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Is there hope when row home neighbors aren't on board?

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  1. JGB

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Mon Feb 20 2012 16:28:09
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    I've read quite a bit on the forums regarding neighbors, but mostly in apartment situations with renters and our situation is a little different, as we are homeowners in a Philly row home and our issue is with other homeownders. Hoping there might be advice here. Or at least someone to firmly squash hopes that we can continue to live in our home. At this point, any outside perspective from those who have been there will be useful.

    Here's our story, abridged:

    + Discovered BBs in early December.

    + Had A3 Superior do a canine inspection and followed their recommendation to thermally treat the 2nd floor of our row home

    + Several days later, discovered an adult bug in our bed; A3 suspected neighbors

    + Neighbors were VERY uncooperative/shady/evasive/changing their story and wouldn't let anyone in

    + A3 remediated our 2nd floor again; we put climb-ups on

    + Discovered another BB 2 weeks later in a climb-up; neighbors confessed "they may have seen something" and would be willing to treat

    + A3 finally was allowed to inspect and told us the neighbors had a bad infestation but because they are hoarders, they'd only be able to thermally remediate their bedroom; they'd put DE in the neighboring bathroom, etc.

    + A3 cooked their bedroom (although the guys working the job said the room was pretty cleared out, so lord knows what they did with all their crap) and our adjoining one three weeks ago

    + I discovered an un-fed BB on our baseboard this morning; neighbors are back to being evasive, and also admitted to already opening up their bagged stuff (which is supposed to stay bagged for 30 days)

    Three months into this and my husband and I are about to go nuts. This is very much exacerbated by the fact that we have a 6 month old and so can't/won't do poison. While we knew the chances of this latest treatment being permanently effective were minimal as our neighbors clearly don't understand the problem, we had some hope. Now? Now we're not sure what to do.

    So....Is there anyway we (and A3) haven't considered to isolate ourselves from the neighbors? Do we have to move? And if so, how do you ethically (or legally?) rent/sell your home under these circumstances?

    Also, if there are no bugs in the climb-ups, no bites (my husband is reactive; I and our son are not), blood spots or other signs, do we need to resume our crazy lifestyle of bagging and drying and staring blankly at each other?

    Your thoughts, advice, truth-telling and admonitions to give up breastfeeding in order to start heavy drinking will be much appreciated.

    JGB

  2. BitingMad

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Mon Feb 20 2012 17:14:21
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    I'm not a pco, but am on the tail end of a terrible infestation, which was also caused by uncooperative neighbors.

    I highly recommend that you caulk every single inch of floor/wall between your home and these neighbors.

    I am confident that such extreme caulking is one of the main reasons my infestation is now lessening (combined with pco spraying and, most importantly, cutting open the back "wall" of my couch so that I could vacuum/DE the buggers in their main fortress).

    In fact, I recommend EVERYONE caulk their floorboards asap!

  3. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Mon Feb 20 2012 17:42:04
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    Dear jgb,

    You can only control the parameters that you have control over. You may or maynot ever get 100% cooperation from your neighbor.

    Can you successfully keep bed bugs at bay even though they are in the next unit or adjoining row house? Yes you can but it will take some doing.

    Here's some suggestions: (Note that these suggestions are being made under consideration of your aversion to pesticides due to the presence of your infant child as well.)

    > Treat ALL wall voids and utility penetrations with a suitable insecticide dust. Properly applied, the dust should be contained within the wall voids and not be an exposure issue for your child.

    > Note that it may be necessary to drill holes to create application access into the wall voids. Normally, we have success in simply treating the utility penetrations however, in your case you may wish to dust treat each individual wall void.

    > After the dust application treatment seal all the void entrances using a suitable caulking material.

    > Isolate each of your beds and resting places (couch, recliner/ez chairs, etc) to prevent bed bugs from access to you.

    > Install encasements.

    > Use your vacuum.

    > Use both passive and active monitors/traps.

    > Maintain your vigilance !

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  4. JGB

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Mon Feb 20 2012 20:10:13
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    @Biting Mad - Congrats on winding down your infestation! Unfortunately, caulking would be virtually impossible in our 1900-era home. It would take weeks and weeks and bucket-loads of caulk. Did you ever make any headway with the neighbors?

    @P Bello - your post gives us hope! A3 said they'd be putting down DE in outlets, etc., but they didn't (once they didn't have any with them; once they only had enough for the neighbors). They had mentioned the possibility of treating wall voids with pesticide, but not with DE. In any event, in a leaky house, isn't whatever is put in the walls bound to come through floor boards or under base boards and thus be a health hazard to the babe?

    At the same time I can't help but wonder that if they are not biting, and there are no visible traces of them other than a stray un-fed bug, like the one I found today, do you still think it's important to be as vigilant with clothes, etc. Or do we assume a scout came over and we got it and, through vigilance, will get the next one(s)? In other words, when do you consider the problem solved when you can't control your neighbor?

  5. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Mon Feb 20 2012 22:47:39
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    JGB,

    Have you tried contacting the local health department?

    Health departments can be hit or miss. But it would seem to me that you're in a situation with bed bugs like the one my landlord is in with the property behind us (although ours is a drainage issue, not a pest issue), but it might be worth looking into.

    Your neighbors' failure to comply is absolutely affecting your quality of life.

    (I don't know enough about row houses or pest control in them to comment on that. The most I know about Philly area row houses comes from a friend of mine from Philly having lived in one until a few years after she was married, had kids, and moved with her husband and kids to a suburban detached home. I know what they look like; I get the layout of many of them. I can imagine the problems they raise, but I don't know about the specifics of bed bug issues. However, I do get that the particular logistical problem they present is that unlike apartments--where someone else ultimately owns the building--you're beholden to neighbors who share walls but are also owners, so there's no overseeing authority like a landlord or in a condo building like the HOA to coerce your neighbors. Since you lack that, my next step would be looking into whether there are civic services--the health department, your city council member, a city-sponsored mediation program--to help resolve disputes between neighbors since it seems so much harder to get rid of the bed bugs if the neighbor isn't on board.)

  6. omgbbs

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Feb 21 2012 10:05:15
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    Hi JGB,

    Just wanted to offer empathy to you. I, too, own a rowhome and have been battling these beasts for 10 months and counting. We don't know if it's the neighbors because we never talk to them. The neighbors on one side currently have their house for sale and the place is vacant, which may explain the recent resurgence. On the other side, I fear the worst as it is a typical older, unkempt, poorly maintained home with an elderly woman and her adult children. It would not surprise me in the least if there was an issue there, but I have zero confidence to go and ask / confront them.

    To your caulking point, my boyfriend and I spent an entire day doing the caulking about a week and half ago. I can't say yet if it was a success from the neighbors, as we did not fully seal up the edges of all the light switches, sockets, etc. Our most recent treatment is to have the backs of all the outlet covers & lightswitch plates treated with a residual, so if that's the way they are passing thru, they will have to cross poison to get to us. We also have our bed in climbups. Basically, my whole story is here:
    http://bedbugger.com/forum/topic/10-months-now-more-pco-or-time-to-try-heat-treatment

    I understand your concerns about using chemicals. We don't have a baby, but we have a cat, which is easy to deal with in that we just remove her from the home and leave her with a family member where she gets spoiled for a week. We considered doing heat treatment but the cost deterred us, plus we are pretty sure they are in our walls so we weren't sure if it would be an effective enough treatment. Honestly, I am baffled why heat remediation would be recommended for one floor of a house, doesn't it seem like they will just move to the other floor?

    I have much more to say, so please please please PM me if you want to talk more, especially because I understand your unique situation oh so well as a rowhome dweller in Philadelphia.

  7. JGB

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Feb 21 2012 15:38:54
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    @BuggyinSoCal - Yes! I looked into the health department and they were absolutely useless. Their vector person (note: not persons) informed me that they could drop off a pamphlet to our neighbors informing them of ways they could self treat. Understandably, I declined their generous offer. You comment reminds me to keep reaching out, though, maybe starting with my city council member.

    @omgbbs - Maybe we should grab coffee and cry over this situation together. Sorry to hear you're dealing with similar issues. Our neighbors are elderly-ish and the woman appears mentally ill in some fashion. I don't think we'll make any more headway there and, as you know, that's maddening.

    To your point about thermal, we are frustrated with the situation. A3 should have really served as the expert on this front. We honestly hadn't considered our neighbors and wouldn't have dumped $3500 down the drain if we'd thought the problem was coming from elsewhere. They didn't seem to think walls were an issue, though, since apparently, the bugs are initially drawn to the heat and then get cooked before they get out. As for single floor treatment, they conducted a canine inspection and said they could see no reason to treat our first floor or basement for such a small infestation. At least one of the workers who was out during the course of our three treatments, however, said he doesn't feel too confident when only one floor is treated.

    At this point, we get the sense they've given up on us and our situation and we'll likely be looking to another PCO to try and create a barrier. Mostly, I don't understand why they would even bother treating one room at our neighbor's if the whole situation was likely to fail. It's been a waste of money for all of us.

  8. omgbbs

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Feb 21 2012 15:54:10
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    JGB - sent you a giant PM

  9. cilecto

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Feb 21 2012 16:11:48
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    I think it would give us some perspective if you described what kind of construction your row house is.

    Brick or wood/siding walls. If brick, how thick?
    Separate outer walls for each home vs. "party" walls (ie, if your neighbor's home were to be demolished, would they need to leave up their side walls in order for your home to stand, or is each house self-contained?)
    Any common/shared features, like lofts or crawl-spaces?
    Does each home's utilities run direct to the street or are they chained from house to house?

    Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night...
    - Psalms 91:5-7

    (Not an pro)
  10. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 0:07:13
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    JGB,

    If you talk to lawyers, you may hear the maxim that tough or complicated cases make for bad law. The general idea is that laws ought to be written to fit the majority of cases--because if you try to write a law that takes into account the variables that apply to really unusual sets of circumstances, chances are good you'll end up with a law that's slightly convoluted.

    Row houses seem far more common in some areas than others. And since we were all erroneously told that bed bugs weren't a problem in the US for decades, the recent resurgence of bed bugs has left a lot of people in a tough spot: local laws and some governmental agencies, like some health departments (mine, too, totally sucked, btw) are struggling to play catch up.

    Since row houses are not common in every major city in the US, long term, I would like to see municipalities with a lot of row homes put in place area-specific bed bug solutions. In places where row homes are not common, the specific issues that row homes raise don't come up. In some places where they are common (like parts of NYC), many of them have been subdivided into apartments that are rented out (so you're back in the landlord is responsible territory).

    Your city council person may not be able to help initially, but I do think--based on what I've seen of the housing styles in your area--that the city council ought to be aware of the particular challenges that bed bugs pose in an area in which there are a lot of row homes that are owned by people who are not beholden to a HOA or a condo board or a co-op board. In many other places where there are attached units that are privately owned, one of those entities has some influence on the behavior of neighbors. If Philly--a city replete with row homes in the city proper and in the suburbs--doesn't do something about the problem of bed bugs migrating from unit to unit in row home situations, the city will be ripe for a spectacular bed bug population explosion--and that's bad for everyone.

    Not everyone is in a place to be able to report bed bugs problems to a city councilperson, and in an ideal world, it wouldn't take that.

    But if you are, I might try to convey that issue to the city councilperson you speak to. Bed bugs are not like other common pests. In multi-unit buildings with HOA/boards or landlords, the law gives some people a certain amount of coercive power to help increase the chances that effective treatment takes place. But row homes present particular challenges, and the city would be well-advised to be proactive about developing policies that help eradicate bed bugs in order to stave off more widespread problems.

    Cilecto also gives some good advice; the pros here who know the most about bed bug control can likely be a lot more help with some specifics about the particular construction of the building.

    Hoarding is a problem that seems to compound the bed bug issue, obviously. But it also may help--difficult as it is to do--esp. when the bed bug infestation is so stressing you out--to try to see it from the neighbor's point of view. Remember that hoarding is a legitimate mental health problem, and the hoarder or hoarders may be embarrassed and overwhelmed. From your point of view, hoarding is a behavioral issue that may seem like it pales in comparison to the bed bug problem. (and to be clear, if I were you, emotionally, I'd be right there with you.)

    But the thing that makes hoarding a mental illness and not just a bad habit is that there's a mental compulsion that the hoarder can't control. Even hoarders who know that have a devil of a time taking the steps that have to be taken. From that person's perspective, the compulsion, the shame, the judgement he or she is likely to feel will be aimed at him or her all take precedence over bed bugs.

    I'm not suggesting that you can help the hoarder with the problem; that's clearly a job for a mental health professional. But hard though it may be, if there's anything you can do to subtly let your neighbor know that you're concerned not because you're judging but because you're genuinely concerned, if the hoarder's issues are being triggered or exacerbated because of fear of judgement, that might take one variable contributing to the situation out of the equation.

    Again, I'm not suggesting it's easy, and I'm not suggesting that your neighbor has legitimate cause to fear that you're judging. I'm just trying to see it from that neighbor's point of view to see if there are any factors you can contribute to eliminating. You're the one there day to day--so you have a much better read on the actual interactions among each other. (And I admit, other than the newest folks in my building, I know 9 of the people who live in the 13 to 15 units spread across the property I live on and the two adjacent properties. I've lived here for over 12 years which increases the chances, and I live in a neighborhood where people are unusually sociable, so it's entirely possible that I interact with my neighbors more than the average person.) None of that may help, but if you can do it, it certainly won't hurt.

  11. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 0:54:11
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    Dear jgb,

    Keep in mind: If a man built, a man can fix it!

    There are methods to address nearly all conditions if you apply knowledge, experience and creativity to the situation.

    I am familiar with row home construction and have remediated pest situations therein previously.

    There are some who would tell you that DE is problematic to your infant than some of the other dust products. You need to review the product MSDS (material safety data sheet) to gain a better understanding of the hazard for these products.

    Remember that hazard potential is mitigated by proper application which should negate the risk of exposure.

    Questions for you:

    > Do you own this row house or are you renting?

    > Does your uncooperative neighbor own or rent?

    > Did you pay for a professional treatment under the understanding or representation that it would be totally effective? Or, did they advise you fully of the expected outcome due to the existing conditions at your home?

    Please advise such that I can advise you better, thanks ! paul b.

  12. JGB

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 14:46:38
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    First of all, y'all are amazing and so thoughtful and kind and helpful. This means so much - thank you!

    Okay, so here's our house situation:

    Built approx 1910. Stone and brick construction. I *believe* but am not certain that everything - electrical, plumbing, etc., is separate. I can't identify any point of connection. To your question, @cilecto, it's very hard to tell from the exterior if we have party walls or not. The facade (front and back) gives the impression it's all one and the distance between our windows is only about 18 inches, which perhaps also implied a shared wall. Not sure, though.

    We do have a crawl space, but have no access to it. I do not believe, based on comments by our neighbors on the other side who have access to theirs, that the space is shared in any way. If I can track them down, maybe they can give me further details.

    @P Bello: we own; our neighbors own; and yes, we fully expected treatment to be effective based on the feedback we received from A3

    And @Buggyinsocal - I totally hear you on the hoarding = mental illness and fears that they may have. Not sure if there's anything we can do to alleviate their concerns just as I'm not sure there's anything they can do about their situation. They have a grown daughter who is around occasionally, although I haven't seen her in months. I will absolutely connect with her should she surface again.

  13. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 16:37:43
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    Dear jgb,

    Sorry, more questions and perhaps some statements too:

    > Just to be clear: Did your Pro represent to you that the treatment service you purchased, under the parameters and conditions you have at your home, would be effective? ( If so, what warranty did they provide?)

    > Did they provide you with a written service agreement?

    > Is there warranty language included in the service agreement?

    > Is it reasonable to assume/contend that the neighbors are the source of your bed bug problem?

    > If so, is the Health Dept aware that the neighboring property is the cause of your pest issue?

    BTW, in my experience row homes may share a common fire wall. This fire wall may be stone, brick, concrete or concrete block. In some cases the fire wall includes an air space/gap (i.e. an empty void between two masonry walls).

    This is obviously a sensitive situation. While it may be so that your home, safety and quality of life are being compromised as a result of your neighbor's behavior, seeking remedies via the legal process will likely create a deteriorating situation/strained relationship.

    Is it possible to do the sealing and application work to keep the bugs under control and at bay? Yes it is.

    Is it easy to do? No it's not.

    What additional questions do you have?

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  14. NeverSurrender

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 16:44:34
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    P Bello
    Is it possible to do the sealing and application work to keep the bugs under control and at bay? Yes it is.
    Is it easy to do? No it's not.

    Paul, I haven't read all of this thread but I'm about to begin a big attempt at sealing my apartment. Actually I spent a couple of days caulking before my latest treatment five days ago. I guess I'll see if I can do it. I agree it's not easy but it seems like an important piece of the puzzle along with a well thought out overall plan.

  15. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Feb 22 2012 17:33:42
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    OK;

    If you're attempting to seal or caulk as part of your bed bug control program please remember the long term goal and start with the end in mind.

    In my view, and others may differ, we need to render the hidden wall void "off limits" to bed bugs by treating it with a suitable dust product prior to sealing it.

    The dusts I prefer include Drione and Tempo Dust.

    When sealing/caulking work methodically so you don't miss any potential entry points.

    Good luck !

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  16. JGB

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Fri Feb 24 2012 19:44:38
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    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the next round of questions!

    Yes! The Pro represented that the treatment would be effective. I'll have to examine the warranty, but from what I remember, it's a 30 day warranty. And yes, it's reasonable to assume that the neighbors were/are the source, although I suppose it's possible they got them from us. The Health Dept. is aware and offered a free pamphlet to the neighbor advising them on how to self-treat. They have no other support.

    I spoke with a local Pro who also suggested treating each wall void. He recommended using Transport GhP although I haven't see it mentioned on these forums and it seems to me that DE might be safer for the baby. In any event, he said the Transport would be effective for 90 days, at which point we'd need to retreat, assuming (correctly, I think) that the neighbors would still have an issue. Thoughts? Does DE provide the same time frame?

    As for caulking, I honestly don't see how we could. We have such an old home with old hardwood floors. I just don't know how it could be done. Am I missing something? Would chemical treatment be sufficient in this situation without caulking?

  17. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Fri Feb 24 2012 22:18:40
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    Dear jgb,

    OK. Firstly, DE can be problematic if inhaled and there are better choices for you. DE takes a long time to kill. Tempo dust or Drione dust would be better choices. There are also superior choices to the product you've named above such as Temprid.

    However, it's not what is used so much as how it's used that's most important !

    The floor boards may not be as important as you might think.

    Now, if you were sold a treatment that was represented as effective when in fact it was not, someone owes you a retreatment or your money back.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.


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