Some students can’t even escape getting sick by staying inside.
Multiple reports of mold came from residents living in different buildings on the West 20 property at 3527 SW 20th Ave. It is unknown how widespread the issue is. West 20 management had yet to comment as of Dec. 9.
Hunter Hall, a 20-year-old UF chemistry junior, left his apartment and went home early this semester because he was constantly sick. His apartment, he said, had mold in the air conditioning unit.
The mold made him cough and have a sore throat. He thought it was COVID-19.
“I went and got tested but came up negative every single time,” Hall said. “That's when I kind of knew it was something in the apartment.”
Anytime Hall left his apartment, his congestion and sore throat subsided. Whenever he went back, he said he started feeling sick again.
Hall reported the issue to West 20 in August. Management replaced the filter in his air conditioning unit. It didn’t fix the problem. Hall and his roommate bought an air purifier, but it also didn’t fix the issue.
When West 20 management wouldn’t do anything else in November, he decided to look at the air conditioning ducts himself. Hall found mold near the air duct of his air conditioning unit.
“Just a nasty, dirty, disgusting mess,” he said.
Mold can cause people to experience symptoms ranging from congestion to sore throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are also symptoms of COVID-19. Like COVID-19, mold can cause those with asthma to experience more severe symptoms.
Hall said he reported the mold to West 20 management, which sent a mold inspector to come look at the apartment. The inspector concluded there was some discoloration in one of the ducts then left, he said. Management put tile mastic sealant in the ducts Nov. 16, which, Hall said, didn’t work. West 20 management told Hall if he wanted more work done he would have to pay for it himself, he added.
Hall said he decided to not re-sign a lease at West 20 because of the issue.
Michael Barnas, a 20-year-old UF zoology junior, also found issues with his air condition unit Nov. 19. He lives in a different building than Hall at the complex.
Barnas initially believed the issue to be mold. However, on Dec. 4 a maintenance person came and said the issue was because of dust build-up in the filter. Barnas said he collected a sample from the unit himself and plans to get it tested.
Maintenance replaced the vent covers, cleaned around the vents with bleach and spray painted Barnas’ roommate’s vent with white paint, he said.
Barnas said he also experienced allergy symptoms when in his apartment. His roommate thought Barnas had COVID-19 because she could hear him coughing and sneezing in his room, he said.
“Those are symptoms of the cold or allergies, but just with the whole pandemic going on you never know,” Barnas said.
However, Barnas said he can’t go home. He has to stay in his apartment because of his job.
Barnas said he first emailed West 20 on Nov. 24. He had to contact the management multiple times to get any response.
This isn’t the first time Barnas has had issues with management. When he moved into the apartment in August, he said it appeared as if it wasn’t cleaned. He found a dead cockroach in the bathroom, stains in the carpet and still hasn’t received a key to his mailbox, he added.
Like Hall, Barnas said he’s looking to sign elsewhere for his next lease.
“I've just had bad experiences with management and everything here,” he said.
West 20 General Manager Ken Christians didn’t directly comment on the issue and insisted that any questions be emailed to him to forward to the company’s public relations department. The Alligator hasn’t received a comment as of Dec. 9. The Alligator first reached out to West 20 for comment on Dec. 1 by phone and a number of emails.
Steven Walker is the Fall 2021 Editor in Chief of The Alligator. He has previously worked at the Orlando Sentinel; and has bylines in the Miami Herald, Associated Press and Florida Times Union. In his free time, he likes to take long walks with his dog Luna and watch his favorite sports teams, the Orlando Magic and the Green Bay Packers.