Current Date: Sat, 18 May 2013 04:00:56 -0400
When Andrea Josey, a UNC alumna, moved into her new apartment at The Park at Chapel Hill, she discovered she wasn’t alone.
Josey said she found bedbugs during her first night in the apartment on May 15. And though she has now moved out of the apartment complex located at 1250 Ephesus Church Road, it was an experience she wishes she could forget.
Bedbugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on animal blood, including human’s.
Tom Konsler, the environmental health director for the Orange County Health Department, said they have not seen as many calls about bedbugs in recent years.
“We were getting a significant rise in calls in 2006 and 2007, with three-fourths of calls from tenants in apartments,” Konsler said. But he said that doesn’t mean bedbugs aren’t a problem.
Josey said she plans to go to small claims court, seeking compensation for expenses caused by the bugs she found in her apartment at The Park.
She said she did not bring the bedbugs to the apartment, as she left her previous Chapel Hill apartment in good condition with no pest infestation and moved directly to The Park.
But Melissa Marotta, regional manager with The Park’s corporate management Bell Partners Inc., said there were no bedbugs in the apartment before Josey moved in.
“There was absolutely no evidence that bedbugs were in the apartment prior to (Josey’s) residency,” she said.
Marotta said in following standard procedure, carpeting was replaced and the walls were repainted before Josey moved in to her apartment at The Park.
Marotta said the three apartments that share walls with Josey’s had no evidence of bedbugs.
She said including this case, The Park has only had two instances of bedbugs in the past 18 months, both confined to single apartments.
Mike Waldvogel, an extension associate professor in the department of entomology at N.C. State University, said bedbugs are difficult to kill.
“Bedbugs are extremely small and flattened, so they fit ideally into all sorts of gaps,” he said. “If you can fit a playing card or driver’s license into a gap, bedbugs can easily hide in there.”
Bedbugs can live 180 days or longer without feeding, often hide out in suitcases during travel and can crawl in through walls of adjoining apartments.
Waldvogel said to treat a bedbug infestation, a person needs to know the source of the bugs.
Common signs of infestation, Waldvogel said, are black spots of fecal matter on walls, mattresses and furniture and exoskeletons shed by growing bugs.
“You’re their meal, so they’re going to be where you are. Bedbugs are waiting for you to come to bed,” he said.
Dorothy Bernholz, an attorney with Student Legal Services, said if an apartment is infested with bedbugs, a tenant may have a case against management — but proving responsibility for the bugs can be difficult legally.
She said it is crucial students inspect for bedbugs before signing a lease.
If bedbugs are found after moving in, Bernholz said to notify management immediately and obtain written confirmation of all correspondences.
She said following up verbal conversations with emails that ask for responses and acknowledge previous conversations was a good way to build a case.
Bernholz also said having another witness present during pest control inspections can also help support a tenant’s case.
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