Stand Up Against the Eviction of a Tenant for having Bed Bugs

On Thursday, June 23rd, please join the Metropolitan Tenants Organization at a rally supporting a YMCA senior, disabled resident, Alonzo Carter. Alonzo is a member of the Emil Jones Tenant Council in a property owned and managed by the YMCA.  The YMCA’s Emil Jones building is a senior complex located at 19 E. 110th Place.  The YMCA filed an eviction case against Alonzo in housing court for non-compliance for bed bug extermination – a strenuous process involving heavy lifting, moving of large furniture, etc, which is often too arduous for elderly and disabled residents to do without assistance.

In an effort to comply with the bed bug extermination of his unit, Alonzo threw out some of his furniture.  The property managers instructed the building maintenance team to remove some of his furnishings, which according to bed bug experts, is illegal and typically not necessary. The disabled tenant was also required to do some heavy lifting of furniture.  Although there was an infestation in multiple units and many tenants were unable to fully comply with with the preparation process, the only 2 eviction cases filed were against members of the tenant council.

At a jury trial that took place on April 20, 2011, he was found guilty.

Despite the jury’s poor decision there is still hope!  His attorneys
are filing a motion for Judge Leonard Murray to overturn the eviction.

Bed bugs have become a common nuisance in the City of Chicago and renters should be aware of potential illegal landlord retaliation. Chicago is fifth in the nation in terms of severity of bed bug epidemics.

Come join us and demand that the YMCA drop this case and learn about your renter’s rights regarding bedbugs.

Where:   Thresholds Lawson YMCA
Address:  30 West Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60654

Just of the Chicago stop on the Red Line.

When: Thursday June 23rd @ 12 noon
This event is being sponsored by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s Community Congress of Tenants.  If you need further information please contact Robert Clack, 773.292.4980 ext. 242.

When Bed Bugs Attack

Bed bugs have returned, invading our hospitals, hotels, public transportation, and most unsettling of all, our homes. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, bed bugs have proven to be a serious nuisance to homeowners and renters alike, across the nation.

While New York City leads the nation in reported incidents of bed bug infestations, according to an August 2010 report released by Terminix, the Windy City does not find itself far behind – we live in the fifth most bed bug infested city in the U.S. MTO can certainly attest to this, as hotline calls pertaining to bed bugs have increased dramatically in the last two years. In 2010, MTO received 313, usually very frantic, calls with complaints of bed bugs. Two years ago, bed bug calls to MTO’s hotline were nonexistent.

In response to this sudden reemergence of bed bugs in Chicago, MTO has led efforts to create a roundtable of representatives from HUD, EPA, Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and other invested agencies and community organizations. MTO is actively working with this group on creating a policy proposal for HUD subsidized buildings. Among other recommendations,  MTO has proposed the following to be included in a HUD policy on bed bugs:

-Landlords should disclose any known bed bug infestations within the previous 12 months to prospective renters,

-HUD should support an initiative for an educational campaign on bed bugs and pest control,

-Landlords should hire certified/licensed pest control professionals for both bed bug inspections and treatments,

-Landlords should encourage tenant notification of bed bug sightings by never retaliating against tenants (e.g. imposing fees, threatening eviction, etc),

-and HUD should allocate a long term source of funding to help landlords and renters combat bed bug infestations.

MTO is working on the bed bug issue at the state level as well. Meron Kahssai, an MTO Healthy Homes Organizer, has been appointed to the Illinois Subcommittee on Bed Bugs, a subcommittee of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Advisory Council. MTO will serve on this subcommittee as the voice of renters and will provide the necessary insight on the plight of renters to the other members of the state’s bed bug subcommittee. The goal of this subcommittee is to create a report with recommendations to the IL General Assembly on the prevention, management, and control of bed bugs which include recommendations on an educational campaign, proper transport and disposal of bed bug infested materials, and best practices of treatment and eradication.

Tenants who have dealt with bed bugs are encouraged to join MTO’s bed bug committee. This committee is open to anyone who is interested in serving the need of renters affected by bed bugs by pushing policies for both subsidized and market rate renters. Please contact Meron Kahssai at 773-292-4980 ext. 229, if interested.

Bed bugs will be the topic of discussion at the January 20th Tenant Congress meeting at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan). Following a presentation on bed bugs, the floor will be open for a question and answer session. This meeting is open to the public.

Bed Bug Seminar & Cosi Sandwiches: Thursday, Jan 20th at 6pm

MTO will be hosting a Bed Bug Workshop at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan) on Thursday, Jan 20th from 6 to 8pm. Free parking is available. Sandwiches and refreshments will be served, courtesy of COSI.

MTO’s resident bed bug expert will tell you what bed bugs are, describe early signs of an infestation, and outline what to do and what not to do.

No need to RSVP – this workshop is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Farid at 773.292.4980 x 236 or Robert at 773.292.4980 x 242.

Those pesky bedbugs won’t rest: Chicago Tribune

Bedbugs have made the leap from apartments and homes to some of Chicago’s downtown office buildings and government headquarters.

And late last month, a “government office in the Loop” brought in Meron Kahssai, resident bedbug expert with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, to educate employees about dealing with bedbugs after the office had an infestation.

It doesn’t matter that offices don’t have beds.

The blood-sucking pests, which are making a comeback nationally, can easily hitch a ride on purses and coats from infested homes or hotels and burrow into furniture and files at work.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Bed Bug Workshop – Dec 2nd, 2010 – No RSVP needed

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
6:00pm to 7:30pm
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park, Chicago

A bed bug expert from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization will tell you what bed bugs look like, describe signs of an infestation, and outline what to do and what not to do if you have bed bugs.

No need to RSVP and the workshop is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Kristian at 773.826.8430 x 229 or kmoore@bethelnewlife.org.

Thank you to MTO’s partners, Bethel New Life and Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance.

Bed Bugs – FAQ

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs prefer human blood, but can also feed on pets if people aren’t present.

Are bed bugs disease carriers?
There isn’t any medical evidence that bed bugs pose any sort of health risk. Some people do, however, experience mild reactions to their bites. It is also possible for the bites to result in secondary infections if scratched.

How did I get bed bugs?
A bed bug infestation is not an indicator of a lack of cleanliness. Bed bugs feed on blood and are attracted to CO2. They may have hitchhiked onto your belongings and into your home or, if you live in a multi-unit building, they may have traveled from an adjacent unit.

So, there really isn’t any link between bed bugs and sanitation?
None. Bed bugs are not attracted to filth nor do they feed on it. However, reducing clutter is extremely important as clutter can provide hiding space for bed bugs. Bed bugs will thrive in cluttered environments because the effectiveness of your pest control plan will be limited.

I have a bed bug infestation. What do I do?
Around the House

-Reduce clutter in the home. These are safe havens for bed bugs.
-Vacuum frequently.
-Wash clothes in hot water and dry in high heat for a minimum of 20 minutes.
-Do not apply pesticides on your own. Applying pesticides should be left to licensed pest control professionals.
-Never use bug bombs or total release foggers. These can worsen the infestation and are extremely harmful to your health.

Beds and Furniture
-Steam clean your bed and other furniture at a heat of 120 degrees or more.
-Encase your mattress and box spring with bed bug proof mattress protectors.
-Do not apply pesticides to your bed or other furniture. Pesticides are often harmful to people.
-Do not throw away your furniture until a pest control professional tells you that it can’t be salvaged.
-If you must throw away your bed or other furniture, please dispose responsibly. Render the furniture unusable by slashing all sides or spray paint “bed bugs” in large letters.

Remember, bed bugs and their eggs absolutely cannot survive temperatures higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is my landlord responsible for ridding my unit of bed bugs?
On June 5, 2013 Chicago alderman passed an ordinance on bed bug control.  The ordinance requires eradication to be performed by a pest control professtional as many times as necessary to eliminate the reported problem.  Click here to read the full ordinance.  

The City of Chicago has recently been named the nation’s #1 city infested with bed bugs.  Everyday MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline receives calls from renters throughout the City and suburbs dealing with the pesky pests.  Bed bugs are not unique to Chicago.  They are undoubtedly a nuisance and hard to control.  Controlling bed bugs requires tenants and landlords working together. There are key components of the ordinance that all renters should know.  Let’s start with landlord responsibilities:

  • To supply a tenant starting or renewing a lease with an informational brochure
  • To maintain a written record of bed bug control efforts
  • To send a written notice to the tenant explaining their responsibilities before the inspection
  • To provide pest control services when bed bugs are found by a pest management professional as many times as necessary to eliminate the problem
  • To inspect within 10 days and treat if necessary the two units on either side as well as the two units above and below of the infested unit

The ordinance also outlines what tenants’ responsibilities are to help eliminate bed bugs.  Please note that this section of the ordinance does not apply to tenants living in assisted living or a shared housing establishment, when the establishment provides assistance with daily living activities.  According to the ordinance, tenant responsibilities include:

  • To notify the landlord in writing of any suspected or known infestation in the tenants’ unit, clothing, furniture or personal property within 5 days
  • To notify the landlord in writing of any recurring or unexplained bites, stings or sores suspected to be caused by bed bugs
  • To cooperate with the landlord in the control, treatment, and eradication of bed bugs including
  • To grant access at reasonable times upon reasonable notice for inspections and treatments/to not interfere
  • To prepare unit prior to treatment including:  cleaning, dusting, vacuuming
  • To properly dispose of personal property that cannot be treated or cleaned before the pest control services

The Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance also mandates the disposal of bedding, clothing, furnishings or other infested materials.  For example, you may not place, discard or dispose of any bedding, clothing or furnishings infested on the public way (i.e. dumpsters, sidewalks, hallways).  To get rid of infested items, you must enclose the item in a plastic bag and label it as infested.  Doing so should prevent neighbors from bringing to their home infested items, therefore stalling the spread of bed bugs.

The ordinance will be enforced by the Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health.  If any person is found violating the ordinancethat person may be fined $300.00 to $1,000 per day for each offense.  By complying with the ordinance, these fees can be avoided.   The full ordinance can be found atwww.cityofchicago.org.  You can make a request for a City inspector here.

My landlord won’t accept responsibility. What should I do?

You can call MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline to speak with a hotline counselor about your situation. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 1pm – 5pm. If you live in a building with 12 or more units and other renters in the building are living with bed bugs, you may also request a visit from an organizer who can assist you in getting your requests met by your landlord.

Learn more about tenant remedies for pest infestation here

Have bed bugs in your apartment building? What is your landlord doing about it?

MTO hotline caller featured in the Chicago Tribune

In late August, an Albany Park household contacted MTO’s hotline regarding bed bugs in their unit. After door knocking the entire building, an MTO organizer discovered that many of the renters in the 20+ unit building were dealing with these critters. MTO is working hard with their building and several others city-wide that are affected by bed bug infestations in efforts to work with landlords on eradication. Click here to read the Chicago Tribune article about their battle with bed bugs and the trends the city of Chicago has seen with them.

Saturday, September 25th: the Rents Rights Expo

Learn about bed bugs, credit repair, foreclosure, repair issues, housing subsidies and more.

Come join us Saturday September 25th from 9am- 2pm at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., for the cities largest rental housing expo, hosted by “Chicago Rents Right”. The highlight of the expo will be the workshops that will be put on by various organizations including workshops on bed bugs, building code violations, reasonable accommodations for the disabled, subsidized housing, foreclosures, credit repair, updates on the amended Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, and even workshops for condo board associations.  There will be translators available for Spanish speaking tenants.  There will be counselors who specialize in foreclosure prevention and general landlord/tenant questions.

One of the most essential workshops this year will be on the subject of bed bugs. Nationwide, Chicago is one of the top 5 cities being hit by the bed bug epidemic.  The workshop on bedbugs will be useful for those who are trying to get rid of bed bugs and useful for those trying to avoid getting bed bugs.  If Chicago is going to be successful in doing away with this epidemic it will have to be done by those educated on how to effectively exterminate bed bugs AND citizens educated on how to stop the further spread of bed bugs.

“Chicago Rents Right” is a program of the Chicago Department of Community Development, and has a committee comprised of local community organizations, including Metropolitan Tenants Organization, with a common goal of helping tenants and/or landlords.  Admission to the event and workshops is free.