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My landlord doesn't think bedbugs are a big deal. Help!

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  1. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Jan 17 2012 18:28:25
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    My apologies in advance for the long post. I'm totally perplexed, and hope you guys have some ideas about how I should approach this.

    About a week ago, I started getting eaten alive. After a few days of denial and another few days of intense anxiety, I summoned up the courage to tell my landlord I was infested. Although we get along well, and he's really responsive to anything that needs fixing in the apartment, I was sure he would think I either brought them in or had somehow caused them, and would refuse to pay for a PCO.

    I'm a good tenant, but I'm cluttered. I moved into this apartment about six months ago, and only moved to Chicago a year ago. I've been so busy with work and undecided about what kind of bookshelves to buy that I still haven't unpacked a huge pile of book boxes, which are stacked up against the wall in one room. I also have a closet stuffed with bags of unpacked clothes. (I can already see your faces of horror--we'll get back to that one.)

    Anyway, my fears were unfounded. In fact, my landlord was totally casual about it. He said the following on the phone this afternoon:

    • He knows all about them from growing up in Vietnam and they're easy to get rid of.
    • Bedbugs don't travel between apartments.
    • Bedbugs don't travel from room to room, so it's OK for me to sleep on the couch.
    • You can get rid of them with bedbug spray from the Korean hardware store down the street or regular roach spray; I'll buy it and he'll spray my place.
    • He'll also come and shine a bright light on the underside of the bed to look for them.
    • The bedbug/roach spray is safe for me and my cat.
    • We can just put the mattress out on my enclosed porch to treat it, and open all the windows (it is also freezing in there, by the way--it's where I've been putting my bags of contaminated stuff until I can PackTite it); to ventilate the apartment, we can open more windows in other rooms (the temperature's in the 20s, but OK).
    • None of his other tenants have reported bedbugs, and in fact this is the first time he's dealing with it at all (he's been a landlord for many years).
    • PCOs are a waste of money.
    • Cold temperatures keep bedbugs quiet and inactive, and even less likely to move around.

    I've spent a lot of time reading the Bedbugger forums at this point, and I know that this approach isn't likely to help me. What would you do? Hire a PCO right off the bat? I haven't contacted the management company, but I probably should. Of course, then the fears of retaliation (like eviction) and them not paying for things come up again, but I'll face it if I have to.

    In the meantime, I have my PackTite, I'm washing and hot-drying everything and sealing it, I isolated the "dirty" clothes in tightly sealed, marked garbage bags (I panicked) and moved them far away from my bedroom. I isolated the bed and made homemade Climb-Ups from Tupperware containers and talcum powder, but intend to get the real thing. I'm dressing for bedbugs at night and leaving room for them just to get at my legs, which are covered in the worst welts I've ever seen. I haven't seen any bugs but I think I've seen casings, which I saved just in case.

    Oh--and since you're probably wondering, my year-old mattress was encased, as was the box spring. But I discovered after the bites started that the box spring encasement was being ripped by the bed frame. (Now I know, from reading the forums, to put some felt or something on them before placing the box spring on the frame next time.) Also, I have a cat, so I'm sure she's not helping the seal either. I also have a built-in old-school ceiling fan, which I've become convinced is another source, but have no evidence of that.

    I should mention that I don't really have any resources to devote to paying for my own treatment, canine detection, etc., but of course I'll do what I have to do to get rid of them.

    In the meantime: Should I let the landlord come by and do his roach-spraying and flashlight-shining, then move on to more serious treatment plans if (when) they don't work? Or take action right away? Should I re-encase my mattress and box spring ASAP so I can at least get some sleep at night? Should I start PackTiting all the clothes piled up in the closet? What about the books? Alas for the timing of this, I'm facing a huge work deadline and in the middle of treatment for a health issue.

    Even though Chicago is now #4 on the list of bedbugged cities, you'd be amazed how few people talk about them. They're still a relative mystery here, and no one seems to take many precautions. That said, when you look at the Bed Bug Registry for my neighborhood, there are plenty of infestations.

    Whee!

    Thanks in advance for all your wise thoughts and your help on this unexpectedly bizarre situation.

  2. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Jan 17 2012 20:42:14
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    Dear byebye,

    A few suggestions:

    > google mathias bed bug case. find the best one and print it out.

    > click on my profile and find my website. click on the Articles page. Print the "Over 201 Things . . ." article.

    Carefully fold these printed documents/information and choose from the follwoing delivery methods that best suites you:

    a. Slide them under your LL's door.

    or

    b. Wrap them around a baseball sized rock and find a creative way to deliver the information.

    > In addition to the above, perhaps read the information for yourself and arm yourself with knowledge.

    Let us know if any additional questions or concerns.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  3. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Tue Jan 17 2012 21:52:47
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    Ha! Thanks Paul. I'll print this out for him--he wants to come by tomorrow and start spraying with the locally bought (possibly DDT-containing, since not manufactured in the US?) spray. I know many of the facts on your sheet, but clearly my landlord is starting from a very innocent place. I've been reading the threads on tenant organizing, and it may well come to that...

    I'm determined to solve this before it gets out of control. I love this apartment more than anywhere I've lived--I could see staying here for the rest of my life, unlikely though it is.

    Also, Paul, it sounds like you think I should re-encase now, right?

  4. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 0:25:16
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    Dear byebye,

    On of my tacts is to prevent being bitten whilst also implenting broad scale control methods.

    Assuming you're in the US, what city/state are you located at?

    There are certain regulations that come into play when pesticides are applied.

    And, if you need to replace your encasement, then go ahead and do that as well.

    Enjoy the readin, hope it helps you !

    paul b.

  5. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 0:50:46
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    Paul:

    He's in Chicago (it was in the middle of the post) and he discusses it a bit in the 3rd paragraph from the bottom (one before Whee! which I noticed).

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  6. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 1:35:37
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    I believe the laws in Chicago require landlords to pay for treatment.

    I am confused that this was your landlord but you also have a management company? I would call them. They may know a lot more about this and about their duties.

    In NYC, the landlord is not legally allowed to treat your apt. him/herself unless s/he is licensed to apply pesticides. You might want to find out laws in IL about this. But the management company would be my first recommendation.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  7. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 1:36:47
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    ps I know tons of people in the Windy City who've had bed bugs. It's a huge problem there and has been common there since before this website went up in 2006.

  8. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 8:26:55
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    Dear byebye,

    Sorry, I missed that you're in Chi-town so, thanx for pointing that out theyareouthere.

    Form the bulleted list, clearly your LL invokes many of the common "myths" esposed by LLs that we've heard before. How special ! ("No others in the entire building have ever reported this before." "BBs don't travel from unit to unit." etc. etc. yadda, yadda, yadda. )

    Arming yourself with the proper pertinent knowledge and letting him/her that you do know this will likely serve you well.

    I hope your situation gets handled successfully, keep us posted ! pb

  9. cilecto

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 10:43:45
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    AFAIK, DDT is not used that much for bed bugs anymore, even outside the USA. There are classes of insecticide that are legal against bed bugs in some countries outside the USA, such as organophosphates and carbamates. The spray your landlord is proposing could be one of those. It sounds illegal and we can't say if it's safe or, for that matter, effective. Also, if you're purchasing "black market" products, there's little accountability that you're actually getting what you think you're getting. The core message that I've picked up from hanging around here for 3+ years, is that fighting bed bugs is not a matter of "spray A" vs. "spray B", but on how they are applied and where.

    You and your landlord could use a good "comprehensive" guide, like this one, from our Resources page:
    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/Bed_Bug_Manual_v1_full_reduce_326605_7.pdf

    NoBugs > I am confused that this was your landlord but you also have a management company?

    Sounds like a co-op/condo sublet situation.

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

    (Not an pro)
  10. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 14:17:01
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    Thanks all! (I'm a lady, by the way.) @Nobugsonme, you're right that I should call the management company. I only dealt with them when I looked at the place and signed the lease, and have only had dealings with the landlord since; I pay my rent to him personally, for instance. (It's not a co-op/condo/sublet situation, just a regular rental.) It may be that they sign off on their end when the apartment is rented.

    I'll call them--if they because I bet they won't be as much in the dark as he is. My landlord is the friendly face, and they're an unknown quantity, but I'm just going to have to deal with it.

    In the meantime, I've put him off from coming over today with spray (which he offered to buy and keep the receipt so I could pay him back). But he's eager to come over, you know, today or tomorrow. I don't want to get into anything foolish with him before I get more expert advice. I just want to not have to pay for it if possible, since I don't think I can come up with the money for a PCO. I'll spend some time reading about landlord/mgmt. company responsibilities in the forums as soon as I can.

    @cilecto, thanks for the good information about the insecticide chemicals. I'm undergoing fertility treatment and hope to be pregnant in a few weeks if it goes well (and have read the threads about pregnancy, which are inconclusive since no one does these studies on humans, but definitely helpful).

  11. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 14:25:40
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    Dear byebye,

    BTW, did you say how you think you got BBs in the first place?

    When a LL, property manager or their professional designee comes into a resident's home to apply pesticides and/or conduct pest control services certain regulations come into play or "kick in" (I know, a highly technical term). These regulatory requirements may vary by municipality but many are similar from location to location.

    In any case, if you know what YOU are doing you will be in a better position to protect your interests in the long run. And, document everything.

    Let us know if any additional questions or concerns.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  12. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 14:32:41
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    I tracked it down to one of two possibilities: a charming, rundown movie theater in a bedbug-heavy area, or a hotel lobby, both of which I visited the day I felt the first bite. I let both of them know that they were a potential cause, not that I can know for sure, of course.

    I just called the management company, which at least has heard of bedbugs and knows they need to be stopped before spreading to the rest of the building. They take no responsibility for it, but say that if I get treated I "should ask the landlord to reimburse me."

    And they recommended Cedarcide, which purports to kill BBs naturally. I'll have to look that up in the forums to see what you all have said about it.

    I feel like I'm making progress, but not much. Depressed and anxious.

  13. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 19:15:48
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    I've narrowed it down to either a charming, run-down movie theater or a hotel lobby where I was waiting for a friend. I felt the first bite on my upper calf in the movie theater, thought it was a scratch, woke up the next day with more bites, and you know the rest of the story.

    I talked to my management company today, and they were at least concerned about the problem. The main guy suggested that I get treatment and then submit the bill to my landlord for reimbursement. He has no experience with treating bed bugs in his properties--which seems amazing to me, having lived in NYC. @nobugsonme, you're so right that Chicago has a massive BB problem, but bizarrely, everyone I know, from students and actors to lawyers and doctors, never seems to have had them or at least has been aware of having them.

    Anyway, the management guy said he knew of someone who used CedarCide and had great success. Now that I've read all the CedarCide threads, I probably won't be going that way, but it was awfully tempting considering the claims of nontoxic treatment.

    My management guy is talking to my landlord and recommending that we treat so that the building isn't infested. But it's starting to seem like it's now up to me to 1) do the research on PCOs and what, if anything, my landlord/management is responsible for paying, 2) probably pay up front for a PCO without the reassurance I'll be reimbursed, 3) inform and organize my neighbors, and 4) eat potatoes for a few months to pay for it all. Luckily, I like potatoes.

    Any advice would be a godsend. In the meantime, I'm going to get the fancy Allerzip encasements and re-encase at least my box spring. But should I rip it open and vacuum inside first? And how about the dreaded closet full of bags of clothes? I guess I'll either re-bag them for now and methodically start Packtiting and heat-drying them.

  14. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 21:38:04
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    ByeByeBuggy,

    I only skimmed through the thread (as I'm at work), but I haven't seen anything about you contacting whatever your city's version of a tenants rights organization is.

    If you haven't done so, I strongly suggest doing so. Since laws about bed bugs vary by city, the best source of information about what the local laws on bed bugs, renters, landlords, management companies, and so forth is likely to be your local tenants rights group. They'll not only know the local laws, but they'll likely have had experience with helping tenants negotiate with landlords and/or management companies when it comes to those rights.

    Hope that helps.

  15. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Wed Jan 18 2012 23:01:52
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    Dear bye,

    You can send me a PM if you must find you're own pco in Chicago as I do know some quaity folks there.

    Keep us posted on your situation, I hope it goes well !

    paul b.

  16. ByeByeBuggie

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Thu Jan 19 2012 21:41:15
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    Thanks all--I really appreciate your advice. I've been neck-deep in a big work deadline, but I plan to call a tenants' rights organization--thanks for the nudge, buggyinsocal.

    Meanwhile, I've made a little progress. My management-company guy called my landlord and persuaded him that he needs to take action to prevent the whole building from being infested, and that it's a serious thing. I asked if the landlord would be paying for the treatment, and he said that he thought so. I think that treatment still consists of roach spray from down the street.

    I don't want to alienate my landlord, who's always been great to me. I think he's sensitive to the idea that I might doubt his expertise. I know that's not really important in the great bedbug scheme of things, but it's on my mind.

    Within a week, I'll be having two minor surgeries that will mean I'm resting a lot. I'm going to try to do everything I can on my end before then.

  17. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Thu Jan 19 2012 21:57:45
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    OK, good luck, hope al works out for the best for you ! pb


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