This week, we learned that we will likely be losing our home.
Well, it’s not quite that simple. Our HOA sent a third-party mold tester to our home last week. We sent him inside to do his thing and waited patiently outside in the 118° heat. He drilled dozens of holes in the drywall, took samples within the cavities, and took pictures of the visible mold that has cropped up since we left.
Despite the complete lack of humidity, there was visible mold growing on our solid oak bed frame, our mattresses, my beloved suede booties, our shelves of books, my stationary collection, my boyfriend’s 40-year-old baby blanket, and my favorite painting. The only possessions that will be joining us in our next stage of life is my burgeoning collection of All-Clad stainless steel cookware and maybe our plastic totes of camping gear.
We just received the mold report back and the levels are as high as one might expect given the level of mold now visible. The mold in the wall is adjacent to the 2018 sprinkler system leak, suggesting that the remediation team did not extend their containment area far enough. The current problem is residual and, per the CC&Rs, the HOA is responsible for the damage. In an HOA meeting earlier this year, they agreed to cover the damage and we have the recording.
The third-party tester quoted $45,000 to rip down the affected walls down to the studs and remove the mold, and $20,000 to reinstall the drywall. He also recommended replacement of all damaged built-in cabinetry, wood furniture, and clothing, which is maybe another $15,000. It will cost around $80,000 to bring our home back to a habitable state. So, the HOA is refusing to do so. It’s too expensive.
We next filed a claim with our homeowner’s insurance. They denied the claim and dropped our coverage. According to a friend in the industry, they have flagged us in the system. Our home is now “uninsurable” and we’ll be forever burdened with higher rates and sneaky exclusions.
Though we are unable to sue for health damages because we “reasonably should have known” that mold was making us sick and the two-year statute of limitations has passed, a lawyer has assured us we have a shoo-in case for the $80,000 repair of our home and replacement of our possessions, alternate housing while displaced, and pain and suffering. Which is to say, we can expect to spend the next two years paying HOA fees and property taxes on an uninsurable home we can’t inhabit, paying to rent elsewhere, replacing necessary possessions on our own, and hoping that we win the lawsuit and can sell once the condo once it’s made habitable.
The alternative is sell now, as-it, shaving $100,000 off the price. The Phoenix real estate market is cooling down due to the rising interest rates, so it may be a tough sell. That, and we would not have enough to buy a new home. Even homes way out in the boonies that sold for under $100,000 ten years ago are starting at $600,000.
I feel like I should feel angry or frustrated. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. However, with each, “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” I can’t help but respond that my partner and I have each other, we now know the root cause of our illness, and our health is gradually improving. That’s all that I need. It’s silly and cliched, but it’s true.
I have no idea what the future holds and, quite frankly, I’m a bit excited as I stare off into the unknown. Prior to developing chronic illness, I was the epitome of overachieving, Type A perfectionist. I read books on letting go and I crafted analogies to present when teaching yoga classes. I considered myself an expert on a topic that, I realize now, I didn’t understand.
Chronic illness might as well be synonymous with loss. Over the last eight years, I’ve lost physical abilities, cognition, memories, friends, career advancement opportunities, money, time, and chances to experience life in new ways. I’ve lost many things. I have learned to accept the losses. In fact, I’ve come to view the pain and hardship with gratitude. It’s taught me, on the deepest level, what I value–for me, that is my health and my relationships. The lack of energy removed my propensity to worry. I no longer had the wherewithal to become uptight and strive for perfection. The adversity I’ve faced has made me a better person. Showing up and giving a task my best effort is enough.
We can find a new home. We can replace our possessions. Today’s experience is not permanent. In the midst of possibly losing everything, we have the rare opportunity to let go of the past and welcome a brand new future with open arms. In this moment, I believe wholeheartedly that with love and good health, anything is possible. Anything is possible.