RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Aden Park Apartments says bed bugs are the tenants' fault, so, it's charging $500, per apartment, to exterminate. This puts a sting in the bites the tenants showed us.
"I'm not a nasty person. I don't deserve to live like this," said Rashia Blackwell.
She showed us bed bug bites on her legs, back and arms. She's embarrassed, but says she must talk about it, because of a letter the apartment management is giving tenants, who complain.
"For them to be sitting up here charging people $500 for something that's maintenance problem. That's ridiculous," she said.
The letter states that the cost of treatment, $500, will be added to the tenants account, because bed bug eradication is not included in its standard pest control service.
"The $500 fee -- absolutely no legal ground for doing that," said Martin Wegbreit, of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, adding that it's more than illegal.
"They're retaliating, they're saying you complain so, you get to pay and there's no determination made whether the bedbugs are the fault of the complaining tenant or the fault of a tenant who may be living next door or upstairs or downstairs who didn't complain," Wegbreit said.
"These are the white ones, that's how they start off until they suck blood," said Blackwell.
"They're all in these cracks supposedly those little eggs," said resident Jackie Torres.
We walked through two apartments at the Aden Park Complex. The blood suckers are conspicuous. We didn't have to search to find them. In the corners in the ceiling, the walls and window sill, and of course where people sleep.
Jackie Torres showed us bites on her stomach. She's 7 months pregnant. She and others closed off infested rooms, in their apartments, and discarded their mattresses.
"It's not our fault that these bed bugs are here," Torres said.
But, Aden Park management says it is. No one would speak with NBC12 on camera. In an e-mail, management says, bed bugs are brought in by residents, and their guests. While they offer free treatment for ants, and roaches, bed bugs are not a part of this no-fee service. The complex's first, $500 bed bug treatment is next Wednesday.
Wegbreit says residents can pay under protest, and then sue the landlord to get their money back. Or, don't pay the bed bug fee, but pay your rent on time and write a letter to the landlord, explaining why. Then wait for the landlord to sue you, and let a judge decide.