January 20, 2016 | by Emily Frost | DNAinfo New York
UPPER WEST SIDE — The owner of a Riverside Drive residential building is suing a renter for allegedly allowing a “severe” bedbug infestation to intensify by ignoring an exterminator’s instructions to treat the apartment after it was deemed the epicenter of the outbreak.
The landlord is suing tenant James Behan, who rents a second-floor studio apartment in 2 Riverside Drive at West 72nd Street, for more than $300,000 in damages and legal fees, according to the suit filed last week in state Supreme Court.
Behan made the infestation worse by refusing to comply with an exterminator’s demands and repeatedly re-infesting the apartment, which cost the landlord money and left the 24-unit building open to lawsuits that could be brought by other tenants, the suit said.
After hearing from several residents that there were bedbugs in their apartments, the landlord notified everyone in the building of the problem on Dec. 14, 2015, and said an exterminator would be coming two days later, the suit said.
An exterminator determined on Dec. 16 that five apartments had bedbugs and that Behan’s had the “worst infestation,” with the insects visible on the “baseboards, outlets, ceilings, and all over the furniture” of his apartment, according to the lawsuit.
Behan did not seal up infested clothing and personal items as instructed by the exterminator and was seen setting them aside in the hallway without any plastic bags to contain the critters, the suit said. He also refused to dispose of clothes and other personal property per the exterminator’s request, and did not allow the exterminator to use certain chemicals to rids his apartment of the infestation, the suit said.
Additionally, the landlord wanted the exterminator to treat Behan’s car after bugs were found there, but Behan refused to grant access to the vehicle, leading the landlord to believe the infestation spread again from his car back into the apartment, the suit noted.
The lawsuit alleges that Behan also regularly visited another location with an infestation and spread those bedbugs to his apartment. He also left his unit’s door open, the suit said.
Behan has “no valid justification” for not complying and he produced an “ongoing bedbug problem” in his apartment, as well as creating “unsafe” conditions for other tenants, who still have bedbug issues, the suit said.
In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees, the landlord is also seeking an injunction from the court to prevent Behan from interfering with extermination.
Behan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The attorney representing owner 2 Riverside Drive LLC did not respond to a request for comment.