Aldermen Take Aim At Fighting Bed Bugs; Propose $1,000 Fine

Updated 01/29/13 – 3:23 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A City Council committee has concluded a hearing on a plan to get tough on the problem of bed bugs in Chicago, but aldermen admit they still have some fine-tuning to do on an ordinance aimed at minimizing the city’s bed bug problem

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports three aldermen — Ray Suarez (31st), Harry Osterman (48th) and Debra Silverstein (50th) have proposed an ordinance that would hold most landlords responsible for calling in professional exterminators when bed bug infestations are reported.

Those who fail to comply would face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Testifying at a joint committee hearing by the Health & Environmental Protection committee and the Housing & Real Estate committee, Verella Osborne, president of Legal Document Management, said landlords didn’t bring the bed bugs into their buildings.

“The pest control people have already testified an empty unit real estate property is not the cause of bed bugs. It is individuals, it is their property as they move in that cause the infestation,” she said.

But John Bartlett, executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, said focusing on tenants doesn’t solve the problem either.

“One of the main issues that we get about bed bugs, is when they report, the landlord’s first response is to evict the tenant,” he said.

Osterman said he and the other sponsors hope to tweak the proposal to accommodate both points of view within the next month.

Officials at the pest control company Orkin said it got more bed bug business in Chicago last year than any other city.

“New York used to have a terrible problem. They’ve reacted to that problem, and they’ve gotten it under control, whereas Chicago is seeing an uptick in bedbugs, because we are sort of behind the curve,” said Ruth Kerzee, associate director of the Safer Pest Control Project, told CBS 2’s Pamela Jones earlier this month.

The parasitic insects bite, and feed on blood, and can hang around without feeding for several months.

Doctors have said the allergic reaction to bed bug bites can get so bad it forces some patients to come to the emergency room.

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