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Sickened by mold, tenant turns to Legal Aid attorney

After Hurricane Frances completed her soggy rampage through South Florida in September 2004, “Louis,” a 73-year-old mobile home resident, discovered the storm had left behind a stealthy calling card.

It was bad enough, Louis said, that wind-driven rain had damaged his home. The rain also had seeped into all of his worldly possessions, causing the growth of a particularly noxious type of mold.

Toxins from the mold caused the fit Chicago native to break out in a rash. Nearly every inch of Louis' body --from his eyelids to his trunk and legs - was covered by red, pimply, itchy pustules.

Louis tried to resolve the situation on his own. He sent letters to the building association, alerting management to the mold problem. Their only response was to send someone to Louis’ home to spray-paint the mold and tell him it was fixed.

Louis finally had enough. He walked into the offices of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach and spoke with attorney Shahar Pasch. The organization is partially funded by The Florida Bar Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing access to justice for Florida’s poorest residents.

Pasch, who specializes in elder-law cases, told Louis his first step was to terminate the rental agreement. She notified the landlord that her client was terminating his lease because the home had become uninhabitable. It took less than two weeks for her to negotiate a settlement for her client, which included the return of his security deposit, as well as a partial refund of September’s rent, for the time the apartment was untenable.

For seniors like Louis on modest fixed incomes, even simple legal problems can seem insurmountable without the help of Legal Aid.