Military housing reform could benefit families dealing with mold at MacDill

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For months, 8 On Your Side has exposed the mold issues families face living on MacDill Air Force Base.

Those reports forced lawmakers to take action. Now they’re a step closer to resolution, through military housing reforms and a tenant bill of rights included in a defense bill approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday.

Not long after that vote in D.C., families suing the private companies that manage MacDill base housing for negligence met with lawyers in Tampa to ask questions and discuss what happens next.

“It’s deeply impacted our health,” Jenny Genrich said, one of the plaintiffs.

Genrich explained that it only took three weeks for her and her husband to start experiencing mold illness after moving into base housing in August 2018. Their symptoms include constant headaches, dizzy spells, and other neurological issues.

It’s been seven months since they moved out bu the symptoms still haven’t left.

“I believe if he had been asked to deploy, he would not have been able to deploy,” Genrich said.

The Genrichs’ story is unfortunately similar to others that 8 On Your Side has uncovered at MacDill for months.

“This is not an isolated incident,” said Natalie Khawam, the attorney who filed suit against the housing providers last week. “This is happening across the board at MacDill Air Force Base.”

The multi-billion-dollar defense budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives includes reform to private military housing and a tenant bill of rights. The bill of rights would allow families recourse, such as withholding rent, if issues with base housing like mold aren’t addressed.

“I’m very pleased with that being included in the legislation,” said Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, in D.C. Wednesday. Crist is one of the lawmakers who championed the mold issues.

But those taking legal action against housing providers say the reform component of the defense bill still isn’t enough. They want to see punitive measures taken against the housing providers that allowed the poor living conditions in the first place.

“When you go to a baker and they burn the cookies, you don’t go back to the same baker and say ‘can you bake me some cookies again?'” Khawam said.

The Senate is set to vote on the defense budget in the coming days.

8 ON YOUR SIDE’S FULL COVERAGE OF MOLD AT MACDILL:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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