Family’s house is infested with mold
*• Birth leads to moveout: Couple sues former owner alleging problem covered up *
By Matthew DeFour
SANDWICH — Gene and Janis Gerali were expecting the next few years to be a challenge with the birth of their first child, the care of an aging grandfather and the mortgage on a recently purchased house in Sandwich.
What they weren’t expecting was an infestation of toxic mold that would force them to move out of the house at 807 S. Wells St. under doctor’s orders.
This week, only a few days after becoming new parents, the Geralis filed a lawsuit in DeKalb County Circuit Court against the former owner who sold them the house, alleging that he violated the residential real property disclosure act and committed fraud.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages in excess of $100,000 as well as punitive damages against Edward Collette, formerly of Sandwich, who could not be reached for comment.
The Geralis’ attorney, Julie Cibulskis said the case was one of the more unusual that her law firm, Aurora-based Lindner, Speers & Reuland, had encountered.
“It’s very unique in that Mr. and Mrs. Girali were living in the house while Mrs. Girali was pregnant,” Cibulskis said. “Their pediatrician advised them that they should not be in the home until they are able to determine the potential health risks to the infant.”
The Geralis purchased the 20-year-old house on Sept. 30, 2005, after consulting a home inspection service, which found no major defects. The modern wood-framed structure included new roof shingles, an indoor swimming pool and four bedrooms.
Cibulskis said the former owner has moved out of the area.
The expectant family moved from Naperville with their parents and grandfather but soon after developed asthma-like symptoms, including severe headaches and nasal congestion, that seemed to disappear whenever they were away from the house.
Then, one day, they received a letter from the ex-wife of the previous owner, alerting them of a severe mold problem in the house, which allegedly had been covered up by Collette in order to sell the property, Cibulskis said.
The Geralis contracted Naperville-based Above Board Remediation Technologies to investigate the extent of the mold infestation.
On Jan. 9, the company found evidence of past leaks in the roof, previous flooding in the basement and water damage caused by moisture from the pool, though most of it had been cosmetically fixed, according to Barton Robertson, owner of Above Board. The company also found mold in the drop ceiling boards in the basement, in the rafters and floor boards in the attic — even behind the drywall.
“In the pool room you could tell it had been freshly painted,” Robertson said. “We brought in our infrared camera, and we could see moisture going through it like a sponge. In the attic, it’s a nightmare.”
Robertson added that a mold spore count outside the building was 27, compared with a spore count in the basement of 66,200. The types of mold found included Aspergillus, which has been known to cause fever, cough, chest pain and breathlessness.
To remediate the mold infestation, Above Board will have to gut the house, Robertson said. The process could take six weeks and cost upward of $72,000. It would cost another $72,000 to have the house put back together with fresh materials, and even then, the factors that caused the mold, such as the indoor pool being in a wood structure, would have to be addressed.
The Geralis now are living with a relative and were not able to comment, their attorney said.
The lawsuit, the first filed in DeKalb County this year, is scheduled for an initial hearing in July.