Pest Plaza

Student residents of the Park Plaza are dealing with a rampant bedbug infestation and have contacted Student Legal and Mediation Services for help.

Student residents of the Park Plaza are dealing with a rampant bedbug infestation and have contacted Student Legal and Mediation Services for help.

“We believe the apartment management took the least expensive route instead of the most effective,” said attorney Lynn Clark.

Notices were sent out in August alerting tenants of a pest inspection. However, in early September, after inspection of the units in question, many tenants noticed bites. Fumigation simply caused the bugs to spread throughout the building, located on the corner of Southwest Park and College streets, according to resident Kris Thomason.

The apartment managers of the building, which is owned by Riverstone Residential Group, declined to comment on the infestation.

The initial incidents of bedbugs were treated on a case-by-case basis by fumigating individual units. The problem with this approach was that it merely chased the bugs to the next room—the only way to eliminate the pests entirely is to fumigate the whole building.  

Thomason asked the apartment management to have her apartment re-inspected.  But on Thursday, Sept. 17, the day after a scheduled inspection, she was told that pest control was prevented from entering her apartment due to a lack of authorization.

After authorizing the inspection, her apartment was finally fumigated and Thomason thought she was free of bedbugs, but they returned three days later. This time, they bit her everywhere.

“I had to go to the doctor because of an allergic reaction,” Thomason said. “The bites were swelling to the size of eggs.”

Another student who moved into the building in late October was bitten and went into anaphylactic shock—a severe reaction similar to bee sting allergies, Thomason said.

The resident couldn’t return to the building, though the apartment managers are holding her deposit and furniture until she pays to break her lease. Clark is working with the managers to negotiate a settlement.

This student’s out-of-pocket expenses for damages have risen to $6,000.

Melissa Ward, who lived at Park Plaza in 2009 from September to December, was bitten within two weeks of moving in.

“I called the apartment manager and they said they would spray, but it only kept the bugs away for a week,” she said.

According to Clark, breaking the lease, paying to clean her belongings and getting rid of infested furniture cost Ward approximately $3,000. Most of her clothes are still in bags waiting for the managers to get them dry-cleaned. She is still pursuing litigation through Student Legal and Mediation Services (SLMS).

According to research done by SLMS, bedbugs are not native to the United States. They were eradicated in the 1960’s with the pesticide DDT, but can hitch rides on luggage and clothing from international travelers.

Bedbugs typically hide behind walls, ceilings and inside furniture, emerging at night to feed by biting sleeping tenants. Even if an occupant moves out, they must throw away or treat their belongings with a hot-water wash or dry cleaning.

The student who went into anaphylactic shock moved out the next day, but the apartment manager is still holding her belongings. They refuse to refund her deposit or return her things until she pays to break her lease, according to Clark.

Meanwhile, Thomason is waiting until her lease is up in February to move. She has her bed legs submerged in bowls of water and Murphy’s Wood Oil. This is part of a method called ‘isolating the bed,’ which keeps bugs from crawling up bedposts onto the linens.

Her mattress is wrapped in an AllerZip cover, the mid-beam legs are coated with Vaseline and she washes her sheets and blankets twice a week in hot water. Since starting these methods, the bites have minimized to one every two to three weeks.

However, between doctor bills, dry cleaning, laundry expenses and hotel lodging while the exterminators fumigated the unit, Thomason has spent approximately $250. and offer information about which Portland buildings have histories of bedbugs.

If you are a student and have a tenant-landlord or any other legal issue, contact Student Legal and Mediation Services.