Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A New York Problem

In the past, people inside and outside of cyberspace have asked me what my landlord has done to alleviate my bed bug problem. When I tell them how little they have actually done, I have been advised to take my building’s management company and/or landlord to court, call 311, or to go to the media.

Well, it’s not as simple as that. There is a reason why I have been hesitant to take any action against my landlord or super.

The reason is that for several years, my family has violated the terms of our lease. Now our super made it very clear to us some time ago that she was aware of the violation, but since we’ve never received an eviction notice, we figured she has kept her mouth shut.

The super basically sent one of her relatives who she employs as her maintenance crew to my apartment to apply roach spray to get rid of the bed bugs. The worker also suggested we buy those fogger bombs in a can and spray ammonia on the mattress. Because we are in violation of our lease, my family is reluctant to take action against the super, the management company, or the owner of my building for fear that they may point out our discrepancy and throw us all out..

This is a unique problem for New Yorkers because many of us live in illegal conversions or are violating certain terms of our leases. For the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living in illegal conversions, I’m sorry to say that any legal action you take will result in your eviction. If your landlord is not doing enough, or is doing nothing at all to get rid of your bed bugs, and you live in an illegal apartment, bringing your case to the media or any court will alert the City to your illegal apartment.

Once that happens, the Department of Buildings (DOB) along with the NYPD will heavily fine your landlord and padlock your building, prohibiting anyone from living there until the building has been brought up to code by the owner and the owner has obtained a Certificate of Occupancy for each apartment in the building. As a reporter, I’ve written countless stories about illegal conversions, zoning regulations and DOB safety codes and law enforcement procedures, so trust me when I say all this.

Bear in mind that because your apartment is illegal, your landlord does not have to observe any building safety codes, and laws concerning landlords and tenants are non-existent in this case. If you know that your dwelling is not a legitimate one in the eyes of the law, do not rush to the courtroom of the TV cameras as if it is.

Also, because the demand for housing in New York City so greatly outweighs the supply, landlords and management companies can include very oppressive terms in your apartment lease, such as no pets, or no heavy duty appliances (i.e., washers or dryers). Perhaps you’ve taken on an extra boarder to help pay your very expensive New York rent and you didn’t want to add this person to the lease for fear of the rent being raised. Perhaps you have an illegal cable hookup, or someone in your home is engaging in some other illegal activity in your apartment.

Those of you living in legitimate apartments, if your landlord doesn’t lift a finger to help you get rid of your bed bug problem and you want to tell your story to the police, a judge or a reporter, make sure you’re not doing anything in there that, if made public, would result in your eviction, deportation or incarceration.

And for those of you in illegal apartments, tenants’ rights do not apply to you. Laws are there to protect the law-abiding, and while I’m not passing judgment against those who live in illegal apartments, you are not a law-abiding citizen. Making your case public will only let the authorities know that you and your landlord are knowingly breaking the law.

Long story short, getting rid of bed bugs for most New Yorkers will have to be a task carried out by ourselves. It is rare for someone to reside in a building with extermination services provided by someone who knows how to deal with bed bugs.

Please do not inquire as to the nature of my violation.

Friday, June 23, 2006


I’ve never said a whole lot about exterminators…until now.

A warning to those who rely on their building's exterminator, whether it be an in-house maintenance worker, your building's superintendent or an outside contractor: Your building's landlord or building management company is most likely a cheap bastard and will only pay for a cheap exterminator whose expertise is usually limited to ants and roaches.
I've shopped around via the Internet for bed bug-specific exterminators, and I really can't afford one at the moment. What I've found is that I am my best exterminator. I know where all the bed bug hotspots are in my home, so I immediately know where to apply a bed bug-killing agent. I will work harder to get rid of them than a professional exterminator because it is my home, and I want them gone.
Keep in mind that I'm not putting down exterminators. Their job is a valuable one: to study various species of insects, how to spot them and how to kill them. Think of all the studying we’ve all done on bed bugs alone. Multiply all that time and energy by ten and you’re a professional exterminator.

All I’m saying is that most exterminators are still fuzzy on bedbugs, especially since for much of this century, bed bugs were non-existent. And the few who are experts on bed bugs know they are in the minority and that their expertise is in high demand. Economics 101: When supply shrinks and demands rises, prices rise as well. So basically I can’t afford you guys.

If you’re like me, who pays for a three-bedroom apartment equaling 50,000 square feet what people in Montana pay for twenty acres of land and can’t afford a pricey exterminator, just do the extermination yourself. Various items are on sale and are not so hazardous that only a licensed exterminator is allowed to handle it, and there’s lots of information on bed bugs out there.

Good luck!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Resurgence and Vigilance

It appears to me that once one acquires bed bugs, they never really get rid of them.

After trashing my bug-infested bed, mattress and headboard, washing every single piece of clothing I own and throwing out countless pieces of paper, I was shocked last night to find a bed bug crawling on my inflatable mattress. I quickly scooped it up, deposited it into a tissue and squeezed said tissue into my fist until I saw the brownish stain of its squashed guts.

I’d been sleeping in my own room, on an inflatable mattress for a few weeks now, and the first night in my bedroom was spent with M on my bedroom floor with only a thick blanket separating us from the linoleum. I had bought the mattress already, but stupid me neglected to notice the box the mattress came in said “Pump not included”. Another trip to Target.

The mattress kicks ass by the way. The brand is called Air-Tek. It’s a queen-sized mattress (a new venture for me since my previous bed was only a twin) which claims to support up to 600 lbs. It was on sale for $30 at Target, and the pump was another $10. It’s kind of hard getting used to an air mattress when you’ve slept on conventional mattresses your whole life, but it still makes for a comfortable night’s rest.

But I digress.

Even after the whole aftermath of committing bedbug genocide, and losing my mattress, bed, headboard, gallons of detergent and even more gallons of hot sudsy water in the process, I was thoroughly annoyed to see that they were still here. They’re like the Iraqi insurgents: the many, the scattered and the persistent.

So the fight still rages on.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Power of Propaganda!

Here I am complaining about Fox News acting as the press secretary for the Bush Administration, and then I come across this article from the Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The article, located at the bottom of the web page is about pest control and claims the following about bedbugs:

Bed bugs are major transmitters of diseases including HIV and hepatitis so all
precautions should be taken to use good quality of spray.

Now that's scary.