RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Few things are more horrifying than finding bedbugs in your apartment one month after you sign the lease, but a Richmond woman says it happened to her at Belmont Hills apartments.
The property owner admits there are bedbugs, but says it didn't play out quite like that.
Most people wouldn't want to live in a building with a history of bedbugs. Signing a lease would be out of the question. But Virginia landlords are not required by law to disclose a bedbug problem. Did the tenant or her guests bring in bedbugs or were they already here? It's hard to prove.
Weinstein Properties, which owns and manages Belmont Hills, said bedbugs were a problem in 2014, but they believe the resurgence is the new tenant's fault. Phamilla Faust says her research proves it's not
"The size of the bug and the color of the bug will determine how old it is. There were bugs in here that were at least six months old. We've only been here for two. So, they were already here when we moved," Faust said.
January is when Faust says she first saw bites on her son, who's 3. He says they itch.
Faust pulled off the bedding and found her son's mattress covered in the blood suckers, and in her room found the same thing.
"They were all over our mattress as well. I moved the bed from the wall. They were all over the baseboard, all over the wall and just hiding behind stuff we couldn't see," she said.
The first thing a tenant should do if they find any kind of pests, says Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, is to report it in writing in detail. Keep a copy, and follow up with a request for extermination. The sequence is key if it goes to court.
"If a tenant does not do that, they could be held responsible for the cost of extermination. That would be one of the exceptions to the general rule that the landlord is responsible for the cost of extermination," Martin Wegbreit said.
Faust says she reported the bedbugs immediately, followed wash instructions and is living out of plastic bags too long.
"When bedbugs walk, they leave these black stains all over the walls," she said. She believes Belmont Hills should pay for the furniture she discarded. "We shouldn't have to dig into our pockets for something that we didn't do," she said.
Weinstein Properties says the furniture was thrown away before they could see it and the tenant rejected an offer to pay the complex $1,700 to break the lease.
To win damages, Legal Aid says the tenant must prove two things. "The landlord had notice of the problem but failed to take care of the problem in a prompt manner. Secondly, that the tenant was not at fault in casing the problem," said Wegbreit.
Weinstein Properties says, "We take it very seriously," and responded quickly with weekly sprays and monitoring. It says the tenant wasn't prepared for some treatments and she re-introduced the bedbugs. Faust disagrees and plans to move out by May 1.