KINGSTON >> Aldermen say they want to educate the public about local services available to renters, not just those that deal with bed bug complaints.
The decision to perform public outreach was made during a meeting Tuesday of the Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee. At that meeting, city Assistant Corporation Counsel Dan Gartenstein told aldermen he had met the week before with representatives of the Bed Bug Coalition to discuss a request for a change in city legislation that would have made landlords responsible for paying for bed bug treatments, even if only one apartment is affected.
Gartenstein said the issue really came down to people being aware of their rights and reporting problems to the city.
“We can only address what’s brought to us,” Gartenstein told the committee. “And rather than advocating for changes in legislation that is unnecessary because we already have legislation to address it, they should be communicating with their constituents about reporting. And, as far as we are concerned, it’s a safety issue that has to be treated like any other safety issue that is brought to the building department.”
He said if problems are reported to the city’s Building Safety Division, the landlords are notified and an order to remedy is issued.
Joe Safford, the city’s zoning enforcement officer, said landlords have 30 days to remedy the problem. He said it sometimes takes up to 30 days to fully treat an infestation.
During the meeting, Alderwoman Nina Dawson, D-Ward 4, said that just because the city was not receiving reports of bed bugs does not mean there is not a problem. She said she has seen pest control trucks all over the city and has talked to some of the workers who told her they were treating bed bugs. Dawson added that the problem is not one that just affects “nasty” people and she advocated for public outreach.
Common Council Minority Leader Deborah Brown, R-Ward 9, said some tenants are afraid to report bed bugs for fear they will be evicted.
Gartenstein said landlords cannot evict a tenant without going through a procedure in Kingston City Court. The landlord has to show just cause, he said.
Safford noted that some landlords might threaten tenants with eviction, but Gartenstein said there are legal services available to people in need. Several aldermen said they wanted to undertake a public awareness campaign so renters were aware of all their rights, not just those related to bed bugs. Some worried that focusing on bed bugs could exacerbate the problem.
Alderwoman Lynn Eckert, D-Ward 1, said she would ask the city’s director of community engagement, Megan Weiss-Rowe, for assistance in reaching out to the public.