PORTLAND, Maine — A property manager for Bayside Apartments in Portland and several of its tenants are speaking out after serious mold complaints went unanswered.
Baba Ly, who manages several apartments, started working with the Portland Housing Authority close to a year ago when he started receiving complaints about mold growing in several of the units.
Ly said when he brought up the problem to his superiors, they encouraged him to take pictures of the mold and spot-clean with a solution. But that did not resolve the issue, he continued.
“The first time I’m aware of this particular resident living in these horrible conditions was back in November,” Ly recalled.
At that time, the condition of an apartment got so bad, resident Siavosh Sateri contacted an attorney to help file a complaint with the housing authority.
Sateri let NEWS CENTER Maine inside his apartment unit to show us what he was talking about.
“Here was my bedroom, and look at what was going on here,” Sateri motioned to the walls.
Black-colored mold had been growing on each windowpane, in corners of rooms, and even out of the wall sockets.
Sateri, who had been living in the unit for nearly six years, said he started to notice mold growing around two years ago. Since then, he said he has developed lung issues that were diagnosed by his primary care doctor.
“Every night I wake up, two times, three times … I cannot breathe,” Sateri said.
Sateri said he also plans to file a lawsuit with Pine Tree Legal against the Portland Housing Authority for the decline in his health.
“I [was] pressured by supervisors to transfer them immediately,” Ly said after he learned about the condition of the apartment. “And then that’s where I started to feel pressure to just like, you know, keep it down.”
Ly claimed he encouraged the housing authority to relocate tenants multiple times or not let tenants move into mold-covered buildings at all. However, at times, upper management told him to do it anyway, he said.
“That was just too heavy for me to just go do because it’s openly breaking the law and putting people’s health in jeopardy,” Ly said.
Ly posted screenshots of emails from his higher-ups and photos of the state of the units on his Facebook page, hoping to garner attention to the situation.
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Portland Housing Authority after the posts were shared and received a statement from Executive Director Brian Frost:
“Nothing is more important to the Housing Authority than providing safe and affordable housing for its residents.
We are aware of reports of apparent moisture-related damage at one or more of our Kennedy Park property buildings. These reports appear to be isolated to a small number of units, most of which are unoccupied. We are in contact with our partners at HUD on this matter, and we are working with professionals to mitigate and correct the issues we have discovered through staff inspections and residents bringing these concerns to our attention.
Before a unit can be occupied, it must pass the Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) protocol enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If a unit does not pass UPCS, it cannot be occupied, and any deficiencies must be addressed before anyone can occupy the unit.
Our Property Managers have the responsibility to report issues concerning resident safety to our Director of Property Management. In cases where relocation is required the Property Manager works with the household and the property staff to find a suitable alternative unit and initiate the transfer process.”
As of Saturday, Ly said residents are being relocated from the affected buildings.