Gloria Moss used a Beaufort County courtroom to speak up against squalid living conditions in her old apartment complex.
Now, she hopes residents of the Vista View Apartments in Bluffton make their voices heard at a rally May 17.
Moss, a former resident of Vista View, won a lawsuit in February against the complex's management company over living conditions at the apartments on Haigler Boulevard. In the nearly two years Moss lived at there, mold grew along her closet walls, kitchen counters took months to be replaced, and water rained from leaky pipes in the ceiling, Moss and her attorney said.
She sued Vista View Apartments and United Management Services in November. Moss had been evicted in September after refusing to pay rent over the slow response to the problems, her attorney, Geoff Clemens, said.
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"I pick and choose my battles wisely," Moss said. "This was a wise one. I broke even on the lawsuit, but I got justice."
A jury awarded Moss the amount of her unpaid rent and attorney's fees, according to court records.
Attempts Friday to reach the management company for comment were unsuccessful.
For the first few months after moving into the apartment in December 2011, Moss said, she could not use most of her kitchen because a broken sink had fallen through the countertop. She said it took months to fix the problem, requiring her to reach out to the Better Business Bureau and the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs for help.
Other residents, she said, had broken stoves and refrigerators, requiring the already low-income families to continually replace spoiled food.
Some did not have working heat in the winter, she said. Bugs and pests were worse, an "out of this world problem," Moss said.
"Where is the relief for these families?" she said. "They are scared, living in moldy, terrible conditions. I gave up the apartment I had paid for for change to come."
Clemens said many of the problems were only given "Band-Aid fixes," leading them to recur. He cited mold as an example.
It grew inside a service closet in her apartment, Moss said. It soon spread to her son's closet.
Clemens said an apartment employee later told him and Moss that the walls had simply been washed and repainted, and the mold's water source had not been plugged.
"If you don't eliminate the water source, the mold is going to recur," Clemens said.
Two fellow residents who moved out testified in Moss' trial, Clemens said. One was living in a shelter when she testified in February. The other, who moved in with her disabled brother, lived in Vista View for less than a month before problems forced her to move.
Moss said one of the women had video of water cascading through her ceiling from leaky pipes that were never fixed.
Several of the residents who faced such problems met as part of a support group Moss organized.
On May 17, Moss hopes they and many others will speak up about the apartments' problems.
Moss said the rally will start at noon at a location to be determined. The event will have food, activities, entertainment and a speech, she said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.