Bedbugs lead to altered housing leases

Published 12:10 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

LAPLACE — Bedbug infestations have become a serious problem in housing, including public housing, across the country, Trina Henderson said.

Henderson, executive director for the St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority, said local efforts are being made to monitor and treat potential bedbug infestations through an addendum added to the Public Housing Residential Lease Agreement.

The Housing Authority Board unanimously approved the addendum last month.

“Bedbugs were popping up in different housing authorities,” Henderson said. “HUD, who we fall under, put out a notice strongly encouraging housing authorities to educate, not only their staff, but also their residents about bedbugs. (Bedbugs) are creeping up in the Southern states.”

HUD or the Untied States Department of Housing and Urban Development is the umbrella department over the housing authority.

“We did have a occurrence of one of our units having bedbugs,” Henderson said. “So basically we decided that we needed to address this and educate our staff and residents. We put out a notice, beginning March 9, for 30 days and went door to door educating families by giving them information so they could identify such things if they were getting bit.”

St. John Housing Authority operates four developments in LaPlace, Reserve, Garyville and Edgard. Out of the 296 units, 98 are currently in use, and the rest are being altered as part of a redevelopment project. The public housing authority services low income individuals and families.

Henderson said the St. John Housing Authority is not releasing which of the four housing locations had the bedbugs, as it would violate its confidentially rule.
Treating bedbugs can be costly, and Henderson wants residents to be aware they can become an issue.

“As a result of putting information out there, one of our families were able to identify a problem before it became an issue,” she said. “We were easily able to assist that family before it became a major issue.”

As part of the new lease addendum, which took effect May 1, the Housing Authority is meeting with all of their residents.

“Each year our families have to be recertified, meaning they have to come in and we certify their eligibility,” Henderson said. “What we are doing is going out to all of our housing developments to talk with the residents. They’re going to have some questions so we are going to address that and also get the lease addendum signed. It is a requirement for their lease.”

When Housing Authority residents sign their lease, they agree to follow the policy outlined in the new bedbug addendum.

“It says that residents are going to take the necessary steps as identified in the policy,” Henderson. “The biggest thing is that they will notify us immediately so we can address the issue.”

Before this addendum to the public housing residential lease there was no policy addressing the issue of bedbugs.

Henderson said the United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated bedbugs are dramatically increasing and considered a public health concern.

Although they are not known to transmit diseases, Henderson said, the bugs’ bites itch and cause an allergic reaction in some people that could lead to secondary infections.