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“Our building’s and our own treatment is doing nothing to fix an ongoing roach problem. Is moving the only solution?”

by Prince Of Petworth October 26, 2016 at 1:40 pm 33 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user super b

“I know people have posted before about extermination but I couldn’t find anything that quite fit our situation. My husband and I have been having issues with roaches in our apartment for the past 5 months. In theory the building’s treatment is thorough, but not working. We have to take EVERYTHING out of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets and they spray all of it. We’ve had to do this at least 8 times since June and it’s a huge inconvenience. My husband said someone from maintenance told him one or two of the nearby apartments are not complying with pest control and leave out pet food, which is obviously a huge problem.

We’re doing everything else we can think of short of bug bombing to augment the treatments and nothing works. If anything it seems to be getting worse. We’ve put out traps and bait. We’re keeping everything very clean and even stopped using our dishwasher and stove because we see a lot of them around those appliances. We just put down boric acid powder and baits, so I don’t know if that will help yet.

We’ve complained to the building multiple times and asked what else they are doing to fix the problem. They just keep scheduling the same treatments and ignore our questions about other steps they are taking. I’m so frustrated they just keep doing the same thing that clearly isn’t working. They offered to let us move to another apartment in another area of the same building, but we might just have the same problem there. There was a notice on the building’s front door last week that DCRA was inspecting some of the apartments, but I don’t know if it is related to this issue.

We’re at our wits end. Is there anything else we can do short of moving? I’m applying for a job outside of DC that I won’t hear anything about until at least January, so it would be a logistical nightmare to find a short-term lease and possibly have to move twice in such a short amount of time.

TL;DR – Our building’s and our own treatment is doing nothing to fix an ongoing roach problem. Is moving the only solution?”

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  • neighbor

    If they aren’t doing the whole building, the problem will never go away. There’s a DC law that I can’t find right now that says that if more than one unit has a problem they must treat the entire building. Tell them they’re breaking the law and that you’ll contact DCRA if they don’t do the whole building all at once.

    • tom

      Unfortunately the DC law is vauge. The managment is required to pay for insect treatments if 2 or more units are impacted. However, the law dosen’t specify that they must treat it successfully in a given time period. Just that they are at least going through the motions of treating the problem. Went through a similar problem with our building. DCRA wasn’t able to offer much help.

      You might be able to look into withholding rent or even breaking the lease and moving. It also helps to survey other neighbors, organizing with other neighbors will give you leverage with managment.

  • This is Awkward

    I’m extremely curious where OPs building is, as this sounds like the problem and response that I’ve had as well. Don’t think my issue is as bad as OP’s/hasn’t gone on as long, but I’m at the frustrated and anxious stage too.

  • Anon

    This happened to my friend in NYC, and it turned out the apt under them was occupied by an elderly hoarder, so all the spraying and vigilance in the world wasn’t ever going to fix their problem. I’d check out the other unit the building offered up – if the neighbors are the issue, it might be better elsewhere in the building. You can ask to scope it out before you actually move, so you can check for signs of bugs. Worth a try, and if you don’t want to find another apt, then you don’t really have any other options.

    • FoggyBottom

      I had a similar thing happen to me at a former apartment in Arlington. The building was proactive, but still the problem persisted. There is nothing like waking up to a roach on your chest. Turns out those things can climb. The source of the problem was a hoarder within our apartment tier, and it took proper channels probably a year to force the hoarder to clean or be forced out.

    • Chinatown

      I had this experience as well, 10 years ago in another city. Apartment was fine for years then BOOM roach infestation. Management’s treatments were ineffective and we didn’t get rid of our problem until we moved into another unit in the same complex. We moved our furniture in and bombed the new apartment. Turns out our roach problem was overflow from our neighbor’s roach problem. My advice is to get out of that apartment.

      • textdoc

        “Turns out our roach problem was overflow from our neighbor’s roach problem. My advice is to get out of that apartment.” Yep — I went through the same thing (as detailed in a looong post elsewhere in that thread).
        Don’t stay there and try to fight the roach problem (and fight the management, and possibly fight the problem neighbor). Just move.

  • Rich

    besides neighbors, temperature matters. I had a an apartment in Chicago where all the elements came together once the temperature dropped (I was very miserly about the heat). After that, my habits (cover/bag everything) were enough to keep the roaches away.

  • Gross

    Omg this is horrifying

  • Anon

    We had a similar problem. I hate to tell you this, but there is probably a nest in the dishwasher and/or the stove. We sprayed, kept everything clean, and had an exterminator come, he put a gel like substance around the apartment and none of it worked. I took it upon myself to “destroy” the nest. Please note that I am not an electrician or pest person so please be safe with whatever you decide to do! I googled my problem, I turned off all our electricity, and took the front part of the dishwasher door off. Sure enough, they were in there. I sprayed and cleaned the dishwasher and it did the trick for us. Good Luck!

  • anon

    Wow, do you live in CIM group building? This sounds like the nightmare I’ve been living for the last year. Glad to learn that FULL building extermination is a legal requirement!

  • Anon2

    I am so curious about whether you live in my building. I have been having the same issues since March – we have had our apartment treated multiple times by management, put out baits, laid down diotomaceous earth (like boric acid, but dog-friendly) and even bug-bombed, and they just keep coming back. Meanwhile, our management company says that we are the only ones who have complained (which I sincerely doubt – the little buggers came back 2 days after we bug-bombed). We are moving once our lease is up, but I hope you find a better solution!

  • cdan

    Roaches become resistant to whatever chemicals the exterminator is using. Our brother had the same problem in NYC. He sent a box to our home in Columbia, MD and we ended up with NYC-style roaches (not bro’s intention, of course). The MD exterminator was able to get rid of them permanently with about 8 weekly treatments because, he said, the critters had no resistance to his unfamiliar chemicals. Your exterminator is using the same stuff each time which keeps him employed. Your landlord needs a new exterminator who uses different chemicals. You can ask, i.e., Orkin. BTW – To avoid taking roaches with you if you move, put all you stuff in a truck so you can roach bomb the furniture in back because roaches lay eggs everywhere. Good luck. P.S. Ask to see the other unit I the building LATE at night to see if roaches go scurrying when you turn on the kitchen and bathroom lights.

  • jp

    We had this a few years ago in a large building in DC — go check out the other apartment and the floor. If you don’t see evidence of roaches, move to the other apartment in the building and make the building transfer the lease (so you are still month to month or on the same lease). Moving stuff is a pain, but we did the same thing (moved to another apartment on a different floor), checked to make sure we didn’t bring any roaches along for the ride in our stuff, and then moved to another building permanently a few months after. The floor-to-floor move isn’t awful (or at least, not any more awful than what you’re dealing with now), and you can choose to move in the winter/spring if you decide to stay in DC.

  • katy

    Thanks for the responses! Our apartment is in Petworth and we are planning to contact DCRA, but I’m not hopeful about it if they can’t do anything if the building is technically treating the infestation. I am definitely concerned that the roaches are living in the dishwasher, which I think I read about on Popville. We asked about replacing it, but they ignored that part of our email. I don’t think I could deal with treating it myself. I would be too grossed out.

    Moving seems like the best solution, but the possibility of a second move in a few months makes it very overwhelming. I’m so frustrated that they just keep doing the same treatment, which is such a hassle for us and clearly not working. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll start to die off when it gets colder, but I’m not very hopefully about it.

    • katy

      Meant to say this is the OP. I’m new to commenting on Popville.

    • textdoc

      “I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll start to die off when it gets colder, but I’m not very hopefully about it.” I hate to be a wet blanket, but if anything, you’re likely to see more of them when it gets colder, as more of them move indoors to be warmer.

    • dunning-kruger

      As a landlord I would be pretty ticked off if you went over my head to DCRA despite my good faith efforts to solve the problem and offering another apt. Replacing a dishwasher appliances because they might have a nest in them is the kind of thing you can do personally but that’s a pretty poor way to run a business.
      My guess as to what’s going on is that you have some really nasty neighbors who are not participating in the effort to mitigate the problem. Your landlord may be trying to evict them or could have reported them to the city, DC now has a hoarding task force which if the management company is not aware of you may want to bring to their attention. It does trigger an inspection from the Fire Marshall which they might not love.
      If there is hoarding, extermination is a Sisyphean task and evictions and mitigation through the hoarding task force take time. Believe me the frustration goes all around. Problem tenants are a massive headache. The offer of another apt is probably a good offer, intrabuilding moves increase vacancy loss so unless you are withholding rent they are not simply looking at the bottom line and are probably acting in good faith.

  • textdoc

    I had an experience much like this when I lived in grad student housing — right down to the same extermination technique. (They made us empty our kitchen cabinets and sprayed inside, which made no sense to me because I had always been told that one should spray baseboards, not cabinet interiors, and I didn’t keep any food in the cabinets, only dishes.)
    I strongly recommend that you move. NOW. If you’re on a lease, insist that the management company release you from it.
    I did everything in my power to fight the roach problem in my unit. In retrospect, I should have demanded to be released from my lease, but all of the other housing options were even more expensive, and even grad student housing — supposedly subsidized — was already costing me about 75% of my stipend.
    I kept cereal, etc. in the fridge. I bought my own spray and routinely sprayed the baseboards. (Traps and baits might work for minor roach problems, but they’re not enough for serious infestations.) I routinely moved the fridge and sprayed behind and around it. I kept the place religiously clean. I kept my toothbrush in my fridge to stop roaches from molesting it. If I didn’t have time to wash a dish immediately, I put it in the fridge.
    When I insisted that the management do an inspection of my whole building, they discovered that the unit above mine was the one generating the roaches. They said they were going to evict the guy who lived there… but months passed, and he was still there.
    I don’t know how filthy that guy’s unit must’ve been for it to be causing the trickle-down problem it did. (When it was at its worst, I was killing 5-10 roaches AN HOUR.) If you have a neighbor with an untreated (or insufficiently treated) roach problem, you too will have a roach problem. MOVE. Moving is a hassle, but it’s not worth staying.

    • textdoc

      TLDR summary: I had a problem like this. I did everything I could (including routinely spraying baseboards) to fight the roaches, but it wasn’t enough, because my neighbor was apparently filthy.
      Move. If the building won’t get rid of the filthy neighbor or tackle the neighbor’s unit, you will always have a roach problem in your unit.

    • textdoc

      Re. “They offered to let us move to another apartment in another area of the same building, but we might just have the same problem there.” — That might actually be worth trying, but it really depends on how big the building is, what its layout is like, etc. If the new unit is anywhere near the problem neighbor, you will likely have the same problem.

    • textdoc

      Sorry (sort of) for the long post. As you can tell, I have VERY strong feelings on this subject. :)

  • Roaches don’t really care about food – roach food is everywhere. They care about comfortable spaces to live – which means narrow cracks – like in piles of cardboard/newspapers – under gaps in molding – in the space between bi-fold closet doors – between the wall and the cable line – under & behind the refrigerator – on top of kitchen cabinets – behind your bathroom vanity cabinet.

    If anyone in the building fries a lot of food, they have an oil mist settled everywhere and a roach nirvana. If you have one unit in a building with roach-friendly conditions like these, there is basically no way to get rid of them in your apartment, though you might keep them somewhat subdued with all of the above-mentioned methods.

  • northeazy

    I have dealt with this in the past. Roaches are not like bed bugs: they can be gotten rid of quite easily. I believe the issue is definitely a few problem apartments; and you even mentioned that as such. Unfortunately, and this is just my opinion, the issue is actually mental illness. Some people have real problems with cleanliness or letting “strangers” into their apartment to exterminate. There is no other reason besides mental illness (except perhaps to hide criminal activity) to live in such filthy conditions or to be so narcissistic as to place your own privacy over the needs of the entire building. So what did I do? While perhaps unethical, you could definitely find out which apartments are refusing to exterminate their unit. A friendly yet stern confrontation with the tenant can sometimes solve the issue. If that fails, involving the Dept of Health (or threatening to do so) is another alternative. Suddenly the thought of an exterminator is more palatable than a government agency inspecting someone’s unit.

    • textdoc

      Given that the OP is a renter, not a condo owner, I really question whether it’s worthwhile for the OP to engage with the problem neighbor about this whole issue. IMO, far better just to move and leave it all behind.

  • katy

    OP again: We are looking into moving, but my husband doesn’t want to stay in the same building, even if we move to a different area. Because of this potential job thing, we would be looking for a short-term lease of about six-months, which we would plan to extend if we stay in DC. Does anyone know of buildings in DC that offer those? I really don’t want to move, but all of our options seem pretty bad at this point.

    • textdoc

      Katy, are you currently within a lease, or month-to-month?
      The potentially-moving-out-of-the-area factor puts things in a new light (at least for me). If it were me, under the circumstances I’d be willing to consider moving within the building, as long as 1) the problem unit has been determined and 2) the proposed unit is nowhere near the problem unit. Although I guess if your husband has ruled that possibility out, then you have no other choice but to move to another building — with a 6-month lease if possible, and if not, with the possibility of paying a penalty to break the lease early if the job thing materializes.

      • katy

        We are month-to-month now, so luckily we wouldn’t have to try to break a lease. Moving within the building would be easiest, but my husband is really unhappy with the management company and doesn’t want to deal with them anymore. I’d prefer not to risk trying to break a lease if the job comes through, but it doesn’t look like there are a lot of good short-term options.

    • textdoc

      Also, do you know which exterminator your building is using — is it Ehrlich?

      • katy

        Not sure. They always come during the day when we are at work.

        • anon

          I am late to reading this, but I also live in this building, 3800 XXXX It is gross, and completely inconvenient as they only let us know the day before that the exterminator is coming. The situation has been happening since March of this year for me as well. I am already looking in to moving, but it is difficult with a large dog.
          I am so happy to know that I am not alone in this horrible situation.

          • bizzinger

            I’m in a large building (not this building) and we also have bugs. I’ve been cleaning and spraying, but I hadn’t thought about problematic neighbors. And the thing about the oil mist blows my mind – lots of people in my hallway cook like that, and I’d never considered it an issue.

            Well, this is another point in favor of moving in the coming months.

  • jsauri

    This may not be an ideal solution, but it worked for friends of mine in college. They bought geckos and let them loose in the house. You would occasionally see one of them run around. But it was deemed better than having roaches. (And it was an interesting conversation piece when guests are like, “Did you just see that lizard?!?”)


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