Roaches And Renting: Every Tenant’s Worst Nightmare



There are many reasons people may choose to rent an apartment rather than purchase their own home, chief among them being affordability and low-stress maintenance. In fact, over 50% of renter respondents in a recent survey cited those exact explanations as to why renting was a better living choice. Their logic is sound: monthly rent payments are significantly less than mortgage payments, and any issues that occur can be taken care of with a phone call to the building superintendent or landlord.

Unfortunately, not all situations are as simple. Insect infestations, for example, can wreak havoc on apartment buildings because the individual units are in such close proximity to each other — one person brings in an old couch containing a few bed bugs, and suddenly the building hallways become insect interstates. Public housing developments are especially susceptible to such infestations. Some are never fully eradicated.

Dini Miller, an entomologist teaching at Virginia Tech and an urban pest management specialist working for Virginia Cooperative Extension, cares deeply about the residents in such communities.

“Much of my work through the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory is focused on eliminating pest problems in underrepresented communities. I would like to change the way that pest control is handled in public housing. A lot of people are living with a lot of cockroaches, and they don’t need to be. This problem, we can solve.”

Miller chose two communities to work with that had severe roach infestations. The residents were at their wits end after monthly insecticide treatments failed to make a difference.

“One Thanksgiving, I was cooking and they were so bad I couldn’t leave the food on my stove for a moment,” said tenant Sharon Jones. “I had to put everything on a table in the middle of the living room to try to protect it.”

Another tenant worried her lease would be terminated because the roaches were so prolific that building managers were unable to paint her apartment.

Miller’s approach — which involved quantifying the number of cockroaches prior to treatment, and utilizing a food bait rather than pesticide spray to kill them — finally brought relief to the suffering tenants.

“This process has eased my mind so much,” said Tomeika Ferrell. “Now, I can have company over and cook without worrying that roaches will jump on them. It’s much happier around here. I finally feel comfortable in my own home.”

Studies show that the most popular definition of a “happy home” requires security (69%) and relaxation (64%). People like Ferrell and her neighbors felt no such comfort or safety before Miller came to help. In fact, insect infestation can actually cause psychological damage — the disgusting intruders offer no reprieve, disturbing sleep and eating habits and causing near-constant anxiety.

It’s estimated that 6.32 million people plan to initiate a pest control service within the next year; although Miller’s revolutionary treatment has not changed the national pest management contracts yet, there is hope for those currently being plagued by the vile intruders.

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