LJWorld.com (Lawrence, KS): Lawrence Apartments Infested with Bedbugs, Roaches in Residents’ Ears, Social Workers Say
Erica Stevanovic has many anecdotes about problems residents have faced at Cedarwood Apartments, 2411 Cedarwood Ave.
Stevanovic, a social work intern for Centro Hispano, a local non-profit organization that works with underserved Spanish-speaking Lawrencians, said she’s had two Cedarwood clients, one a young child, who’ve had to have doctors remove roaches from inside their ears.
One Cedarwood family had rats. When Stevanovic spoke with manager Margarita Yoder, she was told “it’d be taken care of,” but it never was, Stevanovic said.
Currently, Stevanovic is helping a little boy who told Stevanovic, “I don’t wanna live in my room anymore.” The child can’t sleep at night because of an infestation of bedbugs. The child’s legs, arms and groin area are “completely covered” with insect bites, Stevanovic said.
“I’m horrified that people have to put up with this,” Centro Hispano Director Lydia Diebolt said. “These children are going to sleep at night terrified of bugs. It’s unlivable.”
Cedarwood manager Yoder refused to talk to the Journal-World.
After learning of a bedbug infestation at the apartments in September and subsequently issuing multiple notices, the city of Lawrence ordered Cedarwood owner Nasser Khaleghi, of Independence, Mo., to hire an exterminator by last Friday, said Kurt Schroeder, associate director of planning and development services for the city.
“We told the owner, ‘You need to address this,’ and followed up with him over a month to get things fixed,” Schroeder said. “He said he was taking care of it.”
At the city’s demand, Khaleghi said he hired an exterminator to use a heat treatment to rid bed bugs in eight of the 122 apartments in the complex on Monday and Tuesday, which Schroeder said is the preferred method for treating the bugs. If Khaleghi doesn’t comply, the city could take him to court, Schroeder said.
Khaleghi said after Tuesday, when the eighth unit is treated, “the whole problem will go away.”
But Stevanovic said the problem is much more widespread than just those eight “lucky” apartments.
“I can think of 15 families right now that have bedbugs,” Stevanovic said. “If they only treat eight units, the bedbugs will be back.”
Khaleghi denied that there are any other infestations or problems in any of the other units in the eight-building complex, saying he sends someone to spray for bugs once a month. This is the first time he’s had an infestation in years, he said, and only the second time he’s used a heat treatment.
Khaleghi said tenants often “make up” issues to barter down their rent.
“A number of tenants behind on rent would come out and say this and that,” Khaleghi said. “Then they ask for no late fees or a discount.”
Khaleghi said the bedbugs came from one family he believes brought in the pests on an old piece of furniture.
“This was initiated due to the lifestyle of one of the tenants.” Khaleghi said. “They brought them in. We cannot go in and do their laundry for them.”
The city was unaware of other infestation complaints from the complex. But Diebolt said that the infestation is nothing new. She said that she’s had several clients at Cedarwood who notify the management of infestations and nothing is done.
“Residents are reporting to us on more than one occasion that management is non-responsive,” Diebolt said. “It’s increasingly becoming a problem.”
Diebolt said she told city officials about a bedbug infestation at Cedarwood in mid-October, after officials were in the process of dealing with Khaleghi.
City code enforcement officer Treni Westcott said if tenants notice issues with their apartments and are unable to work it out with their landlords, they can fill out an online code violation form at http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_violation or call code enforcement at 832-3107 or 832-3111.
For a checklist of what city inspectors look for to be sure units are in compliance with the current property maintenance code, visit http://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/pds/devservices/rental-licensing/Rental-Housing-Inspection-Form-final.pdf.
Westcott said in most situations, code inspectors can meet with a resident quickly. Bedbug issues take longer, Westcott said, because city inspectors do not enter apartments with bedbugs because they spread easily. Instead, an outside inspector is hired.
“Most inspections, we can get out there the same day or next day, depending on the urgency,” Westcott said. “Bedbugs can take longer because we’re working with outside agencies.”