Phoenix tenants battle bed bugs, say they're stuck with cleaning costs

PHOENIX - Tenants of a central Phoenix apartment complex are fed up with a bed bug problem.

They say the landlord is making them pay to clean it up.

Residents at Pinchot Towers near 32nd Street and Thomas Road say they shouldn't be held responsible.

They say the bed bugs were already there before they moved in.

Now they're throwing out furniture and paying a lot of money to take care of the problem.

“Oh, I had to get rid of half my furniture, because the bed bugs ran me out of my apartment,” said resident Mae Smith.

“They met me here. And you get bites. You know I threw my bed my sofa, I threw everything away,” said resident Nate Boone.

The bed bugs have cost them more than their furniture.

Tenants say they're paying $150 for pest control treatment. They think the landlord should pick up the tab.

“They say we brought the bugs in, which we did not. They were here before we got here,” said Smith.

When Boone's lease is up, he's moving out.

“I'm looking to buy a home right now, and this is devastating,” he said.

But the landlord tells us a different story.

“We're bringing them instructions, we have educated them. What happens is they get stuff from the trash cans and bring it in,” said Anna Contreras, the manager of Pinchot Towers.

Contreras admits there's a bed bug problem.

“We are treating it. We have spent over $7,000 in the past three months for treatment,” she said.

She says every time someone moves in, they do an inspection. She showed us several certificates certified by a pest control company.

“If we do have bed bugs, we don't get this until it's done,” she said.

But the bed bugs are still there. And residents like Venessa Hernandez are tired off the scratching.

She says the landlord should have given them notices.

“If I can get out of here, I want out of here. This is not good for us nor the kids,” she said.  

How to get help

According to Arizona law, landlords are required to provide education on bed bugs and take preventative pest control measures.

They’re also prohibited from entering into agreement with a tenant when they know the apartment has bed bugs.

Phoenix Neighborhood Services says tenants can give a “five day health and safety notice” to their landlord or property manager.

They recommend you send it through certified mail or hand deliver it with a witness present and keep a copy.

You can also request an inspection from Maricopa County .

After sending a five day notice, if nothing changes, Phoenix Neighborhood Services recommends drafting a letter noting the management “failed to comply" and that you are taking “self management" measures.

Tenants can then pay for a licensed exterminator as long as it doesn't go over $300 or half of their monthly rent.

Phoenix Neighborhood Services notes it’s important to prepare a receipt and deduct it from the next rent payment and then give it to landlord.

Tenants can also terminate residency and seek legal action.

One thing to note—tenants can be held accountable for bringing bed bugs in.

They can be evicted or held liable for paying costs.

It is often hard to prove how and when the bed bugs got in the apartment.

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