Nashville woman files suit with Rent-a-Center over bedbugs

by nobugsonme on July 24, 2009 · 6 comments

in bed bugs

This seems to be the week for bed bug lawsuits.

The Tennesseean reports that Evangela Cowan of Nashville is suing Rent-a-Center, claiming the furniture she rented (including a mattress) gave her bed bugs.

She is suing for $575,000.  The Tennesseean also reports on the company’s response:

Xavier Dominicis, a Rent-A-Center spokesman, said he could not comment about Cowan’s suit, but did agree to speak about the company’s sanitation practices regarding returned merchandise.

“We use a number of agents to sanitize the equipment,” Dominicis said. “The company follows state guidelines. We inspect everything before it goes out and when it comes back.”

The spokesman said bedbugs are a rarity.

“Occasionally, we’ll get a bedbug here and there and we’ll aid the customer when needed,” Dominicis said.

But Cowan says Rent-A-Center has never attempted to help.

“I explained the situation to them,” she said. “And, they just looked at me. They were completely unconcerned. I actually left in tears.”

I would very much like to know more about the protocols used to sanitize furniture returned to Rent-a-Center.  First, visual inspections are very difficult — even for those trained to find bed bugs and patient enough to do lengthy searches.  Second, the statement “we use a number of agents to sanitize the equipment” suggests to my mind the use of sprays.

My understanding of bed bug treatment is that no spray can render an item bed bug-free with 100% reliability — far from it, in fact.  I am also not aware of Tennessee’s guidelines on this matter, but unless they require all previously rented items to be treated using thermal methods or sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) gas, or frozen for several days at low temperatures, the treatment is unlikely to guarantee bed bugs are not present.

It is not true that bed bugs are a rarity in our society, and it stands to reason they’re becoming more common among renters of furniture, just as they are in the population at large.  Furniture rental companies need to develop foolproof methods of ensuring all rented items are bed bug-free.

See Nashville woman files suit over bedbugs | tennessean.com | The Tennessean.

Update 10/2009:

The full article is no longer available from the site, but you can find an abstract here.

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1 Aimee July 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm

They must think if they merely “sanitize” i.e. clean the items, it will kill any bed bugs. Sadly, we all know that bed bugs don’t disappear just because an item is clean.

2 JP McHale Pest Management Inc. July 27, 2009 at 10:03 am

@Aimee People also think by just throwing out a mattress will solve the problem, they are very wrong. Bed bugs hide all over an infested room.

3 C England August 2, 2009 at 2:42 am

We bought a sofa that had been previously rented and then returned without reason. When we figured out we had bed bugs living in the sofa, I called Rent A Center. I was told that the previous renters were not required to give a reason for returning the sectional, and that they wouldn’t know if there was a problem until someone called. So I was calling, and what are they going to do about it? I was told that they treated everything with steri-fab, and they left it at that. We had a pest control company come out and treat the sofa as well as the surrounding areas, but the bugs were not gone. Hello RAC!!!

4 Berkley November 13, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I am renting a bedroom set from R A C and i have called them twice and told them that sumthing is eating me and my son up my son have bug bites all over his legs and harms and i have them on my back and on my harms and i when i called them they told me they was going to come get the bed but they didnt and them time past and as it past the bites got worst and i called them again today and they told me that it was the apartment i am living in but the apartment people say that its R A C what should i do

5 Kristin June 2, 2010 at 12:19 am

Rent A Center in Iowa just gave my cousin a 2 couches and a love seat that were infested with them. Their house is 3 stories, one couch went to the third story, the 2nd story is where all the kids (5 of them) bedrooms are and the other couch and love seat went to the living room in the 1st floor… the bed bugs spread RAPIDLY throughout the house. RAC paid for their house to be professionally treated… that was a while ago. I’ve been staying here for 3 nights so far and am COVERED in bites… I don’t think they’re gone and I’m COMPLETELY grossed out, but can’t leave because my grandpa’s funeral is tomorrow and I’ve nowhere else to stay in this town!

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