From the Forum – My landlord is a hoarder, so we’re dealing with roaches

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lauren Parnell Marino

My landlord is a hoarder, so we’re dealing with roaches:

“Wondering if anyone has experience with something like this. My BF and I have been renting the first floor of a duplex on capitol hill since Sept. The landlady owns the house but lives in a different part of town. She’s only been renting the whole place out for a couple of years.

I love everything about the place except for the roaches. Big mofos. She is an admitted hoarder and all of her belongings are stored in the basement. It is roach breeding heaven, and they make it up to our apt despite efforts to keep our place clean and unattractive to roaches. The previous tenant in the apartment said that she saw them all the time but never said anything to the landlady. (She didn’t want to make a stink about it because she was getting a good deal.) Our upstairs neighbors see them less frequently but don’t really care. We share the basement to do laundry.

I reported them to the landlady and she acted as if this was the first she’d ever seen or heard of them. An exterminator came and we haven’t seen them in our apt since, although they are more dormant in winter months. Now I’m seeing them in the basement again, and speculate that anything we do, including exterminators, will be like a bandaid on a gunshot wound until she empties or cleans the basement.

I love the apt and don’t want to move…Do i have any recourse as a tenant to get her to do something about the condition of the basement? ”

You can see all forum topics and add your own here. If you are having trouble uploading your question  please email me at princeofpetworth(at)gmail

39 Comment

  • Move. No apt., no matter how sweet the deal, location, or space are, is worth your health. Roaches are probably just the tip of the iceberg. I would be afraid of other toxins, mold, or all sorts of nasty she might be hosting in her basement. It’s probably a fire hazard and wouldn’t surprise me that there is a dead cat or two there. Move.

  • I will never understand the willingness of people in DC to live in dumps for the sake of a “good deal”. She probably didn’t know if the person before you saw them “all the time” and failed to mention it. Unless there are obvious hazards in the basement, I don’t know if you have much recourse. Continued extermination will likely be the only solution if you refuse to move, and as mentioned, it’ll only be a bandaid at best. Those bags and boxes are probably full of them, and there could be food or anything down there.

    • “I will never understand the willingness of people in DC to live in dumps for the sake of a “good deal”.
      I think the answer is pretty obvious (money is tight, their parents did not give them a “starter home fund,” etc.)

      • I didn’t get a starter home fund when I moved on my own nor when I bought my condo 5 yrs ago. I actually know very few people who have come from that sort of well-off backgrounds. Why is the trust fund baby the prevailing idea in DC? My comment was geared toward those people who jump on the first thing they find rather than taking time to look and investigate. If I can find an inexpensive unit with a large dog, no pet rent, and all the amenities I need in under a week, I just don’t think there is as urgent a need for a 2 person household to live with roaches.

        • What makes you think the OP “jump[ed] on the first thing” (s)he could find?

          • I did make an assumption that they didn’t now the previous renter and found out about the roaches before moving in. With that assumption, I cannot fathom someone looking around in a city this size+ 2 incomes (assuming this as well) deciding on a roach infested place as the best option. If they found out after renting, then my apologies for making such an assumption.

          • now=know

          • Actual OP here. Confirming that I was unaware of the pest problem when I moved in. I even asked the landlady if there were any pest issues, and she said there were none. I’d dealt with several pest problems at my previous apartment so I wasn’t eager for a repeat. Finding reasonably priced housing in DC is often more about luck than anything else, so yes, in a way you’re right that people “jump on” a good deal when they see something that fits their lifestyle and price range.

        • If you can find that, you’re either the luckiest person in DC, or you have a very different definition of inexpensive than the rest of us.

          • I’m very lucky to have found my place, but the point remains,if I can find all that, and did, there should be a somewhat comparable apt without an ongoing roach infestation.

        • Ok Ms. Bootstraps, please tell us more about your dogged self-reliance. We are enthralled. Because your exact personal circumstances obviously apply to every single person in the District. [/s]

          • LOL I love a good troll as much as the next person, but nothing in the post suggested they couldn’t move. My circumstances certainly don’t apply to every other person in DC nor did I suggest they did. Nothing in the post mentioned their lack of income; where are people getting such an assumption? I know its hard to believe, but some people in te District just hate moving/looking for places.

        • You got lucky and now you’re just being harsh and a bit ignorant. I just got new tenants for my very nice, well-priced, pet friendly, all amenities, great location apt. First hour on CL I had 20+ responses. Open house 2 days later where 5 couples showed up and all wanted it. It is in fact, a tough rental market.

  • A neighbor family in the adjoining rowhouse hoarded and just generally didn’t take care of garbage. (I was shocked the one time I walked through the kitchen.) I had roaches in my place despite it being a new flip. I paid $600 a year to Connors Pest and that did a good job of keeping roaches at bay, but I did have to use the service on a regular schedule for the 5 years the first neighbors still lived there. After they moved and tidy neighbors moved in I was able to discontinue the Connors service. So, try exterminator. We had a cat and there are pet-friendly non-sprayed products.

  • Try boric acid. It’s very effective getting rid of roaches.

    • And very toxic to kids and pets…

      • Boric acid is about as toxic as table salt. As long as your pets (or kids) don’t consume in large quantities (and there’s no need to have huge quantities of it around), it shouldn’t be a problem.

    • Diatomaceous Earth is nontoxic and highly effective.

      • damnit, spelled roaches wrong.

        • But at least you got “Diatomaceous”. But I totally agree with the DE tip. It works pretty well to kill the roaches around the kitchen and other high traffic areas. A bag at Home Depot costs about $7 or $8. It’s not going to eliminate all the roaches but it helps. And it’s non-toxic to ingest if you have pets. Also make sure there aren’t any sources of moisture in the basement, like a leaky window. Cutting off sources of water is important for roach control.

    • Since you can get into the basement yourself, and it’s unlikely your hoarder landlady isn’t making inspections, I’d sprinkle a bunch of boric acid on the floor in areas of low human traffic. The roaches get it on their bodies and then take it back to their nests/eggs, eliminating both the living bugs and their unholy spawn. It may take a few weeks, but eventually they’ll disappear.

  • Move. Hoarding is representative of larger mental health issues, and I doubt the problem will be resolved in a easy or timely fashion. Save yourself the stress and just go.

  • So, we had a similar experience with a neighboring restaraunt attracting the critters and the DC department of health came by and sprayed something and made it go away. Check with them.
    PS- no matter how much you love the place, roaches are too ridiculous to live with. I’m sure your landlady is super nice but she needs to act like a land lady and take care of these issues. You’re not living there for free.

  • I remember reading a comment (possibly on this blog) that some parts of the Hill have high concentrations of roaches and the only way to keep them away is to exterminate against them regularly – but they don’t die, they just hang out at your neighbor’s place until the poison at your place wears off and then they return.

  • If you want to go the legal route, show your landlord this section of the DC housing code (click “view text” on the page; a word file will open):

    In general, the landlord is responsible for keeping your abode in a “reasonably insect-proof condition.” If they fail to do so, they are liable for all extermination costs. Seems like you’ve already paid for an exterminator to come by – see if you can get that exterminator to go on record saying the source of the roaches is the mess in the basement. Then, get your landlord to reimburse you for that and any future visits and clean up the mess.

    I had to deal with a major flea infestation this past summer, which was the result of a shoddy foundation and a neighborhood full of stray cats. Landlord ended up paying for everything, but not before I dealt with months of terribly itchy legs. I felt helpless, as I think you might feel now. Nobody needs that.

    Hope this helps!

  • You know what you have to do. You just don’t want to. So stay and learn to live with roaches (or the chemicals used to kill them.) Appealing to your landlady is a dead end.

  • hammers

    You can’t make someone not be a hoarder for your personal comfort. She called an exterminator, and would probably be willing to again. It sounds like you are looking for someone to tell you that they are creating an unsafe environment for you to rent from, which may be true (look through the DC tenant laws and your lease), but I think trying to iniatate any legal action will sap the “loving everything about living there but…” feeling.

  • I had a similar problem once with an apartment that the landlord couldn’t resolve, but in a place I didn’t want to leave. I picked up some little bait traps at Home Depot on Rhode Island Avenue – I can’t remember the name, but it was a big company like Raid – they looked like little hockey pucks. Probably ten to the pack. I shoved all ten under furniture, under the baseboards, under the kitchen sink cabinet – pretty much anywhere I thought my dog couldn’t get to them. Whatever they were, they worked like a charm. Maybe three or four days later was the last roach I ever saw. The bait traps said they took a few days to kill the roaches so they had time to get back to the nest and poison the eggs as well. I guess they did just that, because I never saw any more.
    I’d at least give that a shot – buy two packs and put one around your apartment and another pack’s worth around your basement. A great apartment is worth the $20 of bait traps!

  • I’m a little puzzled as to how the landlady’s basement belongings could be fostering roaches, unless there’s food in there somewhere.
    Regardless, I don’t think you can ask/demand that she remove the stuff from the basement. You mentioned the roaches to her and she brought in an exterminator. Mention the roaches again, and ask for her to bring the exterminator back. If a couple of rounds of extermination don’t do the trick, I’d give up and move elsewhere.

    • Roaches don’t need much food. What they love is “secure” space – ideally cracks and crevices where their top and bottom parts are snuggly. (15 years of managing a low-income roachy apt. building – believe me – I know this.) So stacked up cardboard boxes is the ideal habitat.

      And before anyone gets outraged about “low-income roachy” – plain facts – poorer people fry a lot of food. This generates a mist of oil which settles on the tops of cabinets, TV cables (the worst!) inside the cracks of bi-fold closet doors, in the small cracks of molding. They aren’t dirty people – how many of you have ever scrubbed your cable TV cables? But once the roaches get settled, there is pretty much no stopping them.

  • MOOOOOVEEEE! Please move. You are right, there is zero percent chance the situation will be resolved, short of the landlord completely clearing the basement AND doing appropriate treatment to get them out of the walls and every crevice.

    I had a similar situation … A hoarder above me in a 9-story apt complex. Mgmt tried giving me the runaround on a persistent and worsening roach problem (that resisted every treatment that was scheduled in response to my complaints) — until I discovered myself that my upstairs neighbor was a hoarder myself (obviously, that fact wasn’t public knowledge). Then the mgmt admitted they’d been trying to evict the guy for years, and performing building treatments unsuccessfully for months upon months. Thankfully I am lucky enough to have a flexible job so I could demand a 2-hour in-person meeting with mgmt during the daytime and by the end of it they had located an available unit way on the other side of the building that I moved to within 1 week (and the hoarder was eventually evicted). This all happened ~6 months ago so the squeamish feeling on my part is all too fresh.

    All to say — this is NOT an easy problem to resolve, especially if the landlord already clearly knows about it and hasn’t been willing to “do the right thing” up to this point. Again, move!!!!!!! Good luck!!!

  • Emmaleigh504

    Move or deal with regular visits from an exterminator. Roaches can live off almost anything, not just human food items. It’s impossible to get rid of all the food sources.

  • The landlord needs to contract with a monthly exterminator. Keep it up for 6 months minimum, especially as the weather get warmer. Eventually, it will kill all the roaches. Appeal to her self-interest/greed by stating that this is a good investment. Make up some BS excuse that roach infestations can often lead to more expensive work being required (electrical failures, issues with the wood structure, etc). She doesn’t seem like the savviest person.
    Another compromise is to ask her to move her stuff to a storage unit. Agree to split the storage unit fee by increasing your rent (if monthly storage is $100, agree to a $50 increase).
    Lastly, you can request an inspection by DCRA for violation of housing code. A dirty mess of objects that is harboring an infestation is a clear violation of the code. You can request an inspection via the DCRA website. In this scenario, I’d ask the adjoining rowhouse if they are having roach issues. If so, they could file the complaint on your behalf, if you’re uncomfortable ratting out your landlord.
    You have rights. Exercise them.

    • OP here. Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I’m going to look into this and suggest the monthly contract/treatments.

  • Call the office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services to report your landlord. That office coordinates the Hoarding Working Group.

Comments are closed.