Family holds rent check over bed bugs

WOOD-TV8: Family holds rent check over bed bugs
Thursday, June 9, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A Grand Rapids family under attack by bed bugs will not pay the rent.

"A couple of days ago, we woke up and I'm being eaten alive," said Cathryn Peabody, a mother of two. "I've got bites down both arms, across my legs and across my back."

The apartment complex, Lighthouse Property Management, has sent an exterminator to the unit three times.

But after a few days, Peabody and her husband insist, the bugs return.

"We informed them we would not be paying May or June's rent until the bed bug issue was resolved," Peabody said.

Denisha Popma, a company representative, denied receiving any notice that the rent wouldn't be paid because of the pests.

In a phone call, Popma told 24 Hour News 8 the family had an issue of not paying the rent -- even before the bed bugs showed up.

Lighthouse Management Properties is in the process of filing for eviction, Popma said.

She insisted the management has "been out there numerous times to treat bedbugs ... We've been out there anytime the Peabodys contacted us."

Said Peabody: "We want the bug problem to be gone, and obviously, we want the termination of our residency to be revoked."

Treating bed bugs is a landlord's responsibility, Cooley Law Professor Curt Benson said.

However, the Peabodys need to leave if they're not going to pay, he added.

"If they're going to stay and live there, they may not like it, but they really have to pay rent," Benson said. "If they want to leave, the law will probably excuse them from paying additional rent, but you can't have it both ways. You can't stay and refuse to pay rent."

The likelihood of carrying the bed bugs wherever they go is keeping the Peabodys from moving out, they said.

Mattresses, chairs and clothes can all be living quarters for the pests.

24 Hour News 8 brought an exterminator to the Peabody home, who found evidence that bed bugs had been in the home, but after looking under furniture and carpet, he couldn't find any live pests.

"It looks like the treatment has at least helped out," said Mark VanDerwerp, an exterminator with Rose Pest Solutions. "I don't know what it used to look like, but I certainly wouldn't say [the treatment] is going in the wrong direction."

Lighthouse Property Management has sent an exterminator to fumigate three times in the past month. A company representative said another one was scheduled to come Friday.