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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Angeleno Heights couple moves out after bed bugs move in

Photo from Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Library

By Sarah Dryden

Last month former Angeleno Heights residents Leslie and Laura moved to Los Feliz, signaling the couple’s defeat in a battle against an unwanted, blood-sucking house guest: Cimex Lectularius, more commonly known as a bed bug. The landlord had agreed to hire an exterminator, and the couple had thrown out most of their belongings – including their bed, rugs and curtains – to eliminate the risk of future infestation. But Leslie and Laura eventually decided they had to leave Angeleno Heights even before their new apartment was ready.

“We were kinda losing it at that point and were stuck until we could find another place,” said Leslie. “ We ended up leaving early and just stayed in a hotel.”

Bed bugs, which feed on the blood of their human hosts,  have become a growing public health problem in recent years.  The Bed Bug Registry has reported 403 current cases in the City of Los Angeles compared to 4,490 in the New York metro which has the highest reported cases of bedbugs in the country. But Los Angeles has been catching up with New York, leading pest control company Orkin to rank Los Angeles as No. 5 on its most recent list of the nation’s “Top 50 Bed Bug Cities.” Last week, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles held a “Beating Bed Bugs Seminar” that included a team of dogs trained to sniff out bed bugs.

Some people once speculated that bed bugs played a role in spreading leprosy, oriental sore, Q-fever, and brucellosis, and possibly staph infection. Today, however, bed bugs – disgusting as they might be – are not known to cause any diseases. But a bed bug infestation can be monetarily and emotionally draining.

While bed bugs have turned up in motels, single-family homes and even buses, the spread of bed bugs in an apartments complex can signal the beginning of a blame game between landlord and tenant, with both parties refusing to accept responsibility for the issue. In an attempt to protect the rights of renters, New York State has implemented new laws such as the Bedbug Disclosure Act which was signed into law in 2010. The Act requires that landlords inform would-be tenants if there have been any insects found in the building in the past year. Los Angeles, however, has not such law.

When Brian and Micki, a Silver Lake couple, discovered bed bugs in their 1920s apartment about two years ago, their landlord accused them of bringing in the bugs.  The landlord did not feel she was responsible for taking care of the problem, and kept the couple’s $1,500 security deposit to cover the cost of a second fumigation. Brian and Micki also got stuck with a $500 junk removal fee to dispose of many of their belongings.

“Bed bugs are expensive,” said Brian, who estimated that the couple’s estimated cost in handling this ordeal was a little more than $3,000 – not including all of the possessions they lost.

In contrast, Laura and Leslie did not suffer as large a financial hit after they found bed bugs in their Angeleno Heights home. But the experience took an emotional toll. After Laura had been complaining about strange bites for a few weeks, she and Leslie flipped over the mattress as they were changing sheets and noticed a little brown bug, which turned out to be a bed bug. There were other brown bugs – dead and alive – as well as little black spots in the corners of the mattress and wooden bed frame.

A few of Laura and Leslie's belongings left on curb.

After discovering bed bugs, Leslie and Laura immediately took their mattress and bed frame apart and tossed them onto the street in front of their apartment building. They now realize this was a terrible idea since many unsuspecting people take abandoned furniture to use in their own homes. “We just panicked and wanted it out of the apartment” said, Laura.

The couple captured some of the bugs on a piece of  tape so an exterminator could verify they were bed bugs. Leslie, who moved into the apartment about two years ago before she began to share it with Laura, contacted her landlord immediately. “He was prompt in responding although was quite blasé and relaxed about the whole thing,” she said.

The landlord hired his own exterminator, who confirmed that the insects they had found were in fact bed bugs. He had discovered a few nests and said the infestation was mostly located in the bedroom walls, bed and side table. “The exterminator was only in the apartment for 15 minutes, sprayed and left. He was confident this one-time treatment would “obliterate” them and they shouldn’t have any more problems,” said Laura.

Over the next few days, Leslie and Laura became increasingly paranoid and ended up throwing out the majority of their belongings: their mattress, bedding, side tables, rugs, designer chair, books, suitcases, curtains, shoes and boxes stuffed with old papers, cards and mementos. Since bed bugs are able to survive many months without feeding, the couple placed some irreplaceable and sentimental items into vacuum-sealed bags to be kept sealed for 18 months.

Leslie and Laura also spent many long hours at their local laundry washing and heating their clothing in an effort to kill the bugs and eggs, which die in temperatures in excess of 12o degrees, according to the Mayo Clinic. A combination of high temperature and exposure time has proven to be effective in destroying the bugs.

During this process the couple decided it was best to just move out. They spent their final days in the apartment sequestered in their empty living room, where they slept on an air mattress in the middle of the floor surrounded by plastic trash bags.

The couple’s new Los Feliz apartment remains sparsely furnished. They have only added a few brand new items – including an air mattress – but say they’ll never buy vintage or from second-hand store because they remain too afraid of getting used items that might be infested with bed bugs.

The new apartment complex had them sign a contract that stated the apartment had “NO BUGS”, and Leslie and Laura had to sign saying they too were “Bug Free.”

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28 comments

  1. And they just left their discarded stuff on the curb? Nice. Guess those bedbugs are someone else’s problem now. C’mon people, how about giving a crap.

    • Not too sure if you actually read the article but, I shall quote “They now realize this was a terrible idea since many unsuspecting people take abandoned furniture…”

      • I mugged an old lady but now I realize it was a terrible idea so it’s ok.

        • i drove by a sweet mattress outside an apt complex and when i saw a note next to it that read “bugs” i just disregarded it and took the mattress anyway. i mean, curbside furniture is the best, it’s free and regardless of the bugs, i got a sweet mattress!

  2. It is the legal and financial responsibility of the landlord to pay for bedbug exterminating costs, per LA city ordinance. The Silverlake couple, Brian and Micki, described above, can and should get their deposit back.

    • Well that seems fair, Charles.

      You mean I can go out and bring infested furniture and clothing into my apartment, then complain and shoulder my landlord with the expense and hassle or undoing my mess?

      I guess if I don’t give my pets flea medicine I could burden him with that too huh?

      Wow. I have officially entered bazaaro world.

  3. Jolly:
    I read it, I think I was irritated by their temporary lack of common sense.

  4. I feel very bad for this couple. I would hate to be in their situation. But, it seems obvious that if they didn’t have a bed-bug infestation when they moved in to the apartment/home a couple of years ago and they do have an infestation now, the infestation was caused by something they (as tenants) brought into their own home. Clearly, they did not do that on purpose, but they more than likely were rsponsible for the infestation. And, now, the landlord is responsible for cleaning up the infestations? Hmmm. Tough situation all around.

    • You were doing so well with your train of logic Cristi, but yet you still conclude an ambiguous decision. “tough situation all around”

      Are you afraid to say what your logic was telling you? That the landlord has no responsibility here? Hmmm…

      • I was being honest. It’s a tough situation. Clearly, many pests and other infestations will attack a home, through no fault of the landlord (mice, termites) and the landlord is responsible for cleaning that up. Somebody else mentioned that the law places responsibility on the landlord. I haven’t independently verified it, but it seems like there is good reason for placing it on the landlord since they are in the best situation to prevent it. Unless you can verify the tenant caused the infestation and that would be tough to do. Somebody else mentioned that they got bed-bugs from a neighbor. That seems plausible in this case also. Truly, a tough situation.

        (I am a landlord so that is where my sympathy lies, but I have been a tenant before, so I know why the laws in LA tend to be tenant protective.)

    • But in an apartment complex how can you tell who brought them in? It’s more likely to be a new tenant than one that’s been there for a while bug free you would think.

      • Prime example of someone who knows nothing about bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t discriminate. They are the “hitch hiking” bug- they hop on whomever they can so they can suck your blood- an old tenant who traveled to Hotel A in City X could have picked a little bed bug up from the hotel. This article needed to be more about how both couples coped and advice on how to prevent or help a bed bug infested situation. Blame has nothing to do with it. It’s a city problem and it’s only going to get worse if we continue to be uneducated.

  5. The bedbug issue in Angeleno Heights is not new. It has been around for a while now, kept alive by neglecting landlords that continue to rent apts that have been previously abandoned due to bedbug issues. They are mainly confined to the apt buildings in the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean that spreading can’t occur very easily.

    The main problem is that the landlord really needs to eradicate the entire building. Bedbugs remain in carpets, walls, cracks, everywhere. They pass between apts with ease. They get into your furniture, clothes, you name it. They are also immune to most commonly used extermination methods these days as well, certainly whatever this hacked up exterminator was spraying (in addition to legal fixes, modern bedbugs are immune to DDT as well). Heat is the main thing that will wipe them out. But it means heating an entire building to sweltering degrees, and getting all the people out for a few days. I still think this is the right thing to do. The landlords mention nothing of the bedbug infestations and continue to rent at inflated rates (Calumet… be careful).

    These people were likely NOT the cause of the infestation. The article stated that they were in an apt in Angeleno Heights, enough said. Do not take anything off the street near the apt buildings, there is probably a reason that it’s down there.

  6. That building has been on the bed bug registry for a couple of years now. You should check there before moving into any buildings in Los Angeles.

  7. Bedbugs are the worst. However, i’ve heard that you should be bedbug free for 2 months before moving into a new place because you can accidentally transport eggs and thus bring the infestation with you.

    So clueless, we got bedbugs from a neighboring unit. We didn’t bring anything in. Is the landlord responsible in that situation?

    • Uh, no! I’d say it is the responsibility of the occupants of the “neighboring unit” you say brought it in…

      Again. Why is it the landlord’s responsibility?

      I’d say the limit of the landlord’s responsibility should be coordinating the eradication efforts between the tenant funded exterminator. That’s it. If the building was bug free when you moved in, and one of you brought the scourge in, then you should fund the extermination.

      I’d say the same thing if you had a flea problem with 2 cats…

      • The problem is, I didn’t have a contract with the other tenant but I had one with the landlord. Thus, the landlord is responsible for providing me with an uninfested living space. You might think he has recourse for damages against the other tenant at that point, but none of that matters with regards to the contractual relationship between me and him.

        • Yep, Gotcha. The old “deeper pockets” approach.

          My neighbor who is causing the problem doesn’t have a pot to pee in so I’ll go after the landlord who has a little dough.

          Again, very fair mentality. Good way to promote personal responsibility!

  8. No metaphors for gentrification, hipsters, all that yet? What’s the Eastsider comments section becoming!?

    • a place where people can find a completely condescending way of responding to each other for no reason. I love this site, but the people who post here are jerks most of the time. It sucks.

      “Prime example of someone who knows nothing about bed bugs.”

      and so forth… awesome.

      pk

  9. You can get rid of them yourself by obtaining a product called Steri-fab–a concentrate that you put in a spray bottle, DeltaDust and another product which prevents them from reproducing. The spray does not harm animals but delta dust is potent. You have to be vigilant but it does work.

  10. Bedbugs are no one’s “fault”. They’re are hitch hikers and excellent hiders and once they’ve taken up residence in an apt or apt building they will remain there tormenting residents until properly eradicated. Thus it is a landlord’s problem.

    You can bring them in on your purse, a shoelace, your laptop bag, a library book..whatever. Some have even become infested via brand new furniture. (they can and do infest moving and delivery trucks too)
    They happily travel from apartment to apartment. Sometimes through the walls just as often they just walk across the hall and crawl right under your front door. Really folks, this happens every day all over NYC ,and many, many other metro areas. LA will catch up to NY in time.
    Everything you’ll ever need to know about the subject can be found at www. bedbugger.com and known infestations should be reported to http://www.bedbugregistry.com. Ignorance is no defense.

    • In other words mark, bedbugs are nones “fault” unless you are a landlord.

      Obviously paying rent for so long has skewed your logic.

      • So if a tree falls on a unit and makes it uninhabitable, whose responsibility is it? How about termites? Landlords have legal responsibilities that you seem to not be up for.

  11. I don’t think there’s any “fair” way to place responsibility, given the nature of the beast (pest). Only the law.

    *shivvvvers*

    I travel for work and always check my beds, but still live in fear of bringing that ish home.

  12. I wish our landlord would do something about our infestation, the old tenants moved out from next door and now the new ones and us have them. its been exausting argueing with the landlord. rarely go visit anyone anymore always thinking of not contaminateing someone else’s place and dont invite anyone either. if anyone wants to help put some pressure on this slumlord please let me know. angelo6932@yahoo.com

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