01/15/2015 00:03 EST | Updated 03/16/2015 05:59 EDT

Mould problem at Surrey home: tenant says landlord not doing enough

A Surrey, B.C. father says his landlord is not doing enough to protect his family from a serious mould problem in his house.

Neal Horton says he first saw the problem garage of his rental home just before Christmas, when a leak from the outdoor balcony resulted in mould growing on the gyprock. When he pulled the drywall off, he was shocked to see the peach-coloured insulation had turned grey and black from the mould.

He then discovered more mould in the attic and in the walls, and that's when he decided to send his seven-year-old daughter to stay with grandparents. He says he and his girlfriend have been sick with running noses and headaches for months. 

Horton says his home is not safe and he wants his landlord to fix the problem, but the landlord wants proof of the mould problem in writing. 

Disputes over mould are common in B.C.

The province requires landlords, whose rentals have a mould problem, to determine the source of the mould and eliminate it. They can also be held accountable if tenants can prove the mould has made them sick. 

Horton wants his landlord, Vrinder Garcha, to pay to move his family into a hotel and professionally clean all of their clothing and furniture.

Garcha declined to do an interview with CBC, but his property manager says he is waiting for the written air quality report and if that report confirms the home is contaminated he says the landlord will pay Horton's expenses.

But he disputes that the house is not safe in the meantime and has told Horton's family to sleep with the windows open.

Horton says it's winter and the idea is ridiculous.

"I need a safe place to be able to sleep," Horton said, adding he wears a mask when he goes into the bedroom. "I can't even have my child at my house." 

"It's not safe. She was getting sick for months and weeks on end. We removed her from it [the home] and within about a week, her symptoms started to go away."

Horton said he's helped his landlord remove 50 bags of the contaminated material from the garage, but theattic is still full of black, growing mould.

A mould and air quality inspector visited the home a week ago and determined the place was not habitable.

"He [the inspector] said the place isn't safe and that he wouldn't stay in this home," Horton said. "The landlord, I thought they would start doing something right away. Instead they've left us to live in the house."

Horton has complained to Surrey's bylaw officers and the health authority and says he may also take his case to the residential tenancy board.

The property manager says they will hire a mould removal company to remediate the home before another tenant moves in.