Everett family says landlord refuses to treat bed bug infestation

EVERETT, Wash. -- An Everett father claims he's waited two years for his landlord to clean up a bed-bug infestation that's made his young daughter sick.

The problem is, the family didn't put their complaint in writing, and that's causing even more trouble.

Nobody wants to think blood-sucking bed bugs are crawling around their home.

Bill Young never never thought it would happen to his family in Everett. But in February 2011, he and his wife noticed a couple of bugs on their bed and called their property manager.

"And (we) explained to him that we had done some research and we had a bed bug infestation," Young said.

Property manger Marcus Tageant, who happens to be a Lake Stevens City Councilman, said that's not the way it happened.

Tageant said Young only notified him about the bugs in February of this year, not 2011. He also said all complaints must come in writing.

Young admits he made the complaints in a series of phone calls, but points to a complaint filed with the Snohomish County Health District from nearly two years ago to bolster his claim.

Since then, Young said each day has brought new bug bites, and now his 6-year-old daughter is sick.

"She's had a persistent cough and some breathing irregularities," he said.

A physician's assistant diagnosed the girl with possible asthma, noted the bed bugs and said a chemical treatment should not be used.

"All of the healthcare providers that I've spoken with have stated that heat would be the best treatment," Young said.

Sprague Pest Solutions offers both chemical and heat treatment options. The heat-only treatment combines powerful heaters and whirling fans to circulate super-hot air throughout the home.

Sensors stuffed into furniture and clothes track the temperature, and Sprague technicians crank it up for hours so it penetrates deep into where the bed bugs hide.

The bugs initially like the heat and stay put, but then it becomes deadly hot.

"They start dying about 113 degrees, and our target temperature is 120," said Ben Estibal.

Once it gets that hot, the bugs are killed within seconds.

Tageant said he's tried to chemically treat the unit ever since he heard about the infestation a few months ago, and he blames the Young family for stalling to create, as he calls it, "a media circus."

Young said he's simply refusing the pesticide approach based on medical advice.

"It could potentially be harmful to my daughter because of her persistent cough and breathing irregularities," he said.

Heat can coast twice or three times as much as chemical treatment, and state law generally requires landlords to pay.

Tageant wants a guarantee that heat alone will work or the Young family will pay the difference. Sprague workers say if tenants follow instructions, they guarantee chemical and heat treatment will work.

"We like to think they are all equally effective," Estibal said.

Tageant also wants to know why the Young family doesn't just move.

"The onus is not on us, we haven't caused a problem," Young said. "The onus is on Impact Property Management."

The Snohomish County Health District says reports of bed bugs were up 300 percent in 2012 compared to previous years.