Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blessings in Disguise

I recently met with a client of mine to make a few adjustments to their case. The adjustments involved filing a new budget to show the family's new living expenses. The unfortunate result of the time of their bankruptcy filing was the loss of their house, as they were unable to make the bankruptcy payment, the house payment and all of the utility deposits that were required of them all within the first month of their case. Despite the loss of a home they have lived in for over 15 years and where all of their children had lived their whole lives, I was surprised to find my client reporting to me that things were going much better since they had moved. They had found a house to rent just a block away from the school where two of their three children attend, for much less in rent than they had been attempting to pay in mortgage. There was enough room for everyone, and it was a much nicer place than they had been living, clean and healthy.

When I asked her what she meant by "clean and healthy", she said that they had moved all of their things out of the old house. Approximately three days later, they had returned to the house to pick up a few things they had left in the garage, make sure nothing had been left behind and do a little clean up. What they found was shocking. She proceeded to describe to me the scene when the opened the front door. They had walked into the house and found mold. And not just a little mold. Mold everywhere. She said what they assumed was black mold had appeared in every nook and cranny. It blanketed the walls, covered the floors and coated the ceilings. Even the counter tops and cupboards in the kitchen and bathrooms were enveloped in the black nastiness.

When I asked her where she thought it came from, she said she had gone back and looked at all of her sale documents from when they purchased the house. In the packet of paperwork was a document she said she had never seen before. It was an attachment to the home inspector's report. Scrawled across the document in big handwritten documents it said "Mold clean-up required". She said they were never informed directly by the inspector, by the sellers, by the sellers' real estate agent or by their own agent (all of whom would have had access to the information in the report) that there was a problem of this kind with the home when they purchased, either after the inspection or at closing. In fact, she didn't know how the document ended up in the packet of sale documents at all, though she admitted that, like most people, she had put their copies of the documents away, still in the original envelope they came in, and never looked at them again. She said that they were theorizing, since it had always been there, that the removal of their belongings had exposed areas infected with the mold to the air, which had thus been able to thrive, multiply and grow. What was amazing (and frightening) was the short amount of time it took for the mold to cover the entire inside of the house.

I asked if she and her family had had any difficulties associated with Sick Building Syndrome. She had never heard of such a thing. When I explained to her what it was (sickness in individuals caused by poor indoor air quality, sometimes associated with mold), she said that she and the family had over the years had ongoing sicknesses - that someone had always been sick, one after the other, at one time or another - but that she had just associated it with the everyday sorts of illnesses that all of us have at one time or another. She now thinks differently. Luckily it appears that no one in her family has suffered any long-term effects from living so long with a house full of mold. It also appears that they did not carry any of it with them in their belongings, which is a miracle in itself. When I asked how everyone was feeling now, she said that there was a period there of about a month that everyone seemed to be sick. She said she thinks that their bodies were simply expelling the mold and its effects, now that they had a clean environment to enable them to do that. She said now everyone is healthy (which is the first time she can remember in a very long time), everyone has more energy and everyone feels good overall. Everyone is happy, which is also something she can't remember happening for a very long time. That family is not only lucky, but so much better off than they were before.

My mom always says everything happens for a reason. I'm a firm believer in blessings in disguise. I'd say this was both. Without a doubt, that family was blessed with the loss of their house in the bankruptcy, and I believe they lost it for that very reason. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

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