It's a Bed Bug Nightmare for Renters & Homeowners

11:33 PM, Feb 27, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Don't let the bed bugs bite. It may be a popular saying, but for many in the Midlands its something they deal with every night.

For new homeowners Justin Steadman and Fillisa Connely, they know just how difficult it can be to get rid of the bed bug blues.

"At first we thought it might be flea's. Like the dog brought fleas in. But we never had that problem before," said Fillisa.

The couple hired Cayce Exterminating to put an end to the infestation. For fifteen years, exterminator Rick Williams has seen the worst in homes.

"When the customer is asleep, in a deep REM sleep, deep breath, they follow your breath in. So they're gonna be close, said Williams. "They probably get behind the popcorn there in the ceiling. So whoever sleeps in here, they can come down then come back up."

The Steadman's spent twelve hundred fixing their bed bug problem. But News19 wanted to know what rights do you have as a renter? According to some, not many.

"In any type of situation where there is a lease agreement between a tenant and a land lord there are obligations on both sides."

Charles Appleby, a contract attorney with Collins and Lacy says a tenant must first notify a landlord in writing about any bed bug issues.

"That ensures that the landlord knows about the situation and can then start taking the next steps."

But that doesn't always mean your problem ends there.

"They're pretty much everywhere in the house," Tonya Williams rents at a Midlands apartment complex. We won't share where she lives, but Williams showed us that her apartment, and her neighbors, are infested with bed bugs.

"They sprayed and bombed that apartment while it was empty, and they came down here like a rush."

Williams says she's thrown out beds, sheets, dressers, and even cribs, claiming her apartment complex rarely responds to her complaints.

"I want to be moved out of this apartment or at least be put up somewhere and get the apartment done the right way."

Her complex didn't respond to any of our requests to talk about her bed bug problems.

According to the South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act A landlord shall: "(1) comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety."

That law doesn't specifically address anything about bed bugs.

"Right now we are doing a crack and crevice inspection around the bed," said Williams.

The Steadman's removal took nearly twelve hours. A process that includes bagging all clothes, throwing out badly infected furniture and toys, and professional exterminating chemicals.

"It don't matter how much money you make. What you do for a living. Ethnicity. Your background. It don't matter, they're here to feed," said Williams.

For Tonya Williams, she continues to fight with the bugs and landlord. A bed bug battle that Appleby says may go from the bedroom, to the courtroom.

"They have the option to bring a lawsuit and seek damages including the cost of having to get rid of those against the landlord."

Lawmakers have now gotten into the bed bug business.

Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) has introduced a new bill in the state house that would require all hotels, lodging, and homeless shelters to have routine bed bug inspection. It would also require the tenant to notify and future residents of a previous infestation.

But what can you do if where you rent is infected? Experts say the first step is writing your landlord requesting removal. A written request is required. Be Sure to Check the Lease. Find out if there is any specific bed bug language. If your landlord refuses to exterminate, you can always seek legal action or try to get out of your lease.

According to the centers for disease control "bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep." 

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