“It's just been horrible, It's been a nightmare,” Monica Martinez says about her family’s living situation.
When we first went to Martinez’s apartment at the Admiral and Britanny Apartments, we found countless termites, plenty of mold and Martinez claims, her apartment is structurally unsafe.
What’s worse? Martinez has two children and one of them has leukemia and with all the issues she faces at her apartment, she’s not only afraid for herself but also for her two kids and one of her children is living with leukemia.
“Here's one termite,” Martinez says as she shows us her apartment and the critters bold enough to come out during the day. Then touching the walls which appear to be buckling saying, "the walls are completely becoming undone.”
Martinez has lived at the apartment complex for two and a half years and then made the shocking discovery about two and a ½ months ago.
"All of a sudden there was about 20 termites in my kitchen,” she told us as we stood outside her apartment. And then, she says, things took a turn for the worse.
"So, I started investigating and I noticed there were just hundreds of holes and mold,” Martinez pointed out throughout her apartment. "This vent I have had to clean every single day.”
And that's not even the worst of it.
"This is what it looks like in there,” she says, showing us the main vent and when she opens it, we see mold and pools of water.
The mold and the termites, Monica says, taking over her apartment.
"I did not notice anything until they started swarming,” she said which was the first indication, she says, things were about to get bad.
That’s why she called management time after time and even sent them emails and when we asked her about management’s initial reaction? She says they promised to tent her apartment.
Soon after that, pest control came out to spray but Monica says that didn’t do much.
“And they said they would have a tent in about two months,” Monica says about management’s response.
But this isn’t just about Monica. It also affects her five-year-old son Jackson, who’s already in the fight of his life.
Doctors diagnosed him with leukemia two years ago.
“Um, it's been really hard,” she says. "My babies have been home sick every single day. If it's not one, it's the other. Respiratory infections.”
Jackson’s doctor at Driscoll Children’s Hospital even saying her son would have serious issues by living there.
“My son isn't even allowed to stay here right now, according to his doctors, because of the mold,” Monica said after showing us the letter from Jaxson’s doctor.
"Him having to stay elsewhere, when he just wants to be home,” she said.
So when Monica's at home, all she can do is look at Jax’s pictures and take care of her 2-year-old, Chase, as best she can.
We wanted to know if Monica felt her complaints to management felt upon deaf ears.
"It's been a big battle,” she told us about her interactions with management. “I've gotten into it with them about it because I mean this is my health, this is my kids health.”
And that's why Monica says she felt forced to call code enforcement.
“I had to, absolutely,” she told us. “For my son to not be able to stay here and for my 2-year-old and me to be missing work, school.” Adding, “I had to call in order for them to know I was serious.”
Code enforcement came out to look and although they couldn't comment on Monica's case, they told us termites coming out in the middle of the day most likely means they've been there for quite some time.
"That's typically an indication that there could be an infestation and that's when we go ahead and move forward with an emergency measures type situation,” Liza Lopez of Code Enforcement told us. And if that's the case, Lopez says, code enforcement notifies the owner to get things fixed within 72 hours.
"Where the building could potentially collapse if it doesn't get identified,” Lopez says.
Though at the same time, Lopez says many people are afraid to call.
"They are afraid to call and let us know because they could be potentially kicked out,” she told us.
At the same time, Lopez has a reminder to renters. She urges you to check the faucets, plumbing, and electrical systems as best they can, before signing a lease.
"To make sure everything is working properly before you move in,” Lopez added.
When we first interviewed Monica two weeks ago, she told us she was as at her wits end. But soon after we left and then later asked management for comment, Monica says the ball got rolling. Her apartment was fumigated over the weekend and management put her up at a hotel for 2 nights. All this, Monica says, never would have happened if she hadn’t have called Action 10 News for help.
Genie Stone, part of the management team at the Admiral and Brittany Apartment wouldn't go on camera but told us in part that they were notified on June 24th that a resident had noticed termites, that tenting was a month and a half out, and that, that they’ve given rental concessions and hotel arrangements for resident, any repairs will be done, and they’re not allowing tenants to be let out of their leases sine, they say, they are resolving the problem.
But for Monica, the damage is already done and it's her kids she's worried about the most.
"I'm their mom,” she said. “I'm supposed to know what to do but I have no idea what to do...It's been the most challenging thing of my life but it's also showed me that he's a warrior and if he can put up with the things he puts up with, what do I have to complain about.”
Liza Lopez of code enforcement telling us that renters often don't go to code enforcement for fear that they'll be kicked out of their apartment and have nowhere to go. But that's against the law and that’s where small claims court comes in. Also, code enforcement refers renters to the Nueces County Courthouse for a free meditation service in the hopes of working things out.
Now when it comes to termites, what if you're unsure they're invading your home. Here are some things to look out for:
- Uneven, bubbling paint
- Small, pinpoint holes
- Buckling floorboards
- Crumbling wood
- Piles of wings
- Mud tubes
- And if you notice any of those signs, you could be experiencing some health problems.
They rarely bite or sting but if they do, you could experience extreme pain, relentless itching, swelling, allergic reactions, and asthma attacks.
One of the greatest health risks is the chemicals used to kill or repel them, often used in tenting and that's why they put a tent over the house. So besides tenting, what else can you do?
- Use mulch
- Seal up holes or cracks
- Proper drainage
- Dry and well-ventilated spaces
- Call a professional