By Amy Zimmer | May 3, 2016 7:25pm
MANHATTAN — While the number of bedbug complaints has been on the decline in New York City, the number of violations the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development has issued to landlords over the pests has been on the rise — and the headaches the insects cause for landlords and tenants continue to swell.
In the fiscal year of 2015, bedbug complaints were down more than 3.5 percent from the year before, according to HPD data. But bedbug violations were up nearly 5.5 percent from the year before.
The onus is on landlords to cover extermination costs, and some tenants have to fight their landlords to get them to respond at all when there is a possible infestation — taking them to court for ignoring such complaints.
On the flip side, landlords sometimes have to fight tenants to gain access to exterminate — and can use legal means if a tenant is uncooperative.
There's also a growing number of tenants who are concerned about possible side effects of chemicals and want landlords to use pricier eco-friendly techniques. Since landlords aren't required to use any particular type of extermination, tenants are increasingly dipping into their own pockets to pay for pricier eco-friendly approaches, exterminators said.
Abel Furman does not want his landlord to use any bedbug-fighting chemicals in his Hell's Kitchen apartment, but the 77-year-old retired public school guidance counselor can't afford to front any costs for green extermination himself.
Now, he's facing eviction and will appear in housing court Friday.
Furman got a letter from his building manager at 840 Eighth Ave. about six months ago about needing to treat his apartment for a possible bedbug infestation. He ignored the request, fearing insecticide chemicals would affect his frail health, and he denied having any bedbug problem.
Two months later, he got an eviction notice.
“The landlord told me they could send me to stay some place while they do it, but as I grow older these things affect me more and more,” said Furman, who has lived in the building for 16 years and has subsidized rent through Section 8. “Besides affecting skin and lungs, it leaves a film on all of the objects… I’m very sensitive to toxic things. My health is failing a little.”
When tenants have documented medical conditions like asthma, or illnesses where their immunity might be compromised, it's easier to force a landlord to use eco-friendly extermination, said Judith Goldiner, from the Legal Aid Society, who was not familiar with Furman’s case.
“It’s important for all the tenants to allow for extermination," Goldiner said. "On other hand, I think there are legitimate issues around people’s medical conditions."
Furman’s building management company, Arco-Nesor confirmed it's taking legal action and referred calls to its attorney, who declined to comment on the specifics of the requested extermination, but said they were working on getting the tenant help from Adult Protective Services.