I was waiting for the bed bug ordeal to be over and my apartment security deposit to be returned before talking about it here. So now that it is safely past me (at least this time...because there is no guarantee that I won't get bed bugs again when they are so prevalent in New York) ...
There are two kinds of bed bug infestations. In the first one, you notice a couple bugs and bites and get sprayed right away, a few times over the course of a month and a half. You don't experience any bug evidence after the first spraying, so after the last one you can feel secure that the problem is gone and go back to normal living. This is how it seems to go for most people. It didn't go that way for me.
In the second scenario, the landlord ignores bed bug complaints for too long and doesn't handle the situation properly, which allows them to infest the whole building. I only know of a few other cases like this.
Our building supposedly had bugs a year or so prior, and then they popped up in one apartment again, but the landlord ignored it for months before bringing in an exterminator. For some reason, those particular tenants didn't care enough to do much of anything about it, so their infestation spread to other apartments and continued to persist. Neither the landlord nor my downstairs neighbors understood the value of a preemptive, comprehensive approach. The landlord refused to spray the whole building on the same day. He hired an exterminator who would only come to our place on his days off from his regular job. Then he had his handyman "trained" as a secondary exterminator, who did a terrible job. Also, it was weird being in a text-friendly relationship with the exterminator that got so friendly he asked my roommate out on a date.
Our landlord also pressured me into not reporting him to the city, insinuating he would withhold our deposit. And since all I ultimately wanted was to be able to move out and get my security deposit back without spending time or money in the court system, we didn't report him. So now that I'm no longer fiscally or legally tied to him, I can say that Marek Kaczor is a bad landlord. It wasn't just the bugs. There were constantly things going wrong, like no hot water for a week, no heat over Christmas, no working oven for a month. Our neighbors downstairs said they had taken out two lawsuits against him. Unfortunately for renters, he owns several buildings in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area, mostly rented by Bedford Prime Realty.
I would have liked to just move out of the building, like many of the other tenants did within a couple months. However, my roommate refused to move - and I couldn't very well sublet a room with bed bug risk, I didn't want to pay double rent to live somewhere else, and since my roommate was my best friend, I couldn't just leave her to deal with figuring out how to cover my rent.
Instead, after three months, the landlord realized it was probably because bugs could hide in our cracked floors. So we moved across the hall into a fully sealed apartment while he redid our old apartment. Things got better there, but knowing that the apartment below us still had bugs meant I could not, nor would I ever in that building, trust it was safe to take my stuff out of bags.
We finally moved out in May, two months short of our lease. Ultimately, it turned out for the best that we waited until the spring to move. By then, we hadn't had any definite bites in a couple months, so we felt relatively confident that the bugs were gone and we wouldn't be taking them with us. Which meant I didn't have to throw out or store away my stuff, or spend a month's worth of rent to fumigate all of my belongings, all ideas I had previously, angrily considered.
You can be sure that when I went hunting for a new apartment, I was thorough about checking into the landlord. Most people by now know about the bed bug registry. But in New York City, you can also search an address in the city's public database of building registrations and violations to look for past and current complaints, violations, and lawsuits, and to find out the landlord's name so you can google for any dirt to be found on them. I always ask the broker/landlord/current tenant if there has been any history of bugs or other problems. There is also a disclosure of bed bug history form the landlord is required to complete if you ask for it. See the city website for more on the laws related to tenants' rights and landlord obligations regarding bed bugs.
This experience also taught me the value in trusting your gut when looking for a new apartment. My gut didn't feel good about choosing this apartment in the first place, but we took it anyway because we felt like options and time were running out. In Part 2 tomorrow, I talk a bit more about how this experience tested my patience and my sanity.