Chilliwack family says mould driving them out of their rental home

Andrew Philliskirk says he hasn't had much help in remediating a nasty mould growth in a bathroom

A Chilliwack family is living in a tent outside their home while waiting for repairs to remediate the mould in their rental home. They are also facing eviction.

A Chilliwack family is living in a tent outside their home while waiting for repairs to remediate the mould in their rental home. They are also facing eviction.

A Chilliwack family of six is living in a tent this week, just steps from the house they rent on Majuba Hill.

But they’re not doing it for the adventure.

Andrew Philliskirk, his spouse, and their four children, have moved outside to avoid breathing in the air in their home. He says a mould problem has gotten out of hand in a bathroom, with millions of mites that cause short and long term health problems.

“The mites have just exploded,” he says. “Our pest guy said, ‘yes, these guys will bloom, it’s a seasonal thing.’

The family has spent $650 on an air quality sample, which Philliskirk says detected aspergillis, a fungus that grows in damp spaces and can lead to lung problems.

But they didn’t need the test to prove what’s growing in the house.

“You can see them, but it’s what’s in the walls, there’s millions of them,” he says. “They are tiny but you get a magnifying glass and you can see them.”

He has posted pictures of the mites, both as seen by the naked eye and under a microscope, on an ad on Craigslist. He’s not trying to warn people so much as he is looking for help. They’ve been looking for any sort of help for weeks on end, being sent in an endless circle from one organization to the other.

He’s tried to get help and/or information from their landlord, the city, Fraser Health, the Rental Tenancy Board, Health Canada, the Centre for Disease Control, pest and air quality experts, and even a lawyer.

“I’ve thought about becoming an ombudsman for the province,” he says, to help others in the same situation.

Philliskirk and his spouse are in a unique situation to know exactly what they’re dealing with. He is a contractor and a home inspector, and she is a microbiologist.

They initially spent several nights in hotels to escape the mould, which Philliskirk says could have been caused by the lack of insulation and vapour barrier on the bathroom’s exterior wall. He says he informed his landlord of the problem about a year ago, and with no response was left to fix it on his own.

But the mould spores grew anyway.

They had the chance to look at the spores under a microscope.

“They’re pretty creepy,” Philliskirk says. “Their little poo pellets are really bad to breathe in.”

They’ve been given a two month eviction notice for the landlord to do renovations, and the house is currently listed for sale. So far, they are the ones who have paid for all the testing and temporary abatement of the problem — they’ve sealed off the bathroom with poly and duct tape, spend most of their days and nights outside, and wear breathing masks when entering the house.

“The kids have made a little game of it,” he says.

This week, they had a little more luck with the Rental Tenancy Board, and have an arbitration phone call set up for mid-August. Next, he will seal the bathroom shut, by caulking, taping and boarding it up in order to “fog” the entire house and encapsulate the mould spores.

“It’s just a temporary fix to make it safe to get back in the house,” he said, so they can focus on looking for a new home rather than worrying about this one.

They’ve also booked the entire family for testing on their lungs. The whole process has been eye opening for Philliskirk.

“It’s made me a professional renter,” he says. “I’ve bought and sold, we’ve been homeowners, and we’ve rented to people and we’ve rented from people. I’ve seen things from both sides, and now it really makes me leery of what landlords can do if the tenants are uninformed.”

But he’s looking forward to the arbitration, and having the house fogged so they can live a somewhat normal life until it’s time to move.

“This has consumed us for like a month now, almost every hour, thinking about it every day, wondering ‘what do we do?'”

Philliskirk’s landlord, Cooky Singh, was contacted by The Progress.

He expressed shock at his tenants’ situation.

“A tent?,” he said. “Geez. That’s amazing. I know that we’re doing renovation work to it.

“You’re kidding. I’m going to look into this.”

Fraser Health

Fraser Health does not get overly involved with mould issues, as it’s not their expertise

Timothy Millard, an FHA  health protection manager for Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission, says there would have to complex, extenuating circumstances and documentation for them to step in.

Instead, they direct people to the RTO, and connect them with websites for the CMHC and HealthLink BC.

While he said they don’t get complaints on a regular basis, they do spike during the wetter months when mould grows more quickly. But not all mould is dangerous, he added.

“There are huge varieties of mould and mould affects each person differently,” he explained.

He said they get more involved in communities where there is a city bylaw, such as New Westminster.

“That housing bylaw gives us the authority to remediate,” he said.

A remediation company would be able to tell a homeowner or renter if a mould is dangerous, and whether the infestation would require something as simple as a wipe down, or as complex removal of affected drywall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(file)
Two ejected from single vehicle crash in Seabird Island

Landing zone for medevac has been requested

(File photo)
Semi truck and car collide on Highway 1 near Popkum

Slow lane eastbound is now closed as crews wait for tow trucks

Treeplanters from Shakti Reforestation are adding to the forests of Mount Thom Park. (City of Chilliwack)
Treeplanting project in Mount Thom Park will keep Chilliwack forest resilient

So far they’ve planted 2,000 of 80,000 trees planned for popular park on Promontory

Fire damage is seen in the windows of an apartment on Yale Road on April 21, 2021 following a fire there the night before. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack Fire Dept. reminds people again to have working smoke alarms following 2nd blaze in 2 days

All six halls responded to bedroom fire in apartment on Yale Road above restaurant in Chilliwack

Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area was the site of illegally dumped drywall reported on April 19, 2021. (Michael Hill photo)
Another cache of dumped drywall in Chilliwack prompts suggestion to block access

Pile of drywall likely asbestos containing discarded in wildlife management area

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Most Read