Strickland says the motel’s owner tried to pay him to remove his viral review.
Strickland declined, and posted two more videos to follow up.
Local and national media also then ran with the story.
Insider.com says The Ocean Star Hotel declined to comment about the incident.4Insider.com: “A man says a South Carolina hotel will only give him a refund for his mold-covered hotel room if he takes down his viral TikTok video,” July 22, 2023
Wavy.com’s News13 crew says they physically visited The Ocean Star to speak with the owner. The front desk told them he’d be out of town for three weeks, and was unavailable even by phone—that “there wasn’t a number to call.”5Wavy.com, 10 News on Your Side (WBTW) “Family’s TikTok video of ‘unsanitary’ conditions at Myrtle Beach hotel goes viral,” July 21, 2023
At least a handful of past guests seem to suggest there is, in fact, a mold and mildew problem at the Ocean Star:
Sharon Grace thinks you should run away from the Ocean Star. The room she was given “smelled terrible, like stale cigarettes and mold,” she says:
Gloria Bock thinks the place “should be condemned,” and says she saw mold, peeling plaster, and more:
Jeanie Reed says the place was dirty, “smelled like mildew,” and that there was “mold on the ceiling.”
Moneak Watson says she’s never experienced anything like the Ocean Star in her life, “from the disgusting rooms to the mold everywhere.”
Crystal Batican says the “mold and mildew smell was so harsh,” she could smell it when walking in:
These reviews, all posted prior to Strickland’s stay at the Ocean Star, were something he was unaware of due to time constraints and a last-minute decision to stay there.
Strickland shared his concerns with management by phone and email prior to posting them publicly to social media.
Owner is now trying to pay me to remove the video.Guest of The Ocean Star Hotel in Myrtle Beach, SC, in Viral Video. July 17, 2023
Given no response, he then filmed a video for TikTok—thank you for doing so—and was only then contacted by property management.
They wanted him to remove his video—thank you for not doing so—in exchange for a refund.
Here’s That Viral Video:
@thelilp500thatcould We went straight back to the office to try to get a refund and they did not giving me a refund even though we was only in the room for 10 minutes. Call back the next day and they claimed the manager is not in town and they’re not sure when he will be back. Please share. @WBTW News13 #wmbfnews @WFXB FOX TV @myrtlebeachofficial #myrtlebeach #oceanstarhotel #nasty #viral #xyzbca #foryou #nastyhotelcallout #sick #pleaseshare ♬ original sound – 🏝Brooks Strickland🏖
Strickland says he was only in the room for 10 minutes, yet the front office refused to give him a refund despite the mold concerns.
Myrtle Mold Not Isolated to Ocean Star Hotel
Strickland’s horror story comes just under one year after mold in Myrtle Beach motels last made headlines.
The earlier incident also began with a TikTok video, before news outlets covered it.
The motel at the center of that mold story was the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort in Myrtle Beach—who likewise offered to pay or refund the distraught guest if she removed her review.
She did not—thank you for not doing so—and it has since been viewed nearly 8-million times.
Here’s That Earlier Viral Video:
@kandy_flavored_kellz Our First Best Friends Getaway Ever went straight to Hell! This was supposed to be our upgrade from giving us the wrong room initially! I have NEVER seen anything like this in my Entire Life! 😤 Sea Mist Myrtle Beach, SC #SeaMist #TripFromHell #BestFriends #FYP #foryou #viral ♬ original sound – ♡︎𝑄𝑢𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝐵♡︎
The woman in this video says this was the second “upgraded” room she was provided by the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort in Myrtle Beach, and that she was later offered a refund by the property if she deleted her review.
What to Do About Moldy Hotels, Motels, or Airbnb
Guests faced with moldy hotels, motels, or Airbnbs have a couple of options, none of which are perfect or convenient:
- Read reviews before booking a motel, hotel, or an Airbnb.
- When checking in to a motel or hotel, ask for one of the rooms reserved or prepared for people with allergies. Not all motels/hotels have these, but those that don’t will usually understand your concern and put some effort into getting you a clean, dry room.
- Do a walk-through of the room before bringing your luggage up and settling into the room.
- If the room feels damp in any way, or smells musty or moldy, ask for another room. Standing on a layer of toilet paper for half a minute will tell you if the carpet is damp. Look at the air conditioning unit and air vents if central heating is used. These should be clean, dry, and rust-free. Windows and window sills are also prime spots for excessive moisture. Judgement will help you determine if the room is too damp or potentially moldy. Take photos on your smartphone of anything that stands out to you.
- Try to reason with the staff, and do your best to remain calm and courteous. Tempers can flair when checking into a place when you’re already exhausted from a day’s travel, but you’ll want front desk staff on your side, and they’re usually not responsible for the cleanliness and safety of rooms—that would be management and housekeepers.
- You have the right to stay in a clean and safe motel or hotel, and the motel or hotel is legally required to furnish a habitable environment that doesn’t cause you harm. Be persistent, but as courteous as feasible.
- Escalate your concerns appropriately. Start by making a request for the best room for someone with allergies or sensitivities (since special rooms are usually set up with additional cleaning and chemical precautions), then share the many reasons these things are important to you: A pregnant wife or partner, children and elderly family with you, and medical conditions are all points you can use to appeal to reason.
- Because they’re usually booked for longer stays, are in more remote areas, and are a single property rather than a building with multiple room options, solving mold in an Airbnb isn’t a matter or “moving rooms.”
- If you feel your Airbnb is moldy, you will want to contact the Host immediately. But first, decide what it is you want them to do exactly. What does an ideal resolution look like for you? When you’ve decided on that for yourself, contact your Host and share your concerns. Allergies, medical conditions, young children, and elderly family members are all 100 percent valid reasons you can share with your Host. Your best bet is likely a full refund, but even that might leave you with nowhere to stay.
- If you “must” stay in a moldy Airbnb because you have no other options, you can reduce your exposure to mold by: Opening windows if the weather is dry and not overly humid. Sleeping in the part of the home with the most space and air flow, which is unfortunately usually the living room area, not a bedroom. Spending more time outside during the day, while you work out an alternative solution.
Avoiding Mold in Short-Term Rentals
The 10 steps above can help you avoid booking a moldy motel, or to decide what to do if you find out about mold after you’ve already booked.
Strickland’s approach, covered above, is also something to follow: He reached out to management with his concerns, waited for a reply, and then shared his concerns online only after not getting one.
He also rightly refused to delete his reviews in exchange for money or a refund.
Mold is always a tough problem to deal with.
Do the best you can, and do your best to come to a mutually workable solution with a motel owner or Airbnb host.
Joint Resolution is Usually Your Best and Only Option
You’ll probably walk away from a moldy motel or hotel experience wondering if there’s any legal recourse for you.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that there’s usually not much you can do beyond asking for a refund or reimbursement of some kind, and sharing your experience on review websites.
(Yet, you can and should pursue recourse however you feel is called for, and are encouraged to speak to your lawyer if you feel you should.)
Can You Sue a Motel or Hotel for Mold?
Suing motel or hotel management over a moldy room might seem called for.
Yes, ask your lawyer.
But no, you’re not likely to walk away from a short-term stay in a moldy motel or hotel with a significant legal win or cash payout.
[What is more likely to happen, yet is still not a high-probability occurrence, is a class action lawsuit in cases of widespread mold problems in a hotel or motel.]
…picture yourself trying to convince someone that the cause of your long-term medical problems, or important alterations to your daily life, stemmed directly from a one-night stay “at that one motel in Myrtle Beach that had mold in it.”Moldli.com, Ocean’s 1.9 Star: Mold in Myrtle Beach Motel Finally Gets Attention, August 18, 2023
However, the greater the amount of actual damages, the greater your odds are in a personal mold lawsuit.
Using the above two instances of moldy hotels as examples, you’ll notice that neither person affected actually stayed in the room they were sold. (Both parties simply left, then shared their stories on social media.)
So aside from emotional trauma and extreme inconvenience, little actual damages appear to be involved.
Mold lawsuits (toxic tort cases) are typically long, drawn-out, emotionally and financially draining, and complicated.
They depend tremendously on proving actual damages, and on connecting those damages to a specific source with a reasonable degree of certainty.
Mold lawsuits are very, very, very unlike other personal injury lawsuits: If a hotel elevator malfunction caused you to lose a limb, for example, there are tremendous and immediate damages visible to anyone, and a direct and instantly provable cause.
If, on the other hand, a hotel room is moldy and you were to stay in it, there is little to no immediate and evident personal damages.
It does mean that you should picture yourself trying to convince someone that the cause of your long-term medical problems, or important alterations to your daily life, stemmed directly from a one-night stay “at that one motel in Myrtle Beach that had mold in it.” (Or some other damages to your life, health, or property.)
But by all means, post reviews, share your story on social media, and contact your attorney.
Contacting Local Media
We often share that contacting local media about a mold problem is a good way to put some external pressure on a landlord or property manager to handle a mold problems.
In hotels and motels, this is less likely to be worth your time. (You’re on vacation, and will be out of town tomorrow or next week.)
News media outlets covered this incident—and three more like it—only after Strickland’s videos had gone viral.
This author is not your lawyer and none of the statements, claims, or information herein are intended as legal or personal advice of any kind. The material here is also provided as a starting point for your own research, for informational purposes only, and without warranty as to accuracy or applicability to any specific person or situation. If you need professional advice, consult an appropriate qualified professional.
- 1Google.com, Ocean Star Hotel, Accessed Aug 18, 2023
- 2TikTok.com, Brooks Strickland, Ocean Star Hotel, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, June 16, 2023
- 3Google.com, Ocean Star Hotel, Accessed Aug 18, 2023
- 5Wavy.com, 10 News on Your Side (WBTW) “Family’s TikTok video of ‘unsanitary’ conditions at Myrtle Beach hotel goes viral,” July 21, 2023