West Boca News has learned that the new owner of Uptown Boca is working to address resident concerns that are a holdover from the original owner and builder.
Less than three weeks after Cortland took ownership, we were contacted by a few residents most of whom asked to remain anonymous. They told us that several residents found high radon levels and/or mold conditions in their apartments. One resident we spoke with complained of headaches.
Robert Navone sent us photos of mold in his apartment and said he has heard from 40 residents about mold and radon. Navone told me that he and his wife were sick from mold.
We reached out to Cortland and Managing Director Jonathan Denton called to discuss the situation with us. He agreed that there is a radon issue, that the company knew about the problem before they went through with the transaction, and that “quite a few” residents have expressed concerns. Cortland held two town hall meetings this week with residents to address those concerns, with roughly half of residents attending at least one of those meetings.
Denton told us this is a common problem in the apartment buildings they buy and they are already working on a plan to remediate the radon. Residents said they were told by Cortland that the radon is coming from the ground and Denton told us the same, and that every property they buy has some level of radon exposure.
We contacted Florida geologist David Wilshaw about the radon issue. He told us:
Palm Beach County in general is low Radon risk, but as with everything it depends! The real hot areas for Radon are the phosphate mining areas (explains why the phosphate mine effluent is radioactive). But shallow limestone deposits can produce Radon too.
Radon is heavier than air, so the big risk is basements. 5th floor, not much chance, unless it’s coming from the building materials (e.g. unsealed natural granite).
According to the EPA radon levels should be below 4 picocuries per liter. Denton told us residents have been using radon test kits from Amazon that are not as reliable as professional tests, reporting real-time numbers rather than averages over time.
However, we received radon test reports from Mark Wahl, a licensed radon inspector showing levels well over 4 picocuries per liter with one report over 10, and these were averaged over 48 hours. Residents told us the high radon levels are occurring on all levels up to the 5th floor.
Denton told us Cortland is carrying out a plan to remediate the radon. The previous owner had already installed a passive radon mitigation system. Cortland is moving to an active mitigation system with electrical fans in first floor units to exhaust air and prevent the radon from rising to units on upper floors. He expects this to resolve the issue within 3-4 months.
We asked specifically about whether the radon could be coming from building materials such as granite or concrete rather than from the ground. Denton said that was conceivable but hard to say.
Mr. Wahl told us that he found radon in several units and has several more tests in progress. He was confident that the radon is coming from building materials, likely aggregate that was mixed in with the concrete, and that active ventilation of the first floor units would not do anything to help the upper floors. Wahl did say active ventilation does resolve the issue if it is done correctly in every unit. He also said he saw passive mitigation systems in some of the apartments but could not confirm installations in all of them.
Residents also told us about mold issues in some apartments and in storage units and garage spaces.
Denton acknowledged those problems as well. He said most of the problems have been in storage units and garages but acknowledged there were a few in apartments. He attributed the mold issues in apartments to residents leaving patio doors or windows open which allows humidity to get in. He also said that mold in storage units and garages is harder to prevent because the spaces are not air conditioned.
A resident told us that Uptown Boca blamed some of the apartment mold on a resident not keeping the air conditioning set at 74 degrees or below. Denton told us it is a term of most leases that residents are to keep the AC at 78 degrees or below.
We spoke with one of the mold inspectors who asked to be kept anonymous, and did not want to speak in any depth, but said there “is definitely a problem there.”
Radon inspector Wahl, who is also a licensed mold assessor and owner of Waypoint Property Inspection East LLC, said he was surprised when he looked at the units that some of the closets did not have a/c registers which may help to prevent mold formation.
Residents also complained that Uptown Boca is not doing enough to address the issue for those who want to leave. Denton said they would allow any resident to leave without damaging their credit. Some residents feel this is not enough.
Regarding mold in storage units and garages we received one document showing that Uptown Boca refused to remediate mold in a resident’s storage room and garage because the resident had personal items that absorb moisture. That document included language from the lease agreement which specifically exempts management from responsibility for mold in storage units because they are not climate controlled. The document refusing to remediate was dated before Cortland acquired the property.
Denton maintained that it’s only a small number of residents who are unhappy and that 4 or 5 told management they are moving out. Uptown Boca has approximately 450 units.
Wahl confirmed this, describing a resident who was staying in a 4-bedroom unit despite having a high radon test result.
If any residents of Uptown Boca would like to provide us more information, we ask that you please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.