Brookside Battles Bed Bugs
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For nearly a year, the property manager of the Brookside Apartments has been in a battle against bedbugs - similar to much of the country.

After becoming the manager last year at the 77-unit apartment complex, located at 1602 Brookside Drive, Sidney Jimenez said battling bedbugs has been a recurring theme. Pest inspectors confirmed five units with bedbugs within the past month, with a few units pending inspections, or re-inspections, this week.

"Like a lot of apartments in the area, we have had some degree of bedbugs," he said. "We have been very diligent in addressing the issue. But our issue for the year has been the breakdown of communication between tenants to management about the problem."

Bedbugs feed on human blood, and are nocturnal insects that typically hide in cracks and crevices during the daytime. According to the National Pest Management Association, one in five Americans has had a bedbug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bedbugs at home or in a hotel.

Bedbug infestations have increased more than 500 percent in the last few years on a nationwide level, from single-family homes to college dormitories and apartment complexes, according to the NPMA.

"We have definitely tried to attack this from every angle," Mr. Jimenez said, adding that pest control inspectors visit the apartment complex at least once a month for routine inspections. "Last year we had about 12 confirmed cases in the south building, and we've hired two people as needed to help people get ready for inspections."

Of the two buildings in the complex, the problem has remained in the south building. Last spring, the complex treated 24 units, including hallways and the laundry room. Brookside Apartments are located just north of Vatterott College.

"If you have bedbugs, you will see little marks, like sharpie marks, near seams of the mattress. They are brought in from other places and attach to clothing, laundry or luggage," said Thomas Beavers, environmentalist public health specialist with the City of St. Joseph Health Department. "I get calls on a daily basis asking about bedbugs, but it's more on an informative level, wanting to know how to spot them."

Mr. Beavers said while there is no state law mandating the city health department to check for bedbugs in private residences, a local pest control company can confirm and extinguish bedbugs. Mr. Jimenez estimated a cost of $350 per inspection, plus an additional $6,000 assisting tenants in moving and other issues.

"(Bedbugs) are not a health risk; they do not carry diseases and their bites aren't toxic," Mr. Beavers said. "They are just a bother, really.

If a unit has confirmed bedbugs, residents must get a professional exterminator for the best success, Mr. Beavers said.

"From this point on, if you have a confirmed (case) of bedbugs by the pest inspector, you have a week to be prepared and ready," Mr. Jimenez said. "If you're not ready, I'm going to evict you. It's just that simple."

Mr. Jimenez said although landlords or property managers are not required to pay for bedbug extermination, the health and safety of Brookside Apartment tenants are his largest concern. Despite the cost out of his own pocket, he vowed to end this battle.

"We are real aggressive as we have approached this. We're spending a lot of money and a lot of time combating this issue," he said. "If tenants let us know what's going on, we can stop this before it gets too big."