BY JOE KUKURA IN NEWS
The Bay Area found itself in a dubious top ten earlier this year when we were named the tenth most bed bug-infested region in America. Help may be on the way, according to the Chronicle, with the passage of a new law requiring landlords to give tenants written notification of any and all previous bed bug infestations. But that law is too little too late for one San Francisco couple, who moved into the “modern urban luxury” apartment complex Potrero Launch in December 2015. For the next year, their lives would become a bedbug nightmare as they were bitten the hell up, ended up burning some of their favorite clothes and possessions, put the rest of their stuff in storage, had the stuff stolen, and were eventually so stressed by the experience that it contributed to them calling it quits as a couple.
The Chronicle spoke to Straten Schemel and Paige Govey, who moved to San Francisco in 2015 and signed a 63-page lease (!) for an apartment at Potrero Launch. That lengthy lease also included a two-page addendum acknowledging that “there may have been a prior infestation” of bed bugs, but that this was “treated by a professional” and “the unit was believed to be free of further infestation.”
The key phrase there is “believed to be free of further infestation.” The tenants quickly started seeing bed bugs and complained to the property’s management. Exterminators visited their place five times, but the damned critters kept returning and causing immeasurable hassle for the couple. The escalation of pest extermination forced them put all of their items in storage, and some of their possessions were stolen.
“It became us living out of boxes, living in the same three outfits, spending every night vacuuming the bedding and box springs,” Govey told the Chronicle. “It was a pretty large factor in a lot of fights.”
Potrero Launch admits to the infestation, but insists they handled everything by the book. “The apartment was treated for bed bugs in December 2015,” Potrero Launch management said to the Chronicle. “The pest control contractor followed their standard protocol, treating the unit three times, and inspecting adjacent units for infestation. No bed bugs were found and the issue was isolated to the one apartment. There was an apparent reinfestation of the same resident’s apartment in March 2016, which was treated following the same protocol. The resident moved out in December 2016 and there have been no further reports of bed bugs for any unit on the property.”
While San Francisco may be the tenth most bed bug-infested town in the U.S., Los Angeles is all the way up there at Number Four. Hopefully this changes with the passage of a new law requiring additional tenant notification on prior bed bug infestations. That law is sort of a statewide version of bed bug warrior Jane Kim’s 2012 legislation, and requires landlords to provide tenant with a bed bug history of the apartment while prohibiting them from “showing, renting, or leasing a vacant dwelling unit that the landlord knows has a bed bug infestation.”
The new law is specific to bed bugs. “Why bed bugs have their own law is that they are a harder pest to treat,” California Apartment Association attorney Whitney Prout told the Chronicle. “It requires early detection and integrated pest management between the landlord and tenant, because of how pervasively [the bed bugs] can take over.”
While the new statewide law passed last year, it has not yet gone into full effect. Landlords were required to notify new tenants of bed bug infestations on July 1, and the law will be expanded to current and existing tenants on January 1, 2018.