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"It was black from the bottom to the top": Tenants talk mold issues at Ingleside apartment complex

Posted at 6:39 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 19:43:12-04

INGLESIDE, Texas — A Coastal Bend woman claims mold issues at her apartment complex in Ingleside are not getting resolved. When she decided to attend a city council meeting to voice her grievances on the issue, she got kicked out before even getting a chance to deliver her message. There are lots of questions as to why.

“I should have never been thrown out of the meeting,” Cynthia Torres told us.

The next day, when Action 10 News alerted the mayor of Ingleside, he later admitted to us that they violated Torres’s constitutional rights. But why? It was her first city council meeting. She never said anything. She never did anything. She went to the meeting to deliver a message but no one ever had the chance to hear it.

That message stems from the apartment complex where she lives. It’s the Bay City Flats apartments on SR-361.

On a sign outside, there’s a $500 incentive for new renters. But, behind the front façade, the beauty seems to be replaced with a complex under construction. The first time we were invited onto the property back in September, we found the area littered with appliances, cabinets, and windows taped over with plastic. A dumpster nearby was full of construction materials, including sheetrock, wood, and insulation.

"I came here because I thought it was going to be quiet,” Torres told us from her vacant apartment where she says she can’t live because of what she calls a mold problem. She says ever since she moved in, she’s lived a tenant’s worst nightmare.

We asked Torres if she noticed anything wrong immediately.

"The next day I tell her, 'man, It stinks in that apartment',” she told us. “Something like wet. It stinks nasty.”

That’s when she says her battle with the on-site manager and Corpus Christi-based Mac Lamar began to take on a life of its own.

Not long after, Cynthia and her roommate both got sick thinking they had COVID-19. When the doctor told them they both tested negative, Torres thought, “If we don’t have COVID, what do we have?”

The two experienced shortness of breath, swelling and weren’t hungry. So what could be causing it? Torres believes it was mold.

When she found out her upstairs neighbor had mold in her apartment, Torres said she tore open one of her livingroom walls since she claims it was already falling apart.

That’s when she made the disturbing discovery.

“It was black from the bottom to the top,” she said as she showed us pictures of what she found behind the wall.

That’s when she says she and her roommate realized what was making them sick.

Torres wasn’t the only one finding the moldy mess. Another neighbor shared a similar story.

Norma Peña and her husband moved in to Bay City Flats in March.

We asked her when was the first time she noticed something was wrong. She said when she moved some pictures, she found some black substance all the way down.

"They keep telling me the same thing,” Pena said about the dark black spots she continued to find in her apartment. “'No, it’s nothing. It’s not mold. It’s the paint coming off the wall', and I had it all over my apartment.”

Her husband, who has pre-existing lung problems, got worse as the days and weeks went by ever since they moved in.

“The doctor had told us,” Pena says, “he (her husband) can’t be around mold.”

All this was happening as Torres’s claims her health also continued to get worse. Then one day, she said she believes she finally found the truth.

“I wasn’t feeling well so I came home early that day and I noticed the maintenance guy‘s truck reversed in and he was throwing the insulation from the top to the bottom from the upstairs apartment,” she recalls.

Torres says the maintenance man told her he was switching out a wall in her upstairs neighbor’s apartment and the tenant upstairs complained she couldn’t breathe. She says he also told her that the wall had to be replaced due to the mold.

By this time, Torres had already began making maintenance requests demanding the problems get fixed. She says the typical response was that the problems had been solved.

She says management also told her there were no violations, but code enforcement disagreed. They told Mac Lamar that any structure with mold would have to be replaced if repaired and a code inspector would be back in 10 days to check it out.

That’s when Torres says she made another discovery. She found out concrete had been added to the flooring on the unit above hers.

"The floor was so weak that if a person weighed 150 pounds, they would fall through the flooring,” Torres says an on-site worker told her. “So they had to add concrete to the flooring up there.”

As for Torres’s wall, management replaced it in August. We asked Torres if she was concerned about the structural integrity of the apartment.

“Oh man, they compromised the integrity of this structure,” Torres told us. “When they took that wall apart, I and the maintenance guy know that 2X4’s were rotten.”

Our repeated attempts to talk with the on-site manager and the management company, Mac Lamar, went unanswered.

"I was not aware of it,” said Mayor Ronnie Parker. He told us he and the city manager would look into the problem and if they needed to, they’d hire an engineer.

Mayor Parker also had a message for Mac Lamar.

“They need to get their act together and make their buildings safe,” he said.

That’s why Torres went to last Wednesday’s city council meeting. She showed up late, but video of the meeting shows she stood in the back with documents in hand waiting to speak. She never had the chance to speak, she says, as Ingleside police officers signaled her to come outside.

At that point, Torres took to Facebook as she questioned the officers.

"Why don’t you want to tell me right now who is the one that asked me to leave?” she asked an officer. “I don’t have to tell you who told me,” the officer responded.

"I wanna’ know who’s asking me to leave because this is a public place” Torres asked again.

“Okay," the officer told her. “The city’s asking you to leave.”

We alerted Mayor Parker about the issue, and he called Torres the next day saying he didn’t know she got kicked out of the meeting until we called him.

“The city is wrong. We're dead wrong. It doesn't matter who is at that meeting if they aren't acting up, you can't have them removed," he said.

Mayor Parker also told us the city violated her constitutional rights.

When we asked Torres if she did anything that would make them throw her out of the meeting, she answered, “No sir, nothing at all.”

We are still waiting to hear back from Mac Lamar.

As for Cynthia, there’s a special city council meeting Monday night at 6:30 pm to address the issue.

She says she will not give up until her voice is heard.