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please help me save my severely infested piano

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  1. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Fri Jul 20 2012 23:27:22
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    I've suspected I had bed bugs for months now - strange bites, not frequently, but in the classic bed bug patterns. I looked everywhere - tore my bed apart, closely inspected my mattress, and found nothing. Finally I spotted one on my couch the other night - and then proceed to spot, and capture, two more. Of course I suspected the couch was where they were living and tore it open, but still, nothing.

    Totally stressed out, I went to my piano tonight to play, which always relaxes me, but as I pulled out the piano bench, noticed a dead bed bug right next to the piano. I opened up the front, and my heart sank - it was a horror show in there. Completely filled with eggs, cast skins, some dead bugs. No apparent live ones I could see. My landlord has decided to go with a company that only treats cracks and crevices - no furniture - and has demanded that I throw away all infested furniture, and seemed to imply I could be evicted if I don't comply.

    So what I'm wondering is, is there any hope for this piano? It's my single most beloved possession, the piano I learned to play on, and which I've had for over 20 years. Losing my instrument will be like losing one of my closest friends. I have no idea how this happened (haven't traveled in awhile, and I'm always careful) or why in god's name the bugs would pick my piano to infest. It's like they're terrorists and knew exactly where to strike to hurt me the worst. Does anyone have any suggestions for saving this piano?

  2. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Fri Jul 20 2012 23:54:09
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    I suspect heat would be harmful?

    If you're in the US, it could be treated with Vikane -- this is a gas fumigation. It has to be done in a sealed environment by licensed professionals. If you have other items to be treated, they can be done too, in a pod or truck.

    Usually people do more stuff at once but some people have reported their firms letting them piggyback with another client.

    Experts here may have other suggestions also.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  3. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 0:09:21
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    Yes, unfortunately, temps that high would probably crack the sound board, warp glued joints, and I'm sure do other bad things as well.

  4. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 0:21:51
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    Dear katie,

    Actually, I have a 1905 upright studio grand so I understand your soundboard concerns.

    if it were me, I'd do this:

    a) Supplies: a 65 gram DDVP pest strip such as Nuvan Prostrip, large plastic painters tarp/drop cloth and packing tape.

    b) Equipment: vacuum & packing tape hand held dispenser thing.

    c) Use the vacuum to remove & eliminate as much bed bug evidence and live bed bugs as possible.

    d) Open all areas of the piano as possible.

    e) Wrap the piano in the plastic and seal the pest strip into the wrapped package.

    f) Leave it sealed for from one to two weeks.

    That out to do it for you provided the wrapping is sealed and you have sufficient air space within the wrapped piano package to allow the DDVP vapors to circulate throughout to kill the bed bugs and eggs.

    Let me know if any questions or concerns.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  5. AshamedandScratching

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 1:47:01
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    Are there any concerns when doing something like this in an apartment?

  6. blargg

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 8:02:10
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    katiekat - 8 hours ago  » 
    I've suspected I had bed bugs for months now - strange bites, not frequently, but in the classic bed bug patterns. I looked everywhere - tore my bed apart, closely inspected my mattress, and found nothing. Finally I spotted one on my couch the other night - and then proceed to spot, and capture, two more. Of course I suspected the couch was where they were living and tore it open, but still, nothing.
    Totally stressed out, I went to my piano tonight to play, which always relaxes me, but as I pulled out the piano bench, noticed a dead bed bug right next to the piano. I opened up the front, and my heart sank - it was a horror show in there. Completely filled with eggs, cast skins, some dead bugs. No apparent live ones I could see. My landlord has decided to go with a company that only treats cracks and crevices - no furniture - and has demanded that I throw away all infested furniture, and seemed to imply I could be evicted if I don't comply.
    So what I'm wondering is, is there any hope for this piano? It's my single most beloved possession, the piano I learned to play on, and which I've had for over 20 years. Losing my instrument will be like losing one of my closest friends. I have no idea how this happened (haven't traveled in awhile, and I'm always careful) or why in god's name the bugs would pick my piano to infest. It's like they're terrorists and knew exactly where to strike to hurt me the worst. Does anyone have any suggestions for saving this piano?

    Katiekat, could you please take a picture of the bug(s) you saw and post them in this thread?
    Thanks.

  7. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 8:14:44
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    Yes, there are always concerns. For example, my concerns include but are not limited to:

    > That there's bed bugs harboring actually in a piano.
    There's much better places for bed bugs to hide that afford them easier access to the host. Of course, if the person sits at the piano playing for hours on end, maybe Inagaddadavida over & over again, or if the piano is located in close proximity to a bed, couch or recliner chair, etc.

    > Why the piano and not a more common location? Are bed bugs being missed during the inspection? Are we inspecting properly & thoroughly?

    > How long has this been going on?
    Indications above are "months" and that there is a significant amount of evidence in the piano. if this is the case, then where are all the bites and fecal stains that should accompany this evidence?

    > "That the LL has demanded that katiekat discard her furniture/personal belongings or be evicted." (And perhaps partially based on the advice of his bed bug service provider.) Really? That's what he's going with? Our bed bug remediation goals should include the following: a) Prevent further biting. b) Preserve the vicitm's assets where possible. c) Eliminate the bed bugs present. d) Provide suitable education & information to all affected parties & stakeholders. e) Determine the source of infestation. f) Advise onhow re-introduction may be prevented. g) Maintain detection such that subsequent introduction, if any, is discovered asap. h) Follow up inspection & overall program evaluation. i) Other methodologies as needed. Coming into an infested unit to "spray around" and throwing out infested and/or suspect furniture is not a comprehensive long term solution.

    > That the actual treatment of the piano will be done in a suitable fashion using a viable methodology.

    > That all viable options are considered in a logical fashion and that katiekat is being advised properly in an objective fashion by persons who are suitably capable of providing such advise.

    You will note that I did not list treatment concerns associated with the actual treatment. This is so because when conducted properly such concerns are suitably mitigated. And, the concerns regarding why this situation exists and how to resolve it long term are, in my opinion, far and away more important concerns at this point in time.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  8. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 9:54:34
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    Thank you Paul for your very thorough and detailed reply. I will consider trying what you've outlined - obviously I'm very concerned about reinfesting after the treatment, particularly since I'll be moving to a new apartment when this is done, but my sentimental attachment to the piano is very strong. To address come of your questions:

    - That there's bed bugs harboring actually in a piano.
    There's much better places for bed bugs to hide that afford them easier access to the host. Of course, if the person sits at the piano playing for hours on end, maybe Inagaddadavida over & over again, or if the piano is located in close proximity to a bed, couch or recliner chair, etc.
    > Why the piano and not a more common location? Are bed bugs being missed during the inspection? Are we inspecting properly & thoroughly?

    This has been what has boggled my mind. The piano sits about 8 feet away from the couch, where I think I have gotten most of the bites. I play no more than half an hour a day, and not even everyday. My landlord did not ask for an inspection, and didn't even get anyone to verify that this is actually a bed bug (though I'm pretty sure it is) They just hired someone to treat cracks and crevices only and the company said that the treatment will not work unless all infested furniture is gone before they come. I am hiring (at my own expense) a bed bug dog to come and do an inspection before the fumigator so I have a better sense of what the problem is I'm dealing with and what else besides the piano may have to go.

    How long has this been going on?
    Indications above are "months" and that there is a significant amount of evidence in the piano. if this is the case, then where are all the bites and fecal stains that should accompany this evidence?

    I've been searching for evidence ever since this started. I would get a few bites every now and then, certainly nothing drastic, but since I could never find any fecal stains, or any other evidence (cast skins, dead or live bugs, etc), I just thought maybe it was fleas or mosquitoes. I'm still tearing the apartment apart trying to find out the extent of the problem.

    "That the LL has demanded that katiekat discard her furniture/personal belongings or be evicted." (And perhaps partially based on the advice of his bed bug service provider.) Really? That's what he's going with? Our bed bug remediation goals should include the following: a) Prevent further biting. b) Preserve the vicitm's assets where possible. c) Eliminate the bed bugs present. d) Provide suitable education & information to all affected parties & stakeholders. e) Determine the source of infestation. f) Advise onhow re-introduction may be prevented. g) Maintain detection such that subsequent introduction, if any, is discovered asap. h) Follow up inspection & overall program evaluation. i) Other methodologies as needed. Coming into an infested unit to "spray around" and throwing out infested and/or suspect furniture is not a comprehensive long term solution.

    To be clear, the landlord didn't actually say "do this or you will be evicted," but said that the fumigation company will given them a written report of how well I prepared the apartment and anything I failed to do. Since I have read that landlords are permitted to evict people for not complying with preparation for treatment, I assume this is the reason for such a report. None of the other steps you've addressed here are being followed. I had a long conversation with the fumigation company, and all they are doing is spraying cracks and crevices. My furniture and personal belongings must either be thrown away before they come, or must be moved two feet away from the wall. I'm supposed to completely empty my closets and put my belongings in bags that I'm not allowed to open for 2 months. Neither the landlord nor PCO seems to care at all about my belongings - in fact, my landlord specifically said the PCO's insurance covers the structure but not any of my property, and anything they destroy is just my loss.

    When I asked the landlord about treating and inspecting other units, he said that they would not inspect, but would treat if anyone else complained. Obviously I'm extremely concerned about reinfestation and don't feel this is being handled properly. I feel pretty strongly that this infestation must have come from another unit, because I really have no idea where else this could have come from. I don't travel that much, and when I do, I'm very careful to prevent this happening, since I've seen friends go through this nightmare. The landlord keeps saying how much experience they have working with these companies on bed bugs that for all I know the unit could have been infested when I moved in. Since my lease is up at the end of August anyway, my plan is to treat clothes in the dryer, and buy a deep freezer to treat everything else (like books and shoes), and then bag and put everything in storage until I can get a new place to move into (hopefully bug free). I'm not an expert but I think the treatment the landlord has suggested is unlikely to be effective and I want to get the hell out of here.

    That all viable options are considered in a logical fashion and that katiekat is being advised properly in an objective fashion by persons who are suitably capable of providing such advise.

    So far my advice has come from the internet and friends who have been telling me nightmare stories complete with absolutely not objective advice, like "you might as well just set your whole apartment on fire." The fumigation company has mostly refused to talk to me, since the landlord is their client, not me. I'm hoping when the dog detection team comes on Monday they might be able to give me some good and honest advice (since they're working for me, not my landlord).

    Sorry, that got really long, but I obviously have a lot of concerns that extend beyond the piano and I'm just so upset with how this is being handled.

  9. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:05:32
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    Dear katie,

    Understand that my comments above were in response to A&S's question.

    However, you now raise additional issues & concerns.

    As you're the posting bed bug victim, my tact is to help save you and your stuff from bed bugs.

    Comments:

    > There must be a viable program adopted. If Nobugs soon posts the recent bed bug article pdfs I sent you will see some informaton that will be of use to you. Basically, if the pest pro advises the LL or PM to do, say, " a program of 123" but the LL or PM opts to do a program of "XYZ" instead there now is an issue if this/these options/methodologies are not viable for efficacious bed bug management.

    > Have your neighboring units been inspected and do your neighbors have any previous experience with bed bug occurence in your building? If so, this raises significant issues.

    > If the LL or PM is taking the "divide & concur" or implementing the "ostrich defense" this raises additional issues.

    > Do you have any idea of how you got bed bugs in your place? Did you travel? Bring them in from work? Over night guest? Did they come in from a neighboring unit?

    > Inspection: You may not need a K9 inspection at this point in time. Parhaps it may be best for you to call in a local, reputable PCO to inspect your place and render an opinion.

    > Where are you located? We may be able to provide you with a suitable company to call.

    > While this subject matter may seem controversial to some, few have experienced & observed the case histories in detail that is needed to be able to relate certain comments with a suitable degree of accuracy. In one case a person commented that LL/PM bed bug policies are really "get rid of the resident" policies and not bed bug management programs.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  10. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:05:37
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    As requested here are some photos. I know it's really hard to tell what anything is here, but it's kind of difficult to photograph in there, and there are also some cob webs in the way (I never even considered having to vacuum the inside of my piano before...maybe if I'd been doing that this wouldn't have happened).
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/83143552@N07/7615923072/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/83143552@N07/7615923258/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/83143552@N07/7615940320/

  11. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:06:34
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    I cannot see your photos, sorry ! pb

  12. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:07:01
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    Hmm, do I have to do something special to make images show? Here are links anyway:
    photo-3
    photo
    photo-1

  13. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:33:38
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    > Have your neighboring units been inspected and do your neighbors have any previous experience with bed bug occurence in your building? If so, this raises significant issues.

    The units have not been inspected, and when I asked the landlord if they were going to do so, he said they would not. I don't think they are even planning on letting any of the neighbors know. I am debating whether I should tell them.

    > Do you have any idea of how you got bed bugs in your place? Did you travel? Bring them in from work? Over night guest? Did they come in from a neighboring unit?

    I really have no idea. I travel from time to time, but I'm always very careful. Haven't had any overnight guests, and no one at work has had any problems, plus I have a private office. In the last few months, there have been people in the neighborhood (though not in my building) tossing mattresses, couches, and other furniture out on the street, which I suppose in hindsight is probably because they were infested. Not sure if I could have tracked them in on my shoes? Looking back on it, I do wonder if they could have been here since I moved in. When I was looking at the unit, the previous tenant had almost no furniture, including no headboard, just a mattress on the floor, and the landlord told me the carpet had been replaced while that tenant was living there. I am starting to wonder if they treated while that tenant lived here, thought it was gone, didn't tell me, and they came back.

    > Inspection: You may not need a K9 inspection at this point in time. Parhaps it may be best for you to call in a local, reputable PCO to inspect your place and render an opinion.
    I decided on a K9 unit because of the fact that I haven't seen any visual evidence myself - thought maybe the dog might notice some people wouldn't. This team is part of what I think is a reputable pest control company, so my understanding was that the handler would also do a visual inspection.

    > Where are you located? We may be able to provide you with a suitable company to call.
    I'm in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area.

  14. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 11:57:36
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    Dear katie,

    I cannot tell you that i see anything that is definitely bed bug related in your photos due to the quality of the photos.

    However, leave these areas as they are for your inspector to see when he/she arrives.

    You might then vacuum this debris out of your piano depending upon what they tell you as a result of their inspection. if there IS anything bed bug in there, ask them to point it out to you and keep it in a zip lock bag or other suitable container whilst labeling it as to location, date and what they told you it is.

    In summary, at this point in time I am unsure that you actually have bed bugs based upon what I've seen thus far.

    Hope this helps ! paul b.

  15. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 12:16:56
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    That would be pretty encouraging...I definitely have bed bugs in certain places in the apartment, as I've caught them and have the bites. Not super thrilled about having anything infesting my piano, but if it wasn't something as nasty as bed bugs, that would be a huge relief. Thanks for your advice!

  16. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 13:02:13
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    Paul is a PCO, so if he doesn't see it..I'd believe that it's not infested in the locations with pictures posted.

    A couple of things I noticed from your discussion (and I'm not an expert so please get expert opinion on this):

    1. One thing you've learned is that your landlord's protocols may not be very effective against a BB infestation (not inspecting neighboring units, spraying only the baseboards). This may impact your decision to move. Some experts recommend not moving until clear.
    2. A sofa encasement may be an idea for the sofa. It isn't pretty, but it may save the sofa (ask Paul or another expert about this).
    3. Rather than a deep freezer, I'd buy a packtite or packite closet. It works quickly to decontaminate items such as shoes, purses, books, etc.

    Good luck!

    They
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  17. bambi

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 13:04:17
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    I read all the above with a sense of horror. My most beloved possession is a Mason & Hamlin model BB (which, by the way, does NOT stand for bed bug!) and I might just jump off a bridge if I lost it to bugs. I ran downstairs with my super-duper flashlight and pulled up the lid. So far, so good. But I'm grateful, in advance, for advice on how to deal with it if it comes to pass. I already know that heat and steam are absolute no-no's. I even seal it up when I have my carpets cleaned.

  18. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 14:02:42
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    My concern regarding moving is that I don't want my stuff in the apartment when they do the cracks and crevice spray because I feel this is going to just drive any bugs out of the walls and into my stuff. I get the logic of waiting to move until you're totally clear, but I don't trust the treatment to get this totally clear. My (admittedly panicky) inclination is to get everything I KNOW is not infested out and into storage, and toss anything I know is infested. But the last thing I want to do is reinfest a new apartment.

  19. P Bello

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 14:10:42
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    When this is over, carefully vacuum out the piano and get that nasty debris out of there.

    pb : )

  20. Mike_Heatsolete

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 14:16:18
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    I don't believe it is bed bugs either. There is no sign of the marks that bed bugs leave behind, no clusters in the cracks, the bugs appear more widely spread and hanging from webs, and they don't quite look like bed bugs. With the picture quality, nothing is 100%, but I'm still fairly confident about it.

    "However, leave these areas as they are for your inspector to see when he/she arrives."
    I'd have to agree with that statement.

  21. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 14:40:58
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    That is great news, but now I'm even more perplexed about where these bed bugs are hiding. I tore open the couch, nothing. Closely examined the mattress, nothing. I've looked high and low in the entire apartment and haven't been able to find any of the tell-tale signs of bugs, except of course for the times when I've seen actual bugs themselves. If they were living in the walls, wouldn't I see stuff on the outside of the walls? Or is it possible they're living in another unit and coming over here to bite me, then leaving?

    Here are the three I caught...I felt pretty certain they were bed bugs, and the bites I've had fit the pattern, but could I have been wrong?

    photo-4

  22. cilecto

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    Sat Jul 21 2012 22:23:45
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    Those do look like BB (or related bugs, like bat or swallow bugs, which require somewhat different protocols to treat). But that does not mean that your piano is infested to the point that it needs treatment or disposal. Just as the kitchen cabinets and the fridge are staying put, I (not a pro, mind you) would view not view the piano as "furniture".

    Where could the bugs be? They do hide well. Could be anywhere, but most likely close to where people sit or lie. Review our FAQ or a comprehensive guide from our Resources page for tips. If you have an adjoining neighbor, they could be coming in from there. If you have an attic or the like, with birds or bats nesting, that might be a harborage for swallow or bat bugs.

    With chemical or dust treatments, while it's good to treat as many places where bugs are present and may pass, eventually, even if a particular piece or spot is not treated, the bugs will eventually "cross poison" on the way to or from feeding and will die off.

    In any case, if it's the landlord's responsibility to treat, I would want a clear statement from him (perhaps with assistance from some legal help on your side):
    - What constitutes "furniture"
    - What constitutes "infested" furniture
    - Why, when there are PCOs who can treat "infested furniture" just fine, does yours require that they be disposed of
    - If your furniture is to be thrown out to effect treatment, then the cost of that furniture (to you) is part of the cost of treatment. Is the landlord going to cover it?

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

    (Not an pro)
  23. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 22:51:49
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    I learned today that at least 3 other units of the 10 total in the building are infested. I was obviously surprised and disturbed to learn this, since yesterday my landlord's agent explicitly said no other units were affected (so, sounds as though he lied). It has become clear to me that the landlord has absolutely no cares or concern at all for our property and is only going for a cheap treatment, which I think will be ineffective. Especially since the landlord has not had anyone inspect any of the units at all, we (none of us professionals, of course) are left to determine on our own what constitutes "infested furniture" and dispose of it, of course with no compensation for our loss, which could very likely be mitigated by the choice of a different treatment modality.

  24. cilecto

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 23:19:58
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    At the least, you can seal an item securely in plastic (be it sheeting and plastic tape or giant "banana" bags), and it will no longer be a potential source of infestation. In a worst case, you can take that item out for Vikane fumigation when you leave.

    Please contact a tenant rights group in your area to determine what your rights and obligations are. If I were a landlord, I'd be less casual about ordering people to toss their costly property if I were facing a letter from an attorney demanding to understand exactly what, why, etc.

    Pianos deserve not to be thrown away.

  25. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 23:24:11
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    I agree. I've been looking into what legal rights I and my fellow tenants have and we will definitely be following up. I'll keep this forum posted.

  26. cilecto

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sat Jul 21 2012 23:26:44
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    BTW: If I were pressed for what "infested furniture" means, it would be a mattress that has rips in it and BB are known to harbor in it. A couch in similar circumstances, with a known "bad" infestation. Otherwise, in circumstances like yours, I'd feign ignorance, or, "that's not infested", "that's not furniture".

    BTW, BB or no BB, I love the third photo (with the strings).

  27. katiekat

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    Posted 7 years ago
    Sun Jul 22 2012 0:39:07
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    In my case, it really won't be feigning ignorance - I honestly have no idea what of my furniture I should consider infested and what I shouldn't. The only times I've seen bugs, they've been on the couch, but intense inspection of the couch reveals absolutely zero evidence of bugs. So is that infested? Exactly why I wish the LL would have hired an inspector to come out here and approach this from an educated standpoint instead of just (rather short-sightedly in my opinion) deciding to treat cracks and crevices. I'm lucky enough to be able to find sound information, but my neighbors are completely freaking out and throwing away a lot of their possessions. It's very sad, especially when you know that just a little education could go a long way in saving much of people's property - and sanity.

    And yes, isn't the inside of an instrument gorgeous? I'm so ashamed I never realized I needed to be cleaning the inside of my beautiful piano before.


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