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Small claims court against non-compliant neighbor??

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  1. mangobirdie

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sun Oct 30 2011 21:02:35
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    Has anyone here had experience with taking a neighbor to small claims court over the issue of bed bugs? I live in a building where it is just me and my neighbor, no other tenants. I am absolutely POSITIVE he brought the bugs into the building and worse than that he has been non-compliant with the instructions from Terminex and outright lied about if he still had bugs in his apartment after treatment.

    Here are the facts that I think would make a decent case for me:

    - He moved in 1.5 months after I did. Two to three weeks later the bites began for me.

    - Once I found a bug he insisted he did not have an issue. The PCO showed up for first treatment and suddenly he had "activity" in his apartment.

    - PCO has come back for treatment three times now (soon to be 4 tomorrow) and there has been no evidence that he vacuumed, took laundry out and then back in clean, etc. Only once do I know he vacuumed because he borrowed mine after I threw a hissy fit to my landlord over his laziness.

    -He told me that the apartment he lived in before in another city was infested and that is why he left and moved in here. Although, he insists that he did not bring the bugs here and it could not possibly have been his fault.

    -My landlord has admitted to me that "we know where the bugs are coming from" but "we can't accuse him of it." She also admitted that he is a liar and that we cannot trust him or believe anything he says about not having bed bugs.

    -The last time the PCO came he was not going to treat the neighbors apartment, since he insisted he was bug free. On the day of, my Mom (as a stand in for me) convinced the landlord was convinced that we needed to spray anyway in his apartment. The PCO went in and upon inspection found live bugs and eggs. I was being bitten in my apartment but the PCO could not find the culprit. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that his infestation is noticeable and he should be and is aware of them but he lying to avoid extermination.

    -With the exception of a period of about two weeks I have noticed bites and scabs on his arms. He does react to bites and therefore IS aware of them. Also, he has numerous old scars on his forearms indicating that he has had a problem with these bugs for quite some time and long before he moved in here. Her moved in at the end of April 2011.

    It has been suggested that I could file small claims against him for cost of laundry and such and time off work to take care of this issue. I have not had to pay for an exterminator myself. Really, it would be more for the principle of it than to collect actual money. There is a good chance I would never see it even if I got a favorable judgment. I just hate the idea that he could so willfully allow this issue to continue to fester and breed causing monetary loss to me, as well as serious emotional and mental distress. I am so angry I want to DO something about it. Someone should not be able to do that to me and then just go about his merry way.

    Anyway...opinions? experiences? Thoughts?

  2. nervousness

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sun Oct 30 2011 22:57:59
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    Is there anyway to sue him into solving the problem, rather than for money? It may be more effective. I am no law expert, but I've heard of similar neighbor situations where such was done (loud music, etc)...

  3. AshamedandScratching

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sun Oct 30 2011 23:35:42
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    Your landlord needs to look into evictions. At least in NYC, you can evict for non-compliance in bedbug issues and if memory serves, it's a faster process. Outside of NYC, I think an eviction should be easier. keep in mind, you would likely inherit his problem, i.e., they would move to your apartment.

    But, yes, you could sue in small claims. You would have to speak with an attorney to see how viable your case would be in jurisdiction. if you can get those statements from the LL and the PCO, you might be able to pursue the cost of moving bug-free.

    I recommend talking with your landlord about an eviction.

  4. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Sun Oct 30 2011 23:41:59
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    I was thinking similar to Ashamed.

    First, his problem must be pretty bad to keep coming over to you (and it sounds like it is)

    Second, if he moves out, you are the main target..but you also know that at least the prep work is done. You also know..if you can stand it...that you won't move the issue with you with a good/great PCO.

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  5. EndOfMyRope

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Oct 31 2011 14:41:30
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    Mango

    Gosh, youre still having problems with that same neighbor!? I am so sorry! Id take the advice previously offered..see about getting written documentation from the PCO and landlord about all the things that were mentioned.. I was also going to suggest trying to, at the very least, have him found legally obligated to comply, even if he continues to (ignorantly) believe hes not morally responsible to comply. Ask for financial damages too, of course.. Youve really got nothing to lose.

    I wish you the very best!

  6. BugsInTO

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Oct 31 2011 17:19:25
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    My thought is that you have to go after your landlord. I am not a lawyer and I am not familiar with any laws etc where you live. But, I have some general thoughts. First, as always, that you should find out more about your rights etc. before proceeding and make sure to keep detailed notes of everything you are experiencing.

    It's your landlord who probably has all kinds of rights that could be enforced against a non-compliant tenant. It really doesn't matter where the bedbugs originated. What matters is that your landlord is going to lose you as a tenant if they don't get busy and put pressure on the other tenant.

    As an analogy - if your neighbour was noisy and had parties all hours of the night, after a first polite request to "keep it down", you would call the police and complain to the landlord etc. It would be the landlord's responsiblity to make the other tenant be quiet. But, it helps the landlord if there are complaints - in writing, documented etc. (This process breaks down if you are scared of reprisals, of course.)

    So, my suggestion is that you let your landlord know, in writing, that you expect them to exercise all their rights as landlord to fulfil their duties as landlord, and if they don't then you will be going after them. Not the next door neighbour. But, also let them know that you are going to put this information in writing, so they can use it to pursue their actions against the neighbour.

    It was a very interesting question that you posed.

  7. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Oct 31 2011 20:31:57
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    I agree that in this situation I would approach the landlord, who likely already has rights to enforce compliance with treatment.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  8. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Oct 31 2011 23:18:24
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    It's often hard to remember this when we're in the throes of dealing with a bed bug infestation--I do recall how loaded down by despair I was when I found the bugs and began my battle--but it is possible that there is a reason the neighbor isn't doing the required prep.

    I want to be clear. I'm not saying that the only possible explanation is that the neighbor has an issue that you cannot see. But I do think it's important to remember that a lot of people with disabilities don't have visible disabilities. There may be a legitimate reason that the neighbor cannot do the prep. (I don't live in your building, so there may be other factors that suggest that this isn't the case. On the other hand, some people with disabilities may use other behaviors to mask the disability, so you wouldn't know about it.)

    I am not saying that you're not in a crappy situation; you are. I'm not saying that you don't have plenty of reasons and lots of rights to be frustrated; you clearly do.

    I am, however, saying that given that we don't know everything that's going on--and even you may not know everything that's going on, your best bet might be to contact the landlord first--if for no other reason than that it provides a clear starting point and paper trail for a legal case if it comes to that.

    I would also suggest talking to your local tenants rights organization to find out under the law what you are and aren't entitled to in terms of habitability, what the landlord's responsibilities are, and to see whether they have any programs to help resolve conflicts between neighbors in case the landlord cannot address the issue. As BugsinTO suggests, when you communicate this issue to the landlord, do so in a way that provides a paper trail for you so that you have that documentation. A tenants rights group may be able to help you with specific language that will hold up in court if it comes to that.


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