Woman says apartment owners deny bed bug infestation - WSMV News 4

Woman says apartment owners deny bed bug infestation

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Residents at one Midstate apartment complex say bed bugs are crawling out of the walls and into their sheets, but the owners deny there are any bugs in the complex.

Michelle, no last name given, said she and her three children are like prisoners in their own home. Simple tasks like doing laundry have become a tedious process involving steaming, shaking and bagging every garment.

The family realized in February, their new unit at the Iroquois Apartments has bed bugs.

"They don't feel safe," Michelle said about her children. "They don't feel comfortable at home and that's the one place they're supposed to be comfortable."

Michelle said it's an embarrassing problem.

"Getting their clothes ready for school on a daily basis," she said. "Every day they have to package up their clothes, steam down items, put them in bags. It has to go in the car. It can't go in the house because you don't want any bugs crawling in the bags."

Michelle said they sometimes wake up with bites, some the size of nickels and quarters.

"My son sends me pictures at school with him having bites over his body. Me waking up with bites on my body," she said. "I go to work ... with bites, itching. It's more than just washing your clothes and linen. It's the mental."

Michelle said she has gone back and forth with the apartment management in pages of emails. They sent out exterminators, but she said the treatments and her requests to move have been unsuccessful.

"You can't help me move to another facility, another apartment? It's just, 'No, I have nothing for you,'" she said. "I see people moving in and out, in and out, and all you can tell me is, 'I have nothing for you. I just advise you to continue washing your clothes and linen.'"

Markus Gibbs, resident manager at the apartment complex, spoke to Channel 4 by phone.

"[Michelle] has not requested a transfer to another unit," Gibbs said. "She has submitted an intent to vacate. We have treated her unit three times for bed bugs. On the last time, the pest control did not find bed bugs."

Weeks later, Channel 4 reporter Hayley Mason suited up in protective gear with exterminator Robert Fleming of "All Things Exterminators" and went inside Michelle's apartment with a camera and a flashlight.

Fleming pulled back the carpets to find shells of bed bugs. He also found live insects crawling through the walls.

"There are several places inside the apartment where they are," Fleming said.

It's an uphill battle as bed bugs can hide in crevices and live for years.

"The eggs can lie dormant, just lie there for up to a year," Fleming said. "An actual adult bed bug cannot have a meal for a year if it wants to."

The National Pest Management Association's 2013 "Bugs Without Borders" report found that bed bugs have made a resurgence and have become a growing problem. The report found that nearly have off all pest professionals in the country found the infestations happen most often in the summer.

Michelle wanted to know where the insects came from. Fleming believes they were already in the unit before she and her family moved in.

"I checked the furniture. There was nothing to indicate that's what the infestation came from," Fleming said. "I've checked the corners and walls and ceilings and there is indication there. There is indication on the walls. There is indication along all the baseboards and where the carpet is."

Dr. Karen Vail, a professor and extension urban entomologist at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, has researched bed bug habits and infestations extensively. She said it is very difficult to determine where they originated.

"In a multi-unit facility, the neighboring units can often be the source of bed bugs," Vail said. "They will come through the walls following wiring, conduit and duct work, be attracted to the carbon dioxide you are producing and come find you as the host."

Treatments can be costly and extensive. Vail said, "Many contracts include three treatments two weeks apart, but often that's not sufficient enough to take care of a problem in a multi-unit facility, especially if the apartment is highly cluttered." "It will often take retreatment and retreatment again," Vail added.

For Michelle, the cost is too steep. She has filed a suit against the Iroquois Apartments.

"At this point, they really need to compensate her for all the belongings they have that can't be salvaged because they are bed bug infested, for all the inconvenience they've suffered," attorney Daniel Marshall said. "All the bed bug bites and the doctors visits and the ointments, they need to compensate her."

Meanwhile, Michelle said she is saving money to try to move with no idea how she will finally get rid of the bed bugs.

Wednesday afternoon, James Oaks, the vice president of Edwin B. Raskin Company, which manages the apartments sent the following statement:

"Our policy regarding any reported bed bug occurrence is immediate contact with a licensed pest control firm for inspection and a treatment plan, if required.

"We've not had any recent requests to be released from lease, as any reported suspicion of bed bugs has been inspected and successfully treated.

"We will continue to respond and address any reported resident issue as quickly as possible."

Pest control professionals advise having a thorough inspection for bed bugs before moving into an apartment to make sure there is not an existing infestation.

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