Of Mice and Mold: Gresham mom devastated by storage infestation

Of Mice and Mold: Gresham mom devastated by storage infestation »Play Video
Rachel Perez shows KATU the hundreds of mice droppings in her storage unit at Public Storage in Gresham. She had to move all her belongings into the unit after she found mold everywhere in her apartment.

GRESHAM, Ore. -- Rachel Perez's life has been turned upside down by mold and mice. The Gresham mother and grandmother can hardly talk about the last few months without crying.

Four months ago, Perez said she was forced to move out of her Gresham apartment when she found mold - black patches of it - spackling her walls and lining the doors.

Perez said the mold destroyed many of her belongings so she gathered whatever she had left and packed it into a storage unit at Public Storage located at 2190 Northwest Burnside Road in Gresham.

Then this weekend, three months after she rented the storage unit, she discovered it had been overrun by mice.

"All that is mouse droppings," Perez said, giving the On Your Side Investigators a tour of her storage unit.

KATU didn't spot any mice on Friday but observed hundreds of mice droppings. They were everywhere. Inside her dresser, on her grandchildren's toys, on her bed, inside her kitchen appliances and cookware.

Perez also showed KATU what she believed was mice urine, which had soaked her clothes.

"Look, there's mouse droppings that fall from everywhere," Perez said, pulling up the sheets of her bed in disgust.

What the rodents didn't poop on, they appeared to chew through. Sweaters and shirts were full of ragged holes. Mysterious clumps of soft fabric - what appeared to be padding from her bed - appeared randomly inside her dresser.

Perez said she'll have to throw away everything.

"Every time I come in here, I'm so angry and I'm crying," she said. "This is very little and we threw it away cause of our other apartment. We have nothing."

But what was just as devastating to Perez is how she said Public Storage handled the mess. Perez said a manager told her, "Sorry, deal with your insurance."

"That's all I get is, 'I'm sorry'?" Perez said.

Perez was baffled that after close to $140 a month for the storage unit and insurance, the company wouldn't offer to extend any help.

"I don't think that's right," Perez said. "People work for this stuff, they trust in this place, they store this stuff, not to get destroyed and that's what happened."

While Perez has insurance, she's convinced it won't cover everything she's lost between the mold and the mice.

"They're not going to cover my living room set, my bed, almost all my clothes that I own, everything in my kitchen," she said. "They're not going to be able to pay for that and it's not fair and it's not right."

In the middle of the interview Friday, a Public Storage employee asked KATU to leave the property. She wouldn't answer any of KATU's questions and referred a reporter to corporate spokesman Shawn Weidman.

The On Your Side Investigations went into the company's office but the same employee was the only person working and, again, referred us to corporate. KATU also called Weidman several times. KATU spoke to his assistant who said she delivered the message but Weidman didn't returned calls Friday.

Perez had insurance but not all storage renters' contracts are the same. In some cases, even having insurance doesn't guarantee you'll be protected against pests.

Here are some tips to help protect your belongings:

-- Check the unit before you move in your things and ask whether the business has a contract with a regular exterminator.

-- Take pictures of your belongings as you box them up. The documentation will help determine your property's value.

-- Know your coverage. Cash value pays a depreciated amount. A replacement policy pays today's costs to get a new item.