Hi Kimberly & Beck,
I know this family, and I am good friends with Kaitlin. In face, she sent me an email last weekend, describing her case that she may have to use in court. I want you to see it, because he should not get away with this! i have copied and pasted her story below:
Mr. Falbo put my family’s health and emotional well being at risk when he rented us the front unit of 413 Magnolia Ave. He was aware of the unsanitary conditions in the back unit, and how the environment had negatively impacted the previous tenants’ lives. Yet he took out security deposit, and first month’s rent anyway.
When we looked at the apartment, my husband and I asked Mr. Falbo about the tenants in the back. I specifically remember asking if there had been any complaints about them. He stated no, which was a blatant lie, and went on to say they were an older couple that kept to themselves.
When we asked about an animal smell that we noticed in the front unit, he explained that the previous tenants had a dog, and that the carpet would be professionally cleaned. The carpet was cleaned, and when we returned to inspect the apartment a second time, the place smelled of carpet shampoo and cleaning supplies.
It was only after signing the lease, and giving Mr. Falbo a security deposit and first month’s rent that we learned the horrible, disgusting truth. When we began moving in on September third, we noticed an overwhelming smell of ammonia. It was so bad that it burned our eyes. Immediately, we called Mr. Falbo, and reported the smell. He then admitted that the tenants in the rear were being evicted by the end of the month, had 16 cats, and lived in uninhabitable conditions. I cried, and said I would not allow my children to live there. We called the police, and animal control was notified.
Mr. Falbo suddenly had many stories to share about the nightmarish conditions in the back of the house. I could not believe that we were supposed to live one wall away from this, and was even more disgusted that he had let them live in his property for the past six years.
After we refused to stay with the smell, Mr. Falbo cleaned the back unit. He reported to us that all three levels of the apartment were covered with feces, urine, and blood, which was the culprit of the smell. There was temporary relief from the smell.
Locked into a year lease, we had no choice but to begin staying there with our children on September 5th. The smell returned within days, although many cats had been removed. We could not use our side door because of the smell from the back unit. We reported this to Mr. Falbo through phone calls. He pretended like he was surprised to hear our report. However, we spoke to the neighbors on the street, and learned that the tenants before us had broken their lease because of the awful smell.
On the 5th, we began noticing flea bites on our ankles, as did a person who had helped us move. We reported this to Mr. Falbo, and he told us that he would bomb the apartment himself on Sunday September 12th. We had to leave the house for the entirety of the day.
The smell returned again and again and we contacted Mr. Falbo through phone calls and emails. We also reported to Mr. Falbo that more fleas were seen, as well as flea bites. He said he would call an exterminator.
Meanwhile, Mr. Falbo told us that the tenants in the back unit would most likely be staying for at least another month.
On Monday the 20th of September, I found a flea in my daughter Fiona's ear (10 months old), one in my own ear, and one in my son Matthew's ear (3 years old). My husband Jason had to take off of work, pick up our son Gavin from school (7years old) and bring the children to the pediatrician, where flea bites were found in and around all three children's ears, ear canals, and face. The doctor wrote an official letter, stating that the children should not return to the home, as fleas are known vectors of disease and illness.
We left immediately, without our possessions, in fear of bringing eggs or fleas to a new location. We stayed with my sister in Greece from 9/20-9/23. Gavin had to be driven to school each morning, which was a 40 minute commute. His teachers noted that he was visibly shaken, and having behavior issues. He is on the Autism spectrum, and any change impacts him deeply.
On Thursday, the 23 to the present, we have stayed with my in-laws in Hamlin. Our commute is about an hour from there to Gavin's school and Jason's work but the kids are familiar with the surroundings from staying with their grandparents and seem less stressed in that environment. Mr. Falbo stated that he would advertise and show the property as it is, with our belongings & fleas inside. All of our belongings are now infested with fleas. If we move our belongings before the apartment is exterminated, we will just bring the fleas with us and infest our new home. On Sept. 28th, my husband Jason spoke to Mr. Falbo’s wife, and she said the exterminator has not gotten back to them. I found it hard to believe that after several weeks of trying he was not able to arrange for an exterminator, so I called a reputable exterminator myself. He said he could get to the job immediately.
Finally, the exterminator came on September 30th to do the first of the treatments. I spoke with him, and learned that he cannot spray our bedding, toys, or couches. I am afraid of letting our ten month old crawl on the floors, after the pesticides have been used, and feel that we will have to replace all of our mattress and couches to be safe, as I am also afraid of transporting flea eggs. I called Mr. Falbo, and begged him to let us out of our lease. We no longer feel safe at Mr. Falbo’s property, and no one should have to live in fear. He said that our personal lives are not his problem, and that he is only concerned with our obligations as described in the lease. We do not have a lot of money, and have been trying to save for a house.
Our children have suffered the most from this experience. Our seven year old son is on the autism spectrum, and has had several nightmares about the fleas crawling around inside his head. He has made me promise many times that I will not make him go back to that place. Our three year old son has cried for hours on end, and wonders where his home is. He misses his toys and special blankie. When I finally went to get his blanket on the morning of Sept. 30, I left with new flea bites on my left leg.
This may only be a money issue to Mr. Falbo but to us it is so much more. My three young children have been displaced from their home, separated from their belongings and put in a state of fear. Mr. Falbo is a parent himself, so he should know how troubling it is to see this happen to my family. We feel trapped. We can't afford a deposit on a new place because he is holding our money. We can't even remove our belongings from the place because the extermination process is not complete. We have contacted Mr. Falbo many times. He promised that an exterminator would come and that he would give us back our $1650 if the fleas were not totally gone by October first. You have not followed through with half of the money, and even more troubling, he will not let us out of our lease. He also denies the verbal agreement we had to let us out of our lease.
I have spoken to the previous tenants, and their story sounds eerily similar to ours. The main difference is that the flea infestation occurred after they moved out. They reported the cat smell to Mr. Falbo in February, and nothing had been done to take care of the problem when they left in June. These people refused to pay rent because of the smell, and Mr. Falbo took them to court, where he won. I fear that this will happen to us, even though returning to the home, and fulfilling the lease would mean sacrificing the emotional well being of my child with special needs.
I have called the Health Department, Housing Authorities, and many real estate lawyers. There does not seem to be anything in place to protect renters from this type of fraud. Mr. Falbo knew of the conditions in the back unit before we signed a lease with him. We had a right to know, and signed the lease under false pretences.