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.


Bugged in Atlanta said...

Although I do not live in NYC I understand your delimia. When first telling people about my problem the usually response is to sue my landlord if they won't hire an exterminater and they had no sympathy for my situtation. I wish it were that easy.

When I discovered I had bedbugs I immediately called my Property management. They sent an exterminater who had no experience with bed bugs but had taken a class on them recently. Obviously they did not learn much because they only treated my bedroom and with a bug bomb which by the way, which is the worst thing you can do. It only dispersed them around my apt and I'm sure to my neighbors as well.

When the first treatment didn't work and I called the exterminaters to do the 2nd treatment my management had approved. the exterminaters informed me my property managemnt renigged on their agreement saying it cost to much. I later recieved a letter saying they assumed no liabilty to eliminate these pests because they claim I had brought them in. I think they realized from talking to the exterminater how costly this issue could get so they consulted their lawyer who noticed a clause in GA law
that if the tenant brings in the pest it is not the landlords responsibility. Meaning if they could get the court to believe I brought them in they could sue me for all the expenses including possibly the extermination of my neighbors. Did I bring them in? I don't know? I don't know how I got them. Or was my building infested? Maybe. I just don't know.

So my boyfriend and I decided just to not sue them and get the hell out of there once our lease was up bringing little stuff with us and disinfecting as much of that as possible. When we moved it wasn't long before I realized they moved with us. I have not told my current landlord that I have discovered bed bugs in the building because I am scarred that they will contact my past landlords to see if I had reported any bed bugs with them and there fore proving that I brought them into the building and therefore leagally liable for all extermination fees.

Not to mention who they hire to fix the problem which as I learned can actually make the problem worse. So I decided in Jan to become my own exterminater and deal with this myself. In my old apt I bug bombed my apt constantly not knowing it was bad to do that. I just figured that was the best thing to do since that's what the exterminaters who did my bedroom did. This time I think I have controlled the situation but have not been successful in eliminating them. Just a week ago I saw one actually on me, (only the 2nd time I've ever seen one on me in over a year that I've had my little friends), while I was on the train I think it came out of my bag. That was horrifying. I feel my only hope is for my move in a few months to Minn. This time I will start a new and leave my belongs in storage in my parents shed, what I will eventually do with my belongings I don't know.

Anonymous said...

It seems like bed bugs are truly a global problem. Does anyone know if bedbugs carry bloodborne disease such as HIV and hepatitis? Some websites say they don't but why don't I buy that?

And...I am getting minute small bumps and itches during the day at work...but I don't see any bedbugs at least that I can recognize. I am paranoid that the nymphs are too small for me to identify so I pick at anything that looks like a speck of dust or small white fluff or that eggs are in my clothes and that they are hatching during the day inside my clothes close to my skin...Has anyone else felt this crawling sensation at work during the day underneath your clothes? It usually starts later in the afternoon. Sometimes I have picked off small round things that are dark in the center and yellowish brown around the outside but again they are too small and I usually just crush them and wash them down the sink.


Anonymous said...

yes, exactly the same, worse in the afternoon. I've concluded that despite the vinyl mattress cover and that I've not seen one in weeks that they must still be in my mattress.

Bugged Out said...

Hey Bugged in Atlanta,

I totally understand the lack of sympathy others may have for your problem as well as their eagerness to encourage you to sue your landlord.

America has a very litigious culture, where our courts are backed up by often frivolous law suits by people who are looking for an early retirement rather than fair and adequate compensation. And all those 1-800 LAWYER and Malpractice lawyer commercials on television promising little to no money up front and a big fat settlement only contribute to and reflect our very litigious culture. Damn, I even saw a commercial the other day from a law firm promising that you wouldn’t have to pay them anything even if you lose the case!

So it's easy for many ignorant people to think you're lazy or stupid if you don't want to take your landlord to court. Most people who subscribe to this "sue at the drop of a hat" mentality have often never had to sue anyone themselves.

I've had to take anyone to court, mostly shady employers who refused to pay back wages. I even had one ugly bitch who owed me $200 try to counter sue me on some trumped up charges. Suing someone can be a very confrontational experience, and you have to make sure every thing you are doing in relation to the case is on the up and up. Because if it isn't your opposition's lawyers may found out and they will definitely use it against you in court.

Also, people fail to view the situation from the landlord's perspective. Furthermore, unless you live in public housing, your apartment building is a business, and your landlord is simply looking to make a return on his or her investment. You've seen how expensive these bed bug exterminators can be. They're no cheaper for your landlord. Maybe he or she can get some package deal from an exterminator to do the entire building but that's still going to cost a lot of money, making it a miracle for your landlord if they're even able to break even that month.

Bed bugs are a serious legal problem as well, because their appearance in our society is fairly recent, and all three levels of government are slow to enact laws that can help its citizens, partially for legal reasons. Bear in mind that realtors and landlords have a powerful influence in government and lots of money to throw at the right politicians.

Probably the biggest legal issue is that bed bugs for the most part are not a health hazard but rather a mere nuisance, Sure, there are some whose allergic reactions to the bites are so severe they need to check into an emergency room. But for most of us, it's just itching and embarrassment.

People also fail to see the many, many ways your landlord could easily counter sue, especially if they can prove you or another tenant (anyone besides themselves) played a role in introducing the insects into the dwelling.

I think you and your boyfriend were wise to not sue and to just move out, especially as your lease was ending anyway. If you had sued, it’s quite possible that your landlord may have delayed renewing your lease just to bust your balls, which may have very well left you and your man homeless. Or they may have tried some other tricks to make your life harder or to simply encourage you two to move out of the building altogether.

Changing the subject to bug bombing, I too have learned that bug bombs really are the worst thing you can do to combat bed bugs, because it really doesn’t kill them. I suppose bombs have the same effect on bed bugs that tear gas has on humans. It causes the bugs to scatter, but not really die.

I think eradicating bed bugs is somewhat of a pipe dream, as I too have controlled the bed bug population but have not wiped them out completely, as a few live bugs have surfaced in recent months, but certainly not the numbers I’ve dealt with in the past.

The one good thing about you moving to Minnesota will be that the cold weather there comes earlier and lasts longer than in sunny Georgia. As you’re aware, living things thrive in warm weather.

Thanks for commenting, Bugged in Atlanta, and I hope your new pad doesn’t have the same old problems. And remember, when people give you shit for not suing your landlord, just remember two things;

(1) People are stupid.
(2) People are most enthusiastic about doing things that require no effort or risk on their part.


Bugged Out

Anonymous said...

Hey Bugged Out,

I just discovered your blog because I too have bedbugs here in NYC. The exterminator came 2 months ago, & I thought they were gone, but low and behold, last week I was getting bitten again-- and even more than before! My building's exterminator sprayed something on the floor close to the walls & then fogged the place (which I'm learning isn't helpful), so I would like to treat this myself, but everywhere I look online refuses to ship Suspend or Drione Dust to NY. Do you know how else I can get it (other then having it shipped to my parents in another state & having them send it on to me?)

Thanks so much!

Bugged Out said...

Hi Miserable,

To respond to your first comment, no, bed bugs do not carry blood borne diseases. Think of bed bugs as wingless mosquitoes. It has been proven that mosquitoes do not carry human blood borne diseases like hep or HIV. It has been proven that bed bugs feed off of blood the same way mosquitoes do, and to this day no bed bug has been found to carry any human virus. I will go further into this issue in my next entry.

Second, your body and mind is going through a sort of bed bug paranoia, which is perfectly normal. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to who has had bed bugs have experienced this special brand of paranoia, which I will also explain further in my next entry.

Thanks for commenting,

Bugged Out

Bugged Out said...

Dear Anonymous,

I must admit that I have not purchased Drione Dust or Suspend online. I would like to know why these companies refuse to ship to NY. Could you please give me some of the web sites selling these products? If anyone can explain this seemingly absurd restriction, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Bugged Out

Jake said...


is where I obatined mine and yes, I had it shipped to a NJ address.

elaine said...

www.domyownpestcontrol.com ships to NY, that's where I got my stuff. I bought the triple whammy: Suspend SC, Drione Dust and Gentrol. They've made a huge difference in terms of bug population as well as propping up my fluctuating sense of well being.

Anonymous said...

Another great product that really works and is safe not a pesticide is from the site licescabiesandbedbugs.com. I found it to do a great job and get rid of the pesky bugs. It can also be used for other treatments.
Good Luck,

Anonymous said...

Hey Bugged Out,

I tried to buy Suspend et al at doyourpestcontrol.com, but my order was cancelled because the BILLING address was in NY (I was shipping to my mom in another state). They said that these pesticides are not "registered" in NY. I don't understand what that means because I asked my pest control guy what he was using, and he said Suspend. Perhaps only licensed pest people can buy Suspend & Drione Dust?

Anyway, mom used her credit card & it's all good. I'll let you know how it all goes. I'm going to try Kleen Free too!

Jeff said...

man, these posts are not making me feel better.

i came home from a european vacation and a week later i had bites. but only on the back of my thigh. i couldn't figure it out but finally i realized that i got bitten NOT in my bed but while i was sitting at my computer in my living room.

i bought a steam cleaner. and pertherin. i've been going through my apartment and i found 3 kinds of bugs. carpet beetles, bed bugs and some unidentified bug. when i went looking through the crevices of my sofa i found white moving things, which i steamed to death. not sure whether they were carpet beetles or bedbug babies.

i don't think i can live like this... i can't sleep because i am worried that the bugs are going to spread to my seemingly clean bedroom. i have set up glue traps for the bugs by running tape across the floor. but i have become super paranoid.

my plan for now is to sleep during the day and work at night so that i can avoid them.


Anonymous said...

hi Bugged Out,

Thanks for replying. I feel a bit better that you confirm that bed bugs can't carry blood-borne diseases.

I think the root of my bed bug paranoia is not knowing what they look like at every stage of their development and identifying them from other bugs.

Sigh, a small bug just appeared on my desk as I'm typing this. I can't even tell where it came from. When I try to put my finger on it to kill it, it jumps straight up and away but doesn't get far. It crushes easily against my finger. Does anyone else see these little bugs and confirm that these are bed bug in the early stages? I know what they look like when they are adults. Do the adults jump like this as well? I have also seen small black bugs that are rounded out. Are these bed bugs? I found one crawling on the tv screen and one near the edge of the carpet and in the kitchen. I thought they weren't able to crawl on slippery surfaces?

It was so raised and rounded that unless you turned the bug over you couldn't really tell that it had legs. When I crushed it, it was gross - kind of like it had a hard shell like a cockroach's.

Can anyone confirm what the baby bed bugs look like? And are they clear or white after just being born? I've seen the nymphs after they've fed (on my mom) in her sheets and they were red and tiny and round.


Anonymous said...

Hi Miserable and Bugged Out, I feel better also reading over and over again that we can't get HIV from bedbugs. As soon as I found out that my apartment had bedbugs I went into panic mode because my partner is HIV+. I could not conceive the idea that despite all our efforts during so many years together practicing safer sex that I was going to get infected though this nasty little bug. If having them in the apartment was not bad enough. I called my doctor, my partner's doctor and even doctors I never met and they all told me the same thing: "It is very unlikely that bedbugs transmit HIV." Unfortunately, I never heard what I wanted: "No, they do not transmit HIV for sure." So, I just keep reading, hoping and waiting until it's time for the next HIV test.

Anonymous said...

I just called Bugsaway (www.bugsaway.com) and they told that they ship Drione Dust, Suspend SC, Gentrol and everything else I read about to NY. Check their website or call 800-887-2847.

atavisms said...

*The most effective way to kill bed bugs once you have them is with cold.
turn off heaters, seal room and lower to freezing in the winter. they die at like 27 degrees i think, leave ut freezing for all day or two ays if possible.
then seal every tiny crack and hole, vacuum again and clean religiously.
and effective thing I did in the summer was packing tape, Make an island of the bed (No over hanging sheets of blankets) and apply packing tape around the mattress, the bugs cannot fly or jump .. the tape goes sticky side up and they another pice at the lower edge to keep them from crawling underneath the tape. A pain to do, but very effective and if you do not have cold. spray sand poison do not work. or only for a very short time/ You cannot let them bite you, they use that blood to lay eegs, many many eggs..

*high heat will also kill them (a blow drier, etc..

atavisms said...

oops, sorry, they die at 37 degrees (you can look this up)it was the only thing that worked for me and I was food for almost one year till they came back.. then I used tape till it got cold again.

Anonymous said...

I'm in NYC and I own my apartment (co-op). I started seeing bites about three weeks ago, and had the exterminator in last week. I've only seen one actual bedbug, and it was dead. I'm getting rid of my mattress and the captain's bed (which I loved), and a lot of my clothes and other things, which is depressing me. I don't make a lot of money; I'm probably spending my vacation funds for the next three years on this, and I'm not even sure it will do any good.

I have struggled with depression for years, but this is completely putting me over the edge. I haven't felt suicidal in a long time, but I'm back there. Don't know what to do.

Anonymous said...

I am reading these comments with great interest as a landlord but more importantly a human being. I own a 4 unit building in NYC and have had a continuing bedbug problem for some time. I have spent ALOT on exterminators, given rent credits to tenants and the problem seems to come and go. I do not like to see my tenants suffer. Im close to flying to the far east and bringing back DTT, the only chemical that will kill bedbugs (and probably you in a few years) for good. The exterminator I have now seems very helpful. I only hope that the problem can be managed effectively going forward...