Chicago landlords, tenant advocates and aldermen agreed Tuesday that the city needs to take on a proliferating bedbug population but failed to agree on the approach.
The bedbug issue surfaced during a three-hour hearing held by two City Council committees mulling a proposed ordinance that would allow fines of up to $1,000 a day against landlords who fail to take the required steps to wipe out bedbug infestations.
“Bedbugs are a serious problem, regardless of economic stature, and the city of Chicago has the authority to declare a public nuisance and regulate it,” said Brian Bernardoni, the government affairs director for associations that represent real estate agents, building owners and managers. “The issue must be addressed head on.”
But the lobbyist raised questions about the costs of battling bedbugs, the level of responsibility for tenants and how the new measures would be enforced. Other speakers questioned if tenants would end up being unfairly evicted or whether the proposed ordinance would ensure protection for everyone, including the disabled, elderly and folks staying at homeless shelters.
Ald. Ray Suarez, 31st, chairman of the Housing Committee, said changes would be made to the proposal as he noted that bedbug infestations can plague all segments of society, from the least fortunate to world travelers.
“Just don’t think that the finest or the highest level of society are immune from bedbugs, because no one is immune from this problem,” Suarez warned.
At times, the hearing became emotional with personal tales of woe caused by bedbugs feeding on the disabled and poor, ailing people.
“If I were able to take my shirt and clothes off, you could see what the bugs have did to me,” said a diabetic, arthritic man who lives in a subsidized senior citizen building who identified himself as “Mello” Sam Clora. “They have practically eaten up my body. . . . It’s kind of difficult for me to sit here and talk about this, cause I’m in constant pain from these bites.”
Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, said the final version should ensure “shared responsibility” among the city, landlords, tenants and condominium associations.