Bed bugs in condos and coops: a recent case in Chicago, some resources for New York City

by nobugsonme on April 25, 2011 · 2 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bugs, bed bugs and real estate, bed bugs in condos and coops

A case from Chicago

The condominium association for the building at 5415 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago, is suing resident Sandra L. Gold for failure to cooperate with efforts to get rid of her unit’s bed bugs.

Park Tower Condominium Association, Inc., claims Ms. Gold’s condo “is infested with more than 500 bed bugs,” according to Chicago Real Estate Daily:

Ms. Gold has “failed and refused” to cooperate with efforts to exterminate the bugs, creating a broader pest problem throughout the building and obstructing the health and safety of other residents, the condo board alleges in a complaint filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court.

The association argues that Ms. Gold would not take the “necessary” steps to exterminate her bedbug problem: exposing all baseboards, stripping mattresses of box springs and linens, and emptying all closets, dressers and drawers.

Ms. Gold declined to comment, referring an inquiry to her lawyer, Ralph Schindler. Mr. Schindler said Ms. Gold has just returned home from a month in a nursing home while recovering from an injury.

“This is something we hopefully can resolve without doing much in court,” Mr. Schindler said.

In a condominium or cooperative building, as in any multi-unit building, eliminating bed bugs can be a tricky matter: everyone must be on board and cooperate with treatment and prevention strategies.


Some resources for New York City

These issues come up everywhere, and we’ve heard many stories in New York City in particular about people dealing with bed bugs in condos and coops.  I am posting some resources below which may be of interest to readers from New York (and possibly elsewhere).

Note: I’d also like to post resources for Chicago and other areas; If you know of any specifically on bed bugs in condos and coops, please leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!

Keep in mind I am not a lawyer and none of this constitutes legal advice.  Information or advice in the articles linked to, as always, may be incorrect or outdated.

BrickUnderground’s 2009 story on bed bugs in condos and coops led us to “Dealing With Bedbugs” (PDF) by Richard Siegler and Eva Talel (New York Law Journal, 2008).

Habitat Magazine (a magazine for New York City coop and condo board members and property managers) has lots of useful resources on bed bugs in these types of properties, including the following:

Bed Bugs (2009: Advice in the “Mr. Manager” column on how to deal with bed bugs in a condo or coop building.)

Bed bugs and boards (2006:  There are a few interesting paragraphs about Warranty of Habitability as applied to coops.)  Elizabeth Jensen writes on Habitat:

There’s legal controversy over whether boards should notify all owners, says Timothy Wenk, a lawyer at Shafer Glazer who specializes in bedbug litigation. “There is a stigma attached to bedbug infestation, even though it is not related to cleanliness,” he notes. Nonetheless, he advises clients to notify other apartment owners when an infestation is found. “These little beasts are known to travel apartment to apartment,” he says, and failing to warn neighbors to be on the lookout could lead to lawsuits over the damages and unnecessary hardship caused if the bugs do spread.

Wenk believes the implied warranty of habitability under Real Property Law, Section 235-b, gives co-op boards, but not condos, “a duty to eradicate the bedbug infestation” in the same way a landlord must. As such, he says, co-ops are probably responsible for the extermination costs and also have a duty to evict an owner who doesn’t “follow instructions and coordinate with efforts to eradicate the bugs.”

Finally, a Habitat feature from 2009 about how one large NYC coop dealt with bed bugs, legally, treatment-wise, etc.


1 Peter Stieglmayr April 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

As the bed bug epidemic especially in the New York City and New Jersey area continues to heighten, our housing court systems will begin to see more instances such as in the article written. When coop shareholders initially purchase shares (aka their apartment) they must sign an agreement with the property management company and coop board which specifically states that they will abide by the rules of the coop and allow access in the instance of ’emergencies’. Bed bugs in many instances can be classified as an emergency since it is a problem that can spread building wide and afflict health issues (bites, scratching, scarring, mental duress).

We are a Pest Control Operator specialize in treating coop buildings and dealing with property management companies and coop boards in the New York City and New Jersey area. We have witnessed first hand legal action against shareholders directly who inhabit an apartment or the shareholder and the tenants in which they sublet to. We have done projects for properties that exceed 500+ units in which we have building wide inspected via a Canine inspection all units and have treated horizontally/vertically and in the corner units surrounding infested units and then treating the infested unit accordingly.

There is law in place that provides the coop board and management companies with the right to seek legal action against a shareholder. This does and can occur contrary to conventional belief. If a coop board or it’s management company has reason to believe that an emergency or a condition that is detrimental to the entire property is occurring, they do have the right to seek legal action just as if it was a regular renter in the same instance. They also have the right to seek legal action against those tenants who do not prepare properly or avoid having their unit treated accordingly.

2 Ci Lecto May 18, 2011 at 11:32 pm

The trouble with the current situation in the bed bug field is that expert opinions vary as to what steps need to be taken by the client and the technician. Some pest control firms present the client with an preparation regimen — which could include comprehensive laundering, moving or even disposal of furnishings and emptying of closets — which can be onerous or virtually impossible for less robust (or time deprived) clients to perform without assistance (likely the case with the above story). Other professionals (like New York City’s John Furman) have a “move nothing, or move little” policy, and claim good results from careful craftsmanship. Until the protocols for successful bed bug control are clearly and universally understood, an unscrupulous or vindictive landlord or coop can manipulate a vulnerable tenant or owner (to financial loss or eviction) through the choice of pest controller.

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