Truth vs. Myth
Myth: Mold infestation in Hampton Roads military housing is widespread.
Fact: A joint Navy-Lincoln Military Housing (LMH) task force has reviewed all of the homes managed by LMH in the Hampton Roads area. Based on the reports received through April 11, 2012 from licensed mold inspectors, LMH projects that less than 5% of the homes that LMH manages will have mold that would require remediation under Virginia State law. Lincoln has initiated and is managing a comprehensive remediation plan that goes well beyond what is required by legal requirements to address these concerns, and has put in place new maintenance and customer service measures. It has also taken disciplinary action, including the termination of LMH employees, where necessary. LMH is dedicated to ensuring that all of its homes are safe, comfortable and up to the standards that our residents deserve.
Myth: LMH allowed mold to grow in homes due to lack of upkeep and inspection.
Fact: LMH has constantly addressed mold, moisture, and water intrusion issues in homes from the beginning of its partnership with the Navy in 2005. It has worked to ensure homes meet the highest quality standard of living through twice-yearly maintenance inspections and inspections upon move-in. Additionally, since August 2005, LMH has engaged outside contractors over 500 times to perform some level of water or mold inspection and/or remediation. The fact is that mold is everywhere. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, dedicated his hour- long show “Weekend House Call” in 2003 to the issue of mold. He stated, “mold is everywhere it is microscopic fungi that live in every yard and every home.” Lincoln is aware of this, and has made sure residents understand this through education. Each resident signs a mold addendum when they sign their lease agreement. It provides day-to-day maintenance tips and requires them to report water and mold conditions in their homes.
Myth: Mold makes everyone sick.
Fact: The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimates that just 10% of the population has allergic antibodies to mold. Only half, or 5%, would show clinical reactions if exposed to mold. Since January, Navy Medical has been conducting outreach with LMH residents in the Hampton Roads area. Out of 12,600 LMH residents, just 85 requested allergy tests through Navy Medical. Navy Medical found that out of the 85 requests only 3 patients tested positive for allergies to mold.
Myth: Lincoln Military Housing homes made families sick, causing brain lesions, Multiple Sclerosis, or other health conditions.
Fact: Residents in LMH housing who express any concerns about their health are immediately referred to the Navy’s physicians, primary care physicians and/or health professionals. If Navy Medical decides that relocation is necessary they will contact Navy Housing, which works with LMH to help the family find a new home. In addition, Navy physicians are available to discuss the results of mold inspections, if requested.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold exposure usually does not present a health problem indoors, except to some individuals who are uniquely sensitive to mold. In a 2004 study, the Institute of Medicine found there was inadequate evidence to determine whether an association exists between damp, moldy indoor spaces and dyspnea, airflow obstruction in healthy persons, mucous membrane irritation, skin symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma development, inhalation fever, fatigue, cancer, reproductive effects, neuropsychiatric effects, lower respiratory illness in healthy adults, gastrointestinal problems, rheumatologic or immune problems, or acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants. The report did not identify any health conditions caused by exposure to mold.
Myth: Military spouses are forced to live like “refugees” while LMH remediates their homes.
Fact: LMH has made sure the care and comfort of residents are met during the mold remediation process. The state of Virginia guidelines require that families be removed from their homes while remediation is performed. The PPV pays each family a per diem rate based on the GSA travel schedule rates for the Norfolk / Portsmouth area which is approximately $175 per day for a family of four staying in a hotel. This exceeds the requirements of Virginia Landlord-Tenant law. Families that encounter similar maintenance issues in other privately owned housing are only entitled to receive comparable housing from their landlords while their home is repaired. Although, since December, LMH has made available guest homes and swing homes for our families, some families have been placed in hotels.
Myth: Residents of LMH are overwhelmingly dissatisfied.
Fact: An independent poll of LMH residents in November, 2011 showed an over 80% satisfaction level with LMH housing and service. As part of its partnership with the Navy, residents are surveyed each year by an independent industry polling company to test LMH on factors such as “readiness to solve problems,” “responsiveness and follow through,” “property appearance and condition,” “quality of management services,” “quality of maintenance,” and other customer satisfaction categories. In November, 2011, at the height of the media attention and public airing of this issue, 2,167 residents in LMH’s 4,383 properties responded to this survey. They gave LMH an overall satisfaction rating of 80.2%, one of the highest in the privatized military housing industry. A similar survey taken before LMH took over in 2005 showed an overall satisfaction rating of 67%.
Myth: Military families are required to live in LMH housing.
Fact: Military personnel receive a Basic Housing Allowance (“BAH”) as part of their compensation. Families are free to use their BAH to secure any housing that fits their needs. Families are not required to live in privatized housing. Consequently, LMH must compete with other housing providers in the local marketplace. LMH has exhibited the ability to provide competitive housing, as evidenced by the consistently high occupancy rates in LMH communities. Residents continue to choose LMH over other housing providers. We’ve maintained an excess of 96% occupancy consistently year over year and through March 2012.
Myth: LMH is a Government Contractor.
Fact: LMH is not a Government Contractor. LMH is a partner with the Navy in a private entity. This private partnership is the owner of all of the military family housing in Hampton Roads. The partnership operates like any private business. It is self-sustaining and does not receive any funding or payments from the Government.
Myth: Every home containing mold needs to be remediated by licensed professionals.
Fact: According to EPA guidelines and Virginia law, if a home contains 10 square feet of mold or less in the living space, remediation by a licensed professional is not required. In fact, during “Weekend House Call” CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Gupta stated this: “According to the EPA, if you have more than 10 square feet of visible mold, it’s time to call in a professional. But in modest cases, the answer can be as simple as a call to the plumber and a little soapy water.” Glenn Fellman of the Indoor Air Quality Association, a guest on Gupta’s show agreed, “Mold can be cleaned very effectively, believe it or not, with just some detergent and water.”
Myth: LMH homes contain “toxic black mold.”
Fact: The term “toxic” mold is a creation of the media, not doctors or industrial hygienists. DuringDr. Gupta’s show, Fellman stated, “Toxic mold is a term, really a media term that’s come out more than a technical term of ours in the industry. Mold can grow anywhere in a home and there’s a variety of different species and looks to mold. Whether it’s black or green or white really isn’t the issue.”
Myth: LMH employees intimidated and lied to military families.
Fact: LMH has taken strong disciplinary action to respond to complaints of poor customer service, including terminations of several personnel. LMH has investigated these claims of intimidation and lying and did not discover any proof of this type of conduct. LMH encourages any military family who believes they have been mistreated by a LMH employee to contact your local Chief Customer Service Office or 1-888-578-4141 so appropriate action can be taken.
Myth: LMH moves families into homes they know were infested with mold.
Fact: LMH conducts a comprehensive maintenance assessment of homes after a family moves out and before a new family moves in, and also conducts aggressive maintenance overhauls during their housing turnover. This process, known as a “turn,” involves a thorough inspection, appropriate maintenance, and repainting, flooring and carpet replacement where necessary. If mold is discovered during a turn inspection, it is addressed consistent with LMH policies and state law. In addition, new residents are asked to perform a second inspection of the home prior to move-in and are specifically asked to identify any mold in the home.
Myth: LMH took too long to respond to maintenance requests, ignored resident requests for mold inspections and took too much time for remediation.
Fact: LMH’s record of response is 98% of calls answered within 24 hours, one of the highest in the industry. If the issue can be handled by one of LMH’s trained maintenance professionals, it is addressed immediately. If the issue requires special expertise or involves mold in excess of 10 square feet, contractors are called in to perform the work.
Myth: LMH is making millions by skimping on maintenance.
Fact: LMH does not profit from maintenance savings.Any operational savings are used to enhance the quality of the homes and services provided to military families who live within LMH. Military families have choices in housing. LMH homes comprise only 10% of the total housing demand of Navy families in the Hampton Roads area. As such, LMH must compete with other private housing providers for residents and can only do so by providing quality, well-maintained housing. If customers are not satisfied with their homes, services, or other amenities provided by LMH, it would result in low customer satisfaction and low occupancy. Neither of these is the case. LMH’s satisfaction scores are among the highest in the industry and LMH continues to maintain close to full occupancy with a waiting list of families who want to live in LMH-owned housing. Military families are choosing to live in LMH properties because they know they are managed well and offer a range of services and quality of life not offered by other providers.
Myth: LMH is only taking action against mold because of recent media reports.
Fact: Moisture is the enemy of any home. In the Hampton Roads area, LMH has survived two hurricanes and some of the rainiest conditions on record. Since LMH’s partnership with the Navy began in 2005, moisture prevention and mold remediation have been a top priority for LMH. Trained LMH teams responded to service requests and when required, outside contractors were called in to provide remediation. Over our six year tenure, LMH utilized outside contractors on 500 different occasions. We remind residents upon move that they should alert LMH of any water intrusion in their homes. LMH has and will do everything we can to address these issues as quickly as possible to ensure our families are comfortable in their homes.