5 On Your Side

Renter learns her rights after roach infestation

Posted May 23, 2012

— Think of how gross it would be to live in a home with roaches seemingly coming out of every corner, even appliances!

Carolyn Hewett found out she had that kind of bug problem the night she moved into her Cary rental.

"It was like a nightmare move," said Hewett. "Where they just come out of everywhere, just up the walls, everywhere!"

She says they were also in cabinets, on ceilings, the stove, counters, tables and even inside of the refrigerator!

"So that's the pizza in the refrigerator," Hewett said showing us a picture. "And a roach got into the pizza box."

Hewett says it's been miserable ever since she moved in at the end of March.

Adding to her concern, she watches her grandchildren. She showed us another picture of a roach crawling above her granddaughter's bed. As for her grandson, she left a bottle on the kitchen table one night. "The next morning there was roaches crawling on it," said Hewett.

Hewett called the rental agency, B&B Properties, and owner Barbara Pinna. Hewett says at first, Pinna told her to spray. When that didn't work, Pinna sent pest control. They came out three different times. Pinna came, too, and while there killed a couple roaches herself.

She replaced the refrigerator after exterminators found a roach nest inside the coils. But Hewett still had roaches.

After four weeks, she still couldn't settle in. She showed us boxes that were still packed and empty kitchen cabinets.

Renters have right to refund if insects can't be controlled When do renters have right to refund?

"This is after a month," said Hewett. " I've unpacked, nothing, nothing," she said. "As long as there are roaches, I'm not going to."

She rarely even slept there. Hewett told Pinna she wanted out of her lease.

"She said 'I don't blame ya, ... I could not live with roaches either,'" said Hewett.

But when it came to a full refund, that's where the understanding stopped. "She couldn't live with roaches, but she cannot give me a full refund back," said Hewett. Pinna would only refund half a month's rent along with the security deposit.

5 On Your Side called Pinna. She told us she'd been working with the owner to fix the problem and that the "treatment takes time to work."

So what rights do renters have in North Carolina?

We talked with David Kirkman, with the Consumer Protection Division of the State Attorney General's office. "At some point, if it can't be taken care of, the tenant does have probable grounds to terminate that lease," said Kirkman.

He says landlords must make sure a property is habitable. "And that means it's free of any kind of roach, or rat or other animal infestation," added Kirkman.

Tenants have to give a landlord written notice of a problem, and give the landlord time to fix the issue. As for rent, in North Carolina you cannot legally withhold it.

Renters can be held responsible if they caused the bug problems, for instance, if they constantly leave the place dirty. That was not the issue with Hewett, since the roaches were there when she moved in.

Kirkman says if renters run into legitimate issues like this one, they could negotiate a reduction in rent until the problem is fixed.

After 5 On Your Side got involved in Carolyn Hewitt's case, she got a full refund of $1,496 from Pinna, plus $265 in moving expenses. She's relieved and hopes the roaches didn't crawl into her boxes. She doesn't want them following her to her new place.


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  • apnc2 May 25, 2012

    I pulled the property up on the real estate search. There are a lot of tall pines in the yard. This makes the roach problem common with tall pines so close.

  • apnc2 May 25, 2012

    sounds like she is going to have to tent and fumigate.

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter May 25, 2012

    Oh, they got into her boxes.. No question in my mind that they did. .. I've never lived in an appt myself, but everyone that I know who has ever lived in an appt (especially AFFORDABLE apartments) have ALWAYS had roaches. Then it is a never ending cycle of hauling the little critters around with them in their things, every time they move.

  • superman May 25, 2012

    When you move do not take the boxes inside. Take the clothing out of the box and put it in the washer. Wipe off everything before you take it inside. Take only the items that you can put in the washer at a time. That means do not take clothing in and put it on the floor before you can wash it. Carry pots and pans from the outside and put them immediately in the dishwasher If you are not careful you will bring in roach eggs and you will have more. Get some roach bombs and home insect spray as soon as you get your stuff inside. Spray the inside every month for at least 3 months and then every 6 months after that. Spray will kill the adult roaches but wont do anything to the eggs they have laid all over the house.

  • fkhaywood May 24, 2012

    Time to call 'Billy the Exterminator'. A couple of cans of spray from Lowe's won't do the job!

  • superman May 24, 2012

    There are probably at least some roaches inside the boxes. In addition there are probably roach eggs on the boxes. At the first sight of a roach she should have put the boxes in plastic trash bags and tied them up securely. We dont have any but I spray the entire house at least every 6 months. I also spray the exterior of the house including the deck and front porch. Sometimes if we are leaving the house for several days I use the roach bombs. If you wait until you start to see them you have waited far too long. If you see one there are probably thousands that you dont see. You have to deal with the adult roaches and the millions of eggs they laid that will hatch. Dont wait until you see them to act. If you see one--you have a problem.

  • yorky1966 May 24, 2012

    Just makes me itch!!!!

  • oleguy May 24, 2012

    You can bring them home with you from the Groc. store.. Never use boxes to bring home food, Discard soda cases and plastic from the store, Keep pet food in a closed container outside. Clean behind stove and applances. Its a two way street and not always the landlords fault.

  • jmf1073 3.0 May 24, 2012

    That carpet looks down right nasty as well. I would have never set foot in that dump, let alone move into it.

  • Wendellcatlover May 24, 2012

    Something tells me those boxes are probably infested. Treat them all with a STRONG pesticide or throw it all away and start from scratch! That has to be preferable to living with that kind of infestation in a new place!!!