Three IU juniors claim they were living in a mold-infested apartment for months at the off campus student housing complex The Dillon, until they decided to move out Sept. 8.
The Dillon is located at 525 S. Patterson Drive. Rent prices at the luxury complex range from about $700 to $1150 per bedroom.
IU junior Ellerin Robins, a former employee and resident of The Dillon, claimed to have told The Dillon numerous times that her apartment was covered with mold. Robins said she was in constant communication with Dillon management.
“We probably asked them to come back six to seven times,” Robins said. “They would come back, check, and would say that it was fine.”
Robins said the maintenance team told her and her roommates for four months that they were being unrealistic and there was no mold in the apartment.
Robins said she felt this treatment was different from her year prior living at The Dillon. In the past, she said she and her roommates talked with the Dillon employees about any maintenance or building issues without needing to file a report.
IU junior Sohini Chowdhury lived with Robins at The Dillon from July 2020 to September this year, but she said they did not find the alleged mold in their apartment until June 10, 2021 when she compared the mold in her apartment to images of black mold on the internet.
“Sohini pulled up a picture of black mold spores on the walls, and we put the pictures side by side,” Robins said. “We thought they looked identical.”
Robins said they found the alleged black-colored mold in the water closet. The maintenance staff allegedly told them it was just dirty after testing the area for mold, she said.
Both roommates trusted the Dillon staff at the time who told them the black spots were not mold, Robins said. She said the maintenance team locked the door after they checked the water closet.
“When I asked them to unlock it, they said it is against the lease to leave the water closet unlocked,” Robins said. “However, we had our closet unlocked the entirety of 2020 to 2021 at that point.”
IU junior Chelsea Zhang moved in with Robins and Chowdhury on August 16. All three said they decided to open the locked water closet to investigate why the maintenance team locked it up. When they unlocked and opened the door, Robins said they discovered the team cut two holes in the wall of the closet to cut out the mold. She said they took the door off the hinges. When they discovered the mold situation, they decided they needed to consult a mold expert, Robins said. The Indiana Daily Student obtained documents by a contractor who the three roommates hired reporting mold was present.
Robins said the mold expert concluded there were five types of mold in their apartment unit. One of the five types, toxic black mold, can lead to skin lesions, according to the Emerging Pathogen Institute at the University of Florida.
A report from Southeast Environmental Microbiology Laboratories concluded the apartment contained 1,560 spores of Chaetomium, a mold normally found in the air, per cubic meter of fungus in the water closet. This type of mold poses a high risk of severe allergic reactions or respiratory infections when there are more than 1,000 spores per cubic meter, according to Enzcycle Lab.
“The mold expert said the previous tests had missed a spot,” Robins said. “If there is even one spore in the air, the test will fail. We had 1,560 spores.”
After conducting a mold test, Mold Inspection & Testing determined the apartment would require professional remediation, including the removal, cleaning and disinfecting of the mold-contaminated areas, the MI&T contractor said. He also suggested the mold problem spread to other areas outside their apartment.
“Dangerously elevated spore counts were present in every lab sample collected except the outside control sample,” the MI&T contractor said in their report.
MI&T also said in the report it appears the building was constructed poorly. The report also said the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning had drainage issues, which caused mold growth and water damage “in almost every area in the apartment”.
Chowdhury said she and her roommates experienced a lot of congestion and sickness throughout the year. She said this may have been a consequence of being exposed to mold.
Zhang said her bedroom smelled like mold and mildew, and she would get headaches whenever she was in her room. She said her floor was wet from a leaked pipe when she moved into The Dillon in August. Zhang said she would sleep with a mask on but was still sneezing and having worsened allergies while staying there.
Some of the long term effects of mold include allergies, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Robins, Chowdhury and Zhang all said they are all worried about the effects mold can potentially have on their health.
Robins also said her lymph nodes were enlarged from the exposure to the mold, and she is seeking a biopsy to make sure she does not have lymphoma.
While Robins was still working at The Dillon, she said general manager Bradley Patitz confronted her about telling other residents in the complex about it's unhealthy living conditions.
“He said I was not advocating for The Dillon,” Robins said.
The Dillon allegedly asked the roommates to sign a confidentiality agreement, which would require the residents to not speak publicly about the mold issues. None of the roommates said they signed the agreement.
The Dillon refused to address specific questions from the IDS surrounding the mold growth and the confidentiality agreement. However, The Dillon did provide a general statement.
“Most mold we encounter every day is harmless, but it’s our policy to take no chances, and when we become aware of mold growth, we act swiftly to ensure that it is professionally removed,” Jessica Nix, The Dillon’s management company senior vice president, said.