An Evanston, Illinois condo owner is being sued by the Maisonette Condominium Association. The plaintiff claims the defendant refused to have his unit in a Sherman Avenue building treated for bed bugs, according to the Chicago Tribune.
After bed bugs were discovered in September 2011, the building had treatment in each unit including that of the defendant, James Collins, aged 67. There were several treatments to his unit, which had a “particularly bad case of bed bugs” according to the Tribune, though it isn’t clear how many treatments occurred or what form they took.
However, the basis for the lawsuit is what happened fourteen months after the problem was first discovered, when bed bugs were again found to be present in the plaintiff’s unit.
When the exterminator returned to confirm that the building was free of bed bugs on Nov. 13, 2012, Collins’ apartment tested again positive for bugs, according to the lawsuit. A couch and a wooden chair, in particular, were too infested to treat, according to the lawsuit.
The association says that because Collins did not return messages requesting that they treat his unit, he in effect was refusing treatment. Collins did not return a call for comment Tuesday night.
The association is requesting an injunction to treat the unit.
The claim that the apartment “tested positive for bed bugs” strikes my ears as odd. Perhaps the journalist or lawyers invented this phrase, or perhaps the apartment was subject to an actual “test” (like the DNA swab tests, which are controversial, or a canine inspection– though I’ve never heard of the term “test” being applied to canine inspections).
Oh — and a couch and wooden chair were too infested to treat? Well, maybe with some technologies, but amazing things can be done with heat. Of course, if the item is heavily infested, it may have become an aesthetic and hygienic issue beyond actually killing the bed bugs present.
The tenant-who-refuses-treatment is a situation we’ve heard of before, and there have been some publicized lawsuits, notably one in Chicago (Evanston’s neighbor) in 2011, though in that instance, the plaintiff claimed the defendant did not comply with the building’s “efforts to exterminate bed bugs” (including preparations for treatment), apparently from the outset.
From what I hear, this is not an uncommon problem. It can be very frustrating to others in the building who are complying with the treatment and fear or experience a persistent bed bug problem or later reinfestation.
There’s also the awful situation that the reluctant resident is in — and people have been evicted or forcibly removed from their homes in such cases. Some people do refuse treatment because they don’t believe they have a problem or don’t believe it’s serious, and in some cases mental health issues hinder the resident seeking or complying with bed bug treatment.
However, it’s worth noting that there may be other situations where people may resist getting bed bug treatment because they need help — for example, they may have difficulty doing the required prep, and may need assistance (physically or financially).
Or a resident may have a health condition which makes spray or dust pesticides harmful. They may not be aware other options exist for treatment, or may fear those will be too costly.
Some people refuse treatment because they have pets and fear putting them in danger (though a good pest management company should be able to safely treat a home with pets, and to advise a resident whether a pet should be removed from the home briefly).
In any of these cases, it’s important that condo associations (or other building management) are made aware of such situations and try to work with the residents, if possible.