Dream of owning home turns “nightmare” for rent-to-own tenants

Some tenants say their consumer mold test turned positive in their Hopewell Pointe home.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Some residents in the Hopewell Pointe housing community say moisture problems and even potential mold have made them want to move out.  But officials with the non-profit agency in charge say they’ve already fixed problems brought to their attention.

Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) is a not-for-profit organization geared toward fighting poverty.  CANI teamed up with Keller Development to build the rent-to-own housing community Hopewell Pointe.  Located in Waynedale, the homes were completed May of 2012.

CANI’s hope with the project is to lease the homes to low-income tenants for 15 years, then allow the tenant to purchase the home at around a third of the cost.

“The purpose here is to help lower income families achieve home ownership,” said Steve Hoffman, president and CEO of CANI.  “In 15 years, we want to be able to sell them to low-income people.  So we’re very interested in maintaining them.”

Julie Dodane says she and her two teenagers were some of the first in line to move in.

“It was an opportunity for me at my salary range to be able to lease to purchase a home and get out of an apartment setting,” Dodane explained.

Since then, she says her home has experienced extreme moisture problems that attracted insects called springtails.

“I was so upset.  I could not believe that,” Dodane said.  “I keep my house clean and these bugs were coming in and when I researched why, I was floored.”

CANI and property maintenance took care of the bugs, but it got Dodane and her friend thinking about potential mold.  The two bought a consumer mold test, which they say turned out positive.  The two showed 15 Finds Out mold that grew in a Petri dish.

“I have not seen mold inside of my house,” Dodane clarified.  “However the last three months I have been home and I have been sick and not feeling well with no energy and have been to the emergency room and had respiratory issues.”

Dodane wasn’t the only tenant with moisture problems.  Some residents took their complaints straight to Fort Wayne Neighborhood Code, which handed out violations to two Hopewell Pointe properties.  It found one property had standing water because of “poor grading around the house.”

“We’ve added some tiling around the home, did some re-grading, just trying to beef up what was there in terms of any drainage,” Hoffman said.  “I think we’ve dealt with the issues and I’m not concerned about it long term.”

Neighborhood Code found that same property had a draining issue in the bathtub.  Hoffman said that was caused by hair clogging the drain.

Hoffman said CANI and New General Management (the property manager) have fixed moisture issues in three of the 35 homes in Hopewell Pointe.  As for potential mold, Hoffman said it hasn’t been found in any home.

“We have not had anything that we’ve tested that’s shown that,” Hoffman said.  “We have not seen mold.  We’ve had inspectors in there.”

When asked if he was concerned about the quality of the homes in Hopewell Pointe, Hoffman responded, “It does not concern me.  I think that in any kind of development situation we’re going to deal with maintenance issues.”

Residents in at least two other properties went out of their way to tell 15 Finds Out they were having major problems with their homes.  They didn’t want to tell their stories on camera though.

Considering the complaints he has received, Hoffman wouldn’t call the housing problems major.

“I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault.  I mean we’ve got a project, ok, we have three homes that have had some moisture issues that we’ve seen and we’ve addressed those issues.  I think it’s been normal,” Hoffman said.  “That’s certainly not what we’re trying to do is make people upset.  We want them to have their home forever.”

Hoffman’s hope is far from reality for Dodane and some other residents.  They are hoping to bail out of the 15-year plan by getting out of their lease as soon as possible.

Hoffman said CANI has already offered to let a couple of people out of their leases.  That option is on the table for folks upset with the quality and condition of their homes.

“We’re not forcing anybody to stay there if they’re not satisfied with what’s happening there,” Hoffman said.

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