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co-op mgmt doing nothing - Queens

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  1. skeevedout

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 10:05:48
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    We caught an infestation very early on (within 15 days of the first bite we had first treatment). We had bedbugs 5 years ago in another apartment so knew what the bites were like. Over 5 weeks have gone by and we have been bite-free. Our PCO thinks it was a one-two punch and we are free. He also thinks we did a great job sealing and caulking.

    The problem is that we don't know where we got them. So many possibilities, including, of course, adjoining units. Thing is, there are no complaints from adjoining units, and management has not even done any inspections (despite repeated letters from us). We own our apartment, and so can't just move out.

    So yes - they may have come from anywhere, but our building had this problem in a few units last year (supposedly eradicated). I suppose we've done as good a job as is possible in sealing/caulking, but what about apartments down the hall? Plenty of room around the door frame.

    We are putting pressure on the mgmt company, but does anyone have any other suggestions for prevention in the meantime?

  2. persona-non-bugga

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 11:18:57
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    Does your building hold board of directors or shareholders meetings? Speaking in person might help. I showed up at my condo "board of directors" meeting - which operates more like a clueless kaffeeklatsch - with a presentation about bedbugs, treatment, legal liabilities, etc. complete with handouts and visual aids.

    Management in my condo building - was/is in deep denial. There are several sponsor units still rented out, so management operates as a landlord and bears the legal liabilities of such with respect to those units.

    Anyway, to shake up the complacency, I brought the sample of three dead bedbugs that I saved from my infestation and threw the ziploc on the table. The reps from management blanched. They actually had the nerve to be skeeved - after they neglected to properly treat the infestation in the apartment below me, which led to those bedbugs eventually coming up to my home.

    I gave this talk some time after my trial with bedbugs, after I sensed in casual conversations that management had no intention of changing their bedbug practices. I don't know if this will improve things in future. Hopefully, I'll never have to find out. But at least I've had this conversation with them. They've been called out before an audience; it's more difficult to ignore than private correspondence. I think the samples, the pictures I brought, speaking in person -- it all made for a more visceral impact vs. communicating over the phone or by letter. Frankly, it felt excellent and empowering to vent.

    In prepping for this talk, I talked to a few PCOs. IIRC, the PCO that struck me as most knowledgeable - the one who helped me two years ago - does not do preemptive inspections in multiunit buildings. He feels the harborage sites can be so elusive, that he fears incorrectly "clearing" a lightly infested apartment.

    It was confusing to hear. My personal opinion is that inspection by a knowledgeable pro would still be better than one by a random member of the public. And they might find evidence in a home where people aren't allergic to bites.

    Anyway, just something to consider. Best of luck. Congrats on being bite-free. I love hearing success stories.

  3. skeevedout

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 11:31:14
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    Do you have links to the info you gave them regarding legal liability?

    Our board is disorganized and unhelpful and the only reason I have gotten any response at all is from randomly bumping in to the president.

    Oddly, I ran into the manager of our building today (he comes eveyr once in a while) and did get to vent (our co-op president was there as well) and though it felt good, I'm not sure how effective it was.

    That said, we don't know for sure that they are in adjoining units. There haven't been any complaints. I'm hopeful about that. That said, I don't know if my daughter's daycare is the culprit, or the subway, or an elevator in our building, or books from our library. So many possibilities. All of those I can at least do something about. Our PCO said to spray her stroller with alcohol when I bring it home, and to put any fabric into the dryer immediately (which we're doing - goign against our co-op rules and getting a washer-dryer all-in-one).

    Can you explain a bit more what you meant by him not doing preemptive inspections - what exactly did he man by 'incorrectly clearing' and elusive?

    Thanks so much for your response. And I am heartened that you are calling this a success story. Sadly, I have a bit of poison ivy, and though it is nothing like bb bites, it is not helping my sanity.

    I am vaguely considering taking my daughter out of her 2-day-a-week in-home daycare, but am not sure if that is crazy, as I have no reason to suspect it is this woman's apartment building. My daughter naps there and has never gotten any bites. None of the other parents looks the slightest bit frazzled when they are picking up their children.

    This is the most difficult part: not knowing how it happened, thus not knowing how to truly prevent it (other than the steps I am currently taking...). I could change everything I do, I suppose, but am not sure that will really bring my much-needed peace of mind.

    Thanks for responding!

  4. persona-non-bugga

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 12:32:18
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    Not knowing the source is so stressful, because then everything must seem suspicious. That seriously sucks.

    My understanding is that this PCO does NOT - as a matter of policy - offer opinions on the presence or non-presence of bedbugs in an apartment where there have been no complaints of bites or other evidence. Bedbugs hide so stealthily - in a crevice no thicker than a business card - even pros have trouble finding them. This PCO is also an entomologist and involved in academic studies of these pests. He fears mistakenly pronouncing a home as being "free" of bedbugs, when in fact they are there and it was just a matter of being unable to find their hiding spots. I imagine he doesn't want the liability issues which arise from that.

    I'm not sure about NYC law on bedbugs and apartment OWNERS in multiunit buildings. (Just in case, none of this should be construed as actual legal advice. I offer it as my non-expert understanding of some of the issues involved.)

    My practical advice to you, a co-op owner, is to READ YOUR PROPRIETARY LEASE carefully. Are there any stipulations about who is responsible for the eradication of vermin from co-op premises? Maybe a helpful answer lies there.

    Many apartments in my building are owned by a management-affiliate and rented out to tenants - including my neighbor who was infested one floor below me. Therefore, I was able to unambiguously apply the law surrounding LANDLORD-TENANT relationships to the situations that involve tenant-occupied units. It may not apply directly to me - a condo owner. It all stems from this explanation offered by the Metropolitan Council on Housing:

    http://www.metcouncil.net/factsheets/bedbugs.htm

    "For tenants in New York, the right to a bedbug-free environment derives from the city's housing and maintenance code-which specifically names bedbugs, along with a number of other unpleasant pests. The landlord has an obligation to eradicate the infestation and to keep the units from getting reinfested."

    Also, check out the FAQs regarding NYC landlord-tenant law on this blog. nobugs (the site owner) has done a beautiful job of summarizing and gathering info. There are links to the actual statute and case law.

    http://bedbugger.com/2006/10/22/faq-tenants-landlords-owners-and-bedbugs/

    In the FAQ, nobugs writes:

    "Subchapter two of the NYC Housing Code clearly states that bed bugs must be eradicated by the “owner or occupant in control of a dwelling”:

    Now as a co-op owner, would the law - which includes court cases and would be influenced by commentary and public policy - treat you personally as the "owner or occupant" for the purposes of this statute? I have no idea.

    Since you're a shareholder of the corporation that actually owns the building, rather than the owner of the physical space that is your apartment - maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe there's a whole body of statutes that I'm unaware that governs infestations in co-ops.

    Informed, intelligently-run boards of owner-occupied buildings leap to action when threatened by bedbugs. But I don't know that they're under legal obligation to do so. Again, I urge you to read your proprietary lease. If it spells out how vermin is to be dealt with in your building, it'll be a big step towards getting an answer. If you're motivated, consult a real estate attorney who would be up on the latest law surrounding this stuff.

  5. skeevedout

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 12:42:21
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    thanks so much, again.

    Ugh. Is the person you are referring to Andy from BugOff?

    He rec'd our PCO, who has been great. He sounded very optimistic, and I very much want to believe him when he said that he thinks we got the problem before it became a full-blown infestation.

    He could come back for a third treatment (included in the amount we paid) but does not think it will be necessary. Everyone on here sounds so skeptical about being able to eradicate this problem. Our PCO said that it certainly isn't impossible to get rid of them - that their success rate is fantastic.

    I just want to believe so badly that this is a success story. I want to believe it so badly that it hurts!

  6. persona-non-bugga

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 12:54:55
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    No, I've never heard of BugOff. So, I don't think it's the same guy. But, at the moment, I can't recall the guy's name ... hmm.

    I'd have him come back. Get your money's worth. You detected them early and treated the situation properly right away. Bravo. That kind of prompt action leads to better results.

    If you search the forums or the internet-at-large, mixed in with the real bad stories, you'll find cases where people got rid of them pretty quickly. These folks were inconvenienced and prep work was involved, but success happens.

    For me, real success would mean eradicating bedbugs from the planet. Until then, I'm sure a little worry about them will pop up once in a while. But, as you've gone through them before, you probably know that the worst of the worrying definitely subsides.

    For me, knowing success was possible was essential for me to carry out the fight against them. It's the truth, and it's a good thing to remember.

  7. parakeets

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 17:11:32
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    Not only do we have to fight bedbugs, now we have to fight landlords and condo-boards, too.

    I don't live in a condo but reading these posts, I have a feeling the real estate agents who sell units in the building will find out about the lack of bedbug treatment real quickly (word spreads fast in the real estate community, though I'm not sure they always tell prospective buyers if they would lose a sale by telling them). Would owners rather be assessed a fee to treat the bedbugs upfront building-wide, or do they want to risk of having bedbugs spread to their own unit and have their property values lowered.

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and people who live in condos shouldn't ignore bedbugs (or the possibility of bedbugs) in the building. An owner is just too vulnerable. I, for one, never want to buy a condo now. Ever. It's bad enough renting with bedbugs, but if I owned a condo and had these multi-unit problems? No. If I have my own house I have more control about treating bedbugs, and more control over how they might come back in. I'd hate the feeling of not being in control in a condo. I feel sorry for people dealing with unresponsive condos.

  8. coopbugged

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Thu Oct 4 2007 18:58:24
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    I think your best defense is openness with your neighbors. Did you tell them you had battled the bugs? That might give them an opening to tell you if they've had them, and it will certainly put them on notice to watch out for them so if they do show up, they will seek your advice and eradicate quickly.

    This is really hard to do in a coop, but hopefully your neighbors and fellow shareholders will react as neighbors did. I finally told them myself because my super and managing agent said they would, but they didn't. Eventually, I got the managing agent to change PCOs (to mine) and inspect all adjacent apartments. But it took 6 weeks. GL!

  9. skeevedout

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Fri Oct 5 2007 11:46:32
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    Some progress!

    The building mgr and coop president came over today and I presented them with a great stack of information. It was convincing, apparently, because they are going to hire the PCO we used and have him inspect the adjacent apartments and treat the common areas. And our PCO is awesome, so this is a relief. And after this weekend, we will be 6 weeks without any bites (or any sightings of anything at all).

    Our building 'had' bedbugs last year and we don't know how it was handled as it was a different mgmt company. Supposedly they were eradicated, but who knows.

    Another possible issue is our daycare provider. My daughter goes there twice a week. The very first week she was there was the week I got my first bite.

    She goes to a group home daycare, and this morning, I ran into a friend of mine who uses the same person. I noticed her son had some welts (not nec. the 'telltale' pattern, but they aren't always that way. I mentioned them and she said they got 'attacked last night' by mosquitoes. I asked if she had screens and she said yes. They are all very fair-skinned and seemingly sensitive-skinned as well, so I am not positive, obviously, that this is what caused her 'attack' of last night.

    Clearly, if I were wrong, I could completely ruin this lovely daycare woman's means of supporting her family. I was *this close* to blurting it all out.

    Once we identified this problem we were outrageously cautious about what went to her home and what came back (my daughter's day bag is clear plastic and most of the contents are in ziploc bags). We also spray down her stroller with alcohol, per our PCO's advice. She is undressed and her clothes are in sealed bags before she comes in the door. These methods are exhausting, obviously. Sadly (because my dd loves it), we'll have to stop using this daycare.

    And with our building finally being on board with fixing this, I am feeling a bit more in control.

  10. nyjammin

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Fri Oct 5 2007 22:10:09
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    Skeevedout, I would mail your daycare provider an anonymous letter stating that it is likely that her daycare has bbs. I would also print out various informational material from this site (like how bbs can spread to others, if she cares enough not to infest her very young clients and their families' homes), and from other sources like the Harvard Guide to bbs, etc. I would put a packet together and mail it out. Try to educate. This woman may not even know her place has bbs.

  11. Bencannon

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Sat Oct 6 2007 1:11:50
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    Skeevedout, excellent job getting your management company to work with you. Also, great job in finding the right pco firm to work with. With the entire building finally working to solve this problem together, I think you have a real good shot at this. It also sounds like we both hired the same terrific pco. Keep us posted.

  12. (deleted)

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Sat Oct 6 2007 10:55:48
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    A day care is probably a high-risk location. Like the subway. Or the library.

    I'm curious jammin why are you so quick to assume that the day care provider is the source of the bedbugs. Maybe it's one of the parents. Or maybe it isn't the daycare at all.

    Put yourself in others' shoes. Would you like them to share information about their own infestation with you or to accuse you of causing it?

    The bedbug blame game is a losing one. Someone will always be able to point their fingers at you.

    I agree that educating the daycare owner is the best choice. We're not all willing to share information about our own infestation. But it is still the best choice.

  13. coopbugged

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Sat Oct 6 2007 11:42:35
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    Hopeless: I think it's especially important for those of us who have been through this to be 100% open for 2 reasons: we need to encourage others who are understandably nervous about disclosure to be open so we can convince them to take action to prevent spread, and we need to show by example that it's not their fault, and there is no shame in admitting you've been victimized -- AS LONG AS YOU ARE WILLING TO TAKE STEPS TO ERADICATE AND PREVENT SPREAD TO OTHERS!

    Us veterans are the best missionaries... we've BTDT. Half-assed treatment or ignorance is what spreads the bugs!

  14. (deleted)

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Sat Oct 6 2007 13:40:48
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    Agreed, coop. Educating others, alerting them really, letting them know what's what is crucial. Many will not get it but the message gets through more often than not. I am so grateful for what you are doing to educate your boss. I live where you live and I'm saddened by the lingering ignorance here. In a city we're all vulnerable together.

    I also acknowledge that talking about your bedbugs, as opposed to someone else's bedbugs, is very hard for many people. The stakes are sometimes high when it comes to bedbugs.

    We need education campaigns, obviously, but we can all do a little to help others.

  15. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Sun Oct 7 2007 0:53:50
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    I totally agree.

    Telling others makes a huge difference, IMHO. People who know my story frequently tell friends to call me when they have a bed bug scare. This is happening all the time. I would venture that about 1/4 of the folks I know in NYC who I've talked to about bed bugs either had a scare (where they suspected them) or had a friend with them.

    Other Bedbuggers have reported this phenomenon to me, and my experience bears this out--those of us who have told friends, bosses, co-workers, etc. become the "bed bug expert" at work. Many people have asked me how to avoid getting them. Friends have asked if they can catch them at a laundromat, and what they would do if they found them.

    If you help even one person figure out quickly what their issue is, or make them think about ways to avoid getting bed bugs, you are making a difference. You'll be surprised how often friends will say, "Listen, my friend/brother/co-worker, who you don't know, thinks he has them. Would you talk to him? Or do you have any advice?"

    Telling them about the FAQs, telling them not to use a bomb (!), telling them to get a sample ID'd--this makes such a difference. And the people you tell will spread the word:

    "Hey, I know someone who had bed bugs. Can you believe it? She showed me this segment on the CBC website that shows you how to search a hotel room for them. Check it out!"

    I am telling you, word of mouth is making a difference. The more you talk, the more people will think about bed bugs. Many people think they're hype. You being the person who can say, "actually, it is a big deal," is huge.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  16. Blue_Ox

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Mon Oct 8 2007 9:04:30
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    I have made a few posts on here about coop buildings.

    A friend who also lives in Queens just forwarded some interesting posts from a neighborhood email list. One person posted an article about bedbgus being found in local schools. There ensued a few more emails about the subject.

    One person asked if anyone lived in a coop that had developed a "bedbug policy" as he/she thought that some Manhattan coops had such a thing. No one answered with an established policy. However, someone else wrote in her DRAFT of a policy that included preventive action and action if a building were already infested. I think it was intended to be a jumping off point for people who wanted to develop policies for their buildings. I thought it was a fairly well-thought post and included letting people know that the way to protect their property values is to have a well-thought plan in place, as an infestation can happen any time.

    However, what was most interesting about it was that the ONLY response to it was someone saying bascially "I'm creeped out by all this bedbug talk. Can anyone tell me which buildings already have bedbugs?"

    So essentially what this person is saying is he just wants to avoid buildings that already have a KNOWN infestation, when what the poster was saying was that it makes sense for every building to have a policy because a bedbug can enter the building at any time.

    It's true that last year I would have been thinking like the 'creeped out' guy. However, now, knowing what I know, I would look for a building that has the best and most effective policy for dealing with a possible infestation.

  17. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 12 years ago
    Mon Oct 8 2007 12:07:05
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    That's really interesting Blue_Ox. I am glad people are talking about this in preventive terms. Even if everyone does not get it, it is a good thing.


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