Silver Spring Apartments Investigated for Mold, Rodent Issues

County Department of Housing inspection found nearly 500 violations in a quarter of units

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ENCLAVE

A White Oak apartment complex is facing criticism from county leaders and some residents after a recent inspection found nearly 500 housing code violations, including persistent mold, roaches and rodents.

The Enclave Silver Spring, just off Columbia Pike near several parks and shopping centers, has been one option for housing in the White Oak area since it opened in the mid-1960s.

In mid-November, the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs inspected a quarter of Enclave’s 1,169 apartments and documented 37 units with mold and nearly 30 with either rat or roach infestations.

Other violations include lack of smoke detectors, broken appliances, unlabeled circuit breakers, leaking sinks and bathtubs and chipping paint, according to the inspection reports.

At the request of Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker, who sent a Nov. 26 letter the county’s housing director, all Enclave apartments will be inspected beginning next week.

Mold in an Enclave apartment. Photo courtesy of Tom Hucker

“These are serious health and safety issues, and tenants say management makes superficial repairs but the issues keep coming back,” Hucker said. “With the inspections, which will likely take several days, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs will document all of the problems and put pressure on management to remediate them.”

The Donaldson Group, listed as the management company for the apartments, took over in the spring to “address a wide range of problems caused by years of deferred maintenance,” The Donaldson Group said in a statement, adding that rain throughout much of 2018 slowed remediation work.

“TDG is fully committed to working with the ownership and the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs to make all necessary repairs and improvements to The Enclave’s individual apartments and common areas in order to provide a safe, healthy, and welcoming living environment for residents,” the statement said.

County Executive Marc Elrich has promised to crack down sharply on multifamily apartment complexes with multiple housing code violations, and create a list of “troubled properties.”

Acting Housing Director Tim Goetzinger, appointed by Elrich in December, wrote a report last month that said 78 percent of the almost 700 applicable properties had been inspected in the last two years. The county’s deadline for inspecting all of the properties is July 1.

Tenants have been raising concerns about what they claim are unsanitary and dangerous living conditions at Enclave for months. Hucker has met with renters several times and the Montgomery County Renters Alliance held a meeting Dec. 30 to hear from tenants and advise them of their rights and how to effectively highlight issues to inspectors.

In late October, Burnt Mills Elementary School teacher Rachel Tate sent an email to members of the Montgomery County Coalition of Parent Teacher Associations voicing concern about her students who live in the apartments.

Mold in an Enclave apartment. Photo courtesy of Tom Hucker

“My kids with asthma are constantly sick due to the mold and nothing is being done,” Tate wrote, adding school stakeholders had held a meeting with The Donaldson Group but “they refused to fix anything” or let tenants break their lease.

Exposure to damp and moldy environments can cause minor symptoms in some people, such as nasal stuffiness and throat irritation, but can have more serious effects on others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, can experience exasperated symptoms and infections. About 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine found evidence linking mold exposure to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

A 2017 report from the Department of Housing, the most recent data available, indicates there are about 800 multifamily facilities in Montgomery County with more than 90,000 rental units. Most of the county’s apartment complexes stand between one and four stories tall and high-rise facilities with nine stories or more are gaining popularity among developers and renters, according to the report.

At the Enclave, rent for a one-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment starts at $1,311 and on-site amenities include a swimming pool, fitness center and on-site dog park, according to the complex’s website.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Bethesda Beat Staff Writer Dan Schere contributed to this report.

This story has been updated to include information from a statement provided by The Donaldson Group on Jan. 4. The management company previously could not be reached for comment.

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