When Cockroaches Invaded Apartment 515

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When Cockroaches Invaded Apartment 515

By James Barrows

When Student Life moved Lexi, Megan, Renee, GG, and Margie to apartment 515, limited help, compensation, and attention was offered when they discovered the unit was infested with cockroaches. 

Two weeks before the end of fall quarter, the students were notified by Student Life that Sunday after winter break they would be moving from apartment 213 to 515. In an email, Student Life stated “enrollment numbers fluctuating” and the need to “condense units” were reasons for the move. The set move day posed issues for the girls, as they had to adjust flights and re-arrange workdays to move into their new apartment. Lexi commented, “We had to be all moved out by 6pm.” 

The morning of move-in day, the previous residents of 515 were still moving out, and the apartment had not been cleaned. GG said, “They left a bunch of stuff inside the house, like food, the fridge was disgusting, carpets, the kitchen, the bathtub had stains…so the whole place looked gross.” Lexi added, “We assumed that they would be moved out and the place would be cleaned by the time we moved in.”

Student life is responsible for the maintaining and cleaning of the rooms that they are leasing for students, especially when they consolidate or move students. Steven Graham, manager of Latitude33 Apartments, stated, “its the lease holder’s [Student Life] responsibility to keep the unit clean and return the unit in a clean condition….we are providing them with a clean home and we are expecting them to keep it that way.” Renee said, “They had three weeks [Christmas Break] to clean it.”

Cleaners arrived the day after the move-in. The students were still unpacking their stuff  when they arrived. The cleaners were not able to do a deep clean, typical for any move out or move in. Renee said, “So the apartment was not even cleaned because they cleaned around [their stuff].”

Unit 515’s Living Room

Monday morning, cockroaches were found in the dishwasher. The girls reported it, and pest control came out the following Wednesday, normal for Latitude procedure. Steve said, “Pest control comes every Wednesday. If my residents or their occupants notify me of pest control issues, we’re going to be in there the following Wednesday. If you call me on Tuesday, we’re there on Wednesday.” During his inspection, the pest control professional found an alarming number of cockroaches. Lexi said, “He moved the fridge, found about two dozen back there, all alive, and then moved back our stove and found a couple in there. That was enough for him to say ‘Alright, this situation is
severe… I will be spraying for the next two weeks, at least, and then setting traps the last two.’” Paul, the on-sight pest control professional from The Bugman, confirmed that scenario. He said, “You can count probably about four weeks for a severe infestation.” Renee added, “So, that’s four weeks starting the next week [week two].”

On each pesticide spray day, the girls had to be out of the apartment for three hours. Before each spray, they were given specific instructions to cover everything in their living room and bathrooms, which also had cockroaches. “We [were told to] cover all of our stuff with bed sheets. We’re college students, we don’t have extra bedsheets. So, I took down our shower curtains and laid it down over our stuff, ‘cause that’s all I could do,” said Lexi. GG added, “We have to move everything…all our kitchen stuff, all the stuff we put in the living room to make it actually a home.” Paul confirmed the girls statements, “All the cabinets have to be emptied out…if it’s a bad unit, we do bathrooms, we do kitchen, and we do baseboards wherever we can get to, that’s standard procedure.”

The smell of the pesticides remained even after the girls were allowed to come back to the house, and sometimes it lingered into the next day. GG said, “Renee and I were getting a bit of a headache after the spray because the smell is actually still there.” After each spray, the residents were expected to clean up the traps. GG said, “They make us clean up the dead cockroaches…They don’t send anyone to do that.”

Dead Cockroaches in a trap.

Although Student Life declined to comment on situations in specific units, Joe Cross, Director of Student Life, commented about pesticide spray in general, “The stuff that they’re putting down, you only have to be out of your apartment for three hours. So, when units are getting treated for pests, your units are not rendered useless for weeks on end.” Neither did he foresee any negative impact the cockroaches had on the use of the kitchen, “If you have cockroaches in your apartment, you’ll have to clear out your drawers in your kitchen, and they do a little spray thing…After three hours, you can move right back into your kitchen and use it.” Julia Carrano, Dean of Students, added that, in all cases of pests or cockroaches, they refer to professional opinion. She stated that, “Every case is unique…we deal with the professional that is pest control.”

Paul confirmed Joe’s analysis of pesticide sprays and the usability of one’s kitchen and apartment. He said, “I’ve had infestations a lot worse than anything I had here [at Latitude], and I’ve never told anybody don’t use your kitchen. Always remember, our treatment is safe to go back in once it is dry…People have to cook. People have to eat. I would never recommend that to anybody.” He added that sometimes it depends on how willing the residents are to deal with cockroaches. “Whether or not they want to put the kitchen together, a lot of people choose not to…some don’t care, they’ll put it back [the kitchen stuff] and then they’ll prep again….One thing I can’t understand is what a particular tenant will tolerate when it comes to roaches.”

In this case, the students were not comfortable with using the kitchen, since they had to move their stuff out of the kitchen every time Paul came in for another spray. Lexi commented, “…Why even put our stuff back in the cabinets, if he is just going to have us move our stuff into the middle [of the living room], while he sprays?”

Since cockroaches are attracted to heat and food, the girls thought it best not to use the kitchen at all. GG explained, “They [the cockroaches] go to anything which is food related, or if there is water there, or warmth.” And so, the girls have been eating out and trying to use other people’s kitchens for the past four weeks. Lexi said, “Yeah, so all of our kitchen stuff is in the living room, which means we can’t live in our kitchen, which means we can’t live in our living room, and so, basically it’s our bedrooms and our bathrooms, and even our bathrooms get sprayed.”

The cockroaches in their apartment has been difficult regarding expenses and workplaces for the residents. Lexi said, “As college students, we’re trying to save money, but we cant, ‘cause we have to eat out…” GG tried to use other girls’ kitchens so that she didn’t waste the food she bought before the cockroaches were discovered.  She said, “The problem with that is when I go like cook either in the morning or in the afternoon or evening, they might not be home, so I can’t get to my food. I can’t eat anything other than going out.” Megan works at a restaurant, and said they would have to shut down if they were infested with cockroaches. “I would be out of work… Then I’d have to leave the school. So when I tried to assure my boss that I’m being as careful as I can- trying to stay away from my apartment…but cockroaches can crawl in clothes and you wouldn’t know.” To avoid losing her job, Megan stayed elsewhere. “I’ve been on a floor in my friend’s house for four weeks.”

Cockroaches in the kitchen.

Student Life’s official response came three weeks into the cockroach infestation. After much prompting and coaxing from the students affected, the girls received a response regarding accommodation and compensation for their situation. Meghan said, “That [the email] was on Jan. 24th, the day after we sent Joe a text giving him one last chance to meet, since we had been getting nowhere with meetings before, and saying that if he couldn’t meet, then we requested to be moved out immediately.” Joe’s email stated that the students could move out if they wanted, though they would be split between five different rooms. It added that the unit would have to decide about the move within 24 hours. “We ask that you decide on whether you wish to move by the end of the day (5pm) tomorrow, January 25th.” The email did not specify whether they would be able to move back in together after the situation ended. However, the email noted that each girl would be getting $100 as a “thank you for your cooperation in this matter”.

The residents were unsatisfied with Student Life’s delayed response. Lexi said, “We were given 24 hours to decide, which is no time at all. I don’t know why we got five weeks of spraying, [but] we had to decide in 24 hours if we were going to move somewhere else.” GG, who was not put on the email list and did not receive it until six hours before the decision deadline, added, “Their offer to us was to split us up into different apartments…one of the options for apartments had cockroaches. But that was the only offer they’ve given us.They won’t refund or discount our housing.” The girls did not want to split up since they had paid the $55 room-choice fee and had been together all of the fall quarter. GG said, “It wasn’t a move out and then come back in kind of thing. None of us wanted to move away from each other.” Lexi added, “They offered us $100 each as an inconvenience fee…which pretty much covers eating out… for a week.”

Last Wednesday, the pest control professional did not spray Apartment 515. Joe Cross concluded, “It looks like the issue is basically complete, but pest control does want to come back and investigate the traps and make sure the issue has been completely dealt with.” GG said, ”In Week 5, they are finally actively helping the situation and starting to listen to our side of the disruption from the infestation.”

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