Landlord says I should've thrown mattress out; what must I tell future landlord?(11 posts)
Hello, and thanks in advance for your advice. Sorry for the long message,
I'm a renter in Brooklyn. I have a pretty good rent in a good location--the apartment is in lousy condition, but it's large and well-located. I've lived there more than 15 years; they had accepted that I've been messy/cluttered, I suspect, in exchange for me being quiet and completely reliable on the rent.
It's been a very stressful two months.
After my girlfriend found bedbugs in her apartment, she encouraged me to check my apartment. I never saw a bug, or felt a bite, but I paid for a dog, which "alerted" twice in my bedroom, and I then found evidence of bed bug stains on the wooden bed and once (fresh) on my pillow. I got rid of wooden furniture in my bedroom, washed all my clothes, bought a Pack-Tite, etc.
I had much accumulated clutter and wound up, thanks to a friend with a van and a dumpster, getting rid of dozens of boxes of books/papers/rugs over a couple of weeks.
I told my landlord early on and kept them apprised of the situation, and asked their take. It took them a couple of weeks to decide what to do. Meanwhile, I talked to several PCOs, with varied prices and plans. I told my landlord I'd be willing to pay for all/part of the treatment if it were coupled with a lease renewal.
They ignored that, and wound up hiring a (licensed) guy who'd done work for a cousin. I asked to talk to him ahead of time. He was not available to talk to me. My landlord said simply that I should follow his instructions.
He came half an hour early the day of the first spraying and told me immediately to get rid of my (expensive, memory foam) mattress, saying bed bugs could escape through the holes in the top lining. (He did not inspect to see if there were any bedbugs in the mattress.)
I said I'd already put a mattress cover on. He said he didn't trust such covers. I came back later that afternoon and duct-taped the mattress in half and covered it in plastic. I did not take it out to the garbage because my landlord told me I was putting too much garbage out.
The PCO treated (spraying/dusting) the apartment for three days and told my landlord it was guaranteed for 30 days. There was no pledge to return in two weeks, as I know some PCOs do.
After talking to a friend and doing some research on this and other forums, I concluded that my mattress was not necessarily a danger. But I did put a second cover on--the highest rated version. (I've also put down climb-up interceptors, used monitors when I'm staying outside the apartment, etc.)
When I told my landlord about keeping the mattress, she went ballistic and said 1) if bedbugs are found in the apartment, I'll be financially responsible because I didn't discard the mattress, and 2) they won't renew my lease, so I have to be out when my lease is up in 2+ months. (They plan to renovate the apartment and get a higher rent, as I had long suspected they might do.)
I said that I didn't think it was fair to make me financially responsible, given that bedbugs could persist in the apartment in many places, and spraying isn't foolproof. The landlord insisted the PCO had told her the bedbugs were gone.
That said, what happens in bedbugs are found while I'm still here? If they try to bill me and I refuse, do they take me to Housing Court?
What if bedbugs are found while they're cleaning/renovating the apartment after I leave? Can they take the cost out of my security deposit? (I'm sure they can.)
Do I have any chance of getting my security deposit back? (I suspect they will find a way to charge me for any and all of the deterioration in the apartment--holes in linoleum, for example, even though they will replace it.)
In terms of looking for a new apartment, what must I disclose about my bedbug history to the broker/future landlord?
What if they ask me for a reference from my current landlord? (I can surely say that my lease was regularly renewed because I have been reliable, and that the landlord now wants to renovate, but I'm reluctant to get into the bedbug dispute. Which means I don't know if I can ask my landlord even for a note saying I was a reliable tenant.)
Thanks for your responses.
If you're in NYC, check out the Metropolitan Council on Housing. http://www.metcouncil.net/
AFAIK, in NYC, the landlord is required to treat and is responsible for the cost. The exterminator sounds misinformed/incompetent or perhaps is in cahoots with the landlord to give you a hard time. It's "BB 101" that mattresses can be treated/encased/saved.
Be sure to review this site's FAQ and Resources pages for BB best practices as well as legal/advocacy information.
If you think your landlord's primary purpose for not renewing a lease is bigger bucks you should tell him you're going to register the apartment with the bedbug registry. Ethically, you should do this regardless of issues with the landlord. While the bedbug registry is very important for documenting cases of bedbug infestations, to a landlord it translates to a decrease in property value.
Are you in a rent stabilized apartment? If so, you're legally entitled to renewal at the regulated rate of increase. If you're in a free market economy, I'd expect the LL to try and bake past and future PC costs in (I would attempt that if I were an LL), within limits to what the market can absorb. I might also consider the relative advantages and costs of turnover vs. stable tenants. Your LL, however, does not sound like a smart business person or person of integrity. How about you do what you need to get this problem fixed, them worry about future repercussions.
Call the local authorities and find out all your rights. I am not a lawyer and not familiar with your local legislation, but I think the landlord should have to put the "not renewing" in writing. Sounds like the landlord got angry but they may rethink things once they calm down.
In Ontario, Canada, there is a thing called "over-holding" and it is when the tenant stays in the unit beyond the legal end of the tenancy. If this happens, the landlord has to follow proper processes to get the tenant evicted and there are time delays and court costs involved etc. It is an inconvenience and expense to the landlord. I mention this, because if you decide to start apartment hunting, it is in your current landlord's best interest to give you an excellent reference if they want you to find another apt.
Thanks for the responses.
It's not a rent-regulated apartment.
I do have a relatively low rent for the neighborhood and have long thought the landlord might one day decide to renovate. So while the bedbug situation may be a catalyst, it's not the only reason they wouldn't want to renew my lease.
I agree that they should put the not renewing in writing, but they have until May 1 to do so, as far as I know, since my lease is up a month later.
I don't think my landlord is so much evil but simply has a different way of going about things. I'm a rational researcher type. The LL (and her family) tends to rely on what their relatives say, and the relatives had previously hired the PCO. So they'll trust a family member, or someone who worked for a family member, without even considering the evidence I provided regarding mattress covers.
I did check the FAQ and Resources pages but--maybe I didn't search well--didn't get the legal/advocacy information I sought. (Best practices I can figure out.) I tried the Met Council yesterday--their phones are down.
So further advice welcome.
Prior posts have covered most of the important questions you asked and the treatment you described is definitely a "spray and pray" treatment. Its a shame companies are willing to do these cheap, ineffective treatments to enable landlords to meet their legal obligations to tenants.
I do have an important question though that seems to have been missed. You had a K9 company come in but they did they visually confirm their two "alerts"? Didn't see you mention this. Did you or the PCO ever find a live bed bug, cast skin, or egg? Reason I ask is because fecal traces are extremely difficult to diagnose as bed bugs the even to the trained eye
No, the K9 company did not visually confirm. And I was still wary of the finding until further confirmation.
No live bugs, cast skin, eggs. (The K9 company was independent, not affiliated with a PCO. )
However, I saw 1) several fecal stains--or what seemed to be them--on the white inner part of my wooden bed and 2) more definitively, a black liquid globule on my pillow that when touched, collapsed into a black stain.
My girlfriend, who lives elsewhere (but had traveled with me to a hotel) had a dog confirm, and had several painful bites her doctor said were bedbug bites. I have not had bites that I have noticed.
The PCO that my landlord hired didn't do any inspection, but sprayed/treated for three consecutive days, saying they'd come back if any bugs were found in 30 days.
Btw, here are the forum that regard obligation to disclose to new landlord:
It still seems kind of murky.
The post you cited was from a specific user with a specific issue in his lease. It is likely not applicable to your situation.
Met Council's web site has great resources without needing to wait for someone to answer your calls.
Spraying three days in a row does not sound like a good practice.
We still don't know if you even have BB.
All of you; landlord, exterminator and you, appear to need some orientation to what BB are and are not, how to detect, how to treat. They're not here, you are. Do you want our help or do you just want to do what your landlord says, then grouse about it?
Bedbugger.com's FAQ and Resources pages have excellent information. My favorite recommendation is the State of Michigan guide. It offers a comprehensive, but easy to read overview of BB, prevention, inspection and treatment. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/Bed_Bug_Manual_v1_full_reduce_326605_7.pdf These will empower you in this struggle, if you choose to read them. You can also likely find a good "one page" fact sheet to print and present to your landlord and his buddy.
If you had a burst pipe, you (and a smart landlord) would make sure it got fixed fast and right. There's time for worrying about who pays and the lease renewal later. Try and make that analogy.
I would definitely give Met Council another try during their hotline hours (posted on the website). I called them on a non-BB -related issue and they were really helpful. They know the laws inside and out and what to do in different situations.
Thanks for the responses.
I do plan to try Met Council again; as noted, when I tried on Monday, the phones were down--hence my message here.
I recognize I'm new here, but am not trying to grouse. I have spent some time reading the Met Council info; I didn't see my questions answered.
I gave my landlord the city's booklet on bedbugs; thanks to Cilecto for passing on the Michigan info.
As to whether I have bedbugs, I recognize that they can be difficult to ID. That's why I was still on the fence after the dog alerted and very much hoped it was a false positive.
But the combo of stains on a bed panel (which I compared to photos of stains) plus the black liquid globule on my pillow (which collapsed into a stain) convinced me.
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