Sewage, bedbugs doubly bad for Lewiston family

LEWISTON — It's the most depressing moving day ever for Kathleen Schidzig and her family.

Sewage House
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"It's a mess right now, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do — clean or not," said Kathleen Schidzig before inventorying books and all of the other possessions she and fiance Kenneth Hardy left behind when they moved from the sewage- and bedbug-infested house on Spring Street.

Sewage House
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Tom Maynard, code enforcement officer for the city of Lewiston, condemned the property at 29 Spring Street in Lewiston on March 31, only three months after Kathleen Schidzig and Kenneth Hardy moved in their family. "There was snow on the ground when we moved in, and we didn't know this stuff back here," said Schidzig of the raw sewage, a motorcycle, toys, and other garbage in the backyard.

Sewage House
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Kathleen Schidzig shows a basement flooded with raw sewage that is leaking into the backyard of their rental house at 29 Spring St. in Lewiston. "After I called code enforcement, Tom Maynard went straight around the back of the house before I told him what the problem was. He had dealt with this before," said Schidzig.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Kathleen Schidzig and Kenneth Hardy's autistic son, Kenny, had to leave behind all of his toys and clothes, including these Fisher Price Rescue Heroes that are no longer available in stores. "His whole life is repetition; it's playing with the same toys, wearing the same clothes," said Schidzig. "This is going to be hard on him."

Sewage House
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Cradled by his brother, Brandon Hardy-Schidzig, 12, Alex Hardy, 10 months, reaches for a toy that the family had to leave behind at 29 Spring St. in Lewiston due to a severe infestation of bedbugs. "The eggs are so sticky, they could be anywhere," said father Kenneth Hardy.

Sewage House
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Bedbug carcasses can be seen in the bottom of a container at the rental house of Kathleen Schidzig and Kenneth Hardy Thursday in Lewiston.

They've been forced out of the single-family home they rented on Spring Street because raw sewage is filling the basement and running through the backyard. The building has been condemned; the city ruling it unfit for occupancy.

But all of the pictures are still on the walls, the televisions and computers are still plugged in and all of the children's books are on the shelves. Not a single box or suitcase is packed for the move.

All of the beds are made. Furniture didn't go with them when the family moved to Portland late Thursday. Neither did the clothes, packed away in dressers, nor the toys collected in corners.

"None of it can come," Schidzig said. "I feel weird, because everything is a mess. But what's the point in cleaning anything up?"

The sewage may be forcing the family out, but the bedbugs infesting the building are forcing them to leave everything behind, save for the clothes on their backs. It's all being abandoned for fear of spreading the infestation to their new home.

Sewage and bedbugs: It's doubly bad for Schidzig, fiance Kenneth Hardy and their four children, Brandon, 12, Kenny 4, Aiyaana, 2, and Alex, 10 months.

Hardy is a mason and Schidzig a student, and they are starting over entirely from scratch.

"I don't really care about the clothes, the TVs or any of that," Schidzig said Thursday morning. "I care about my kids, what this is doing to them."

They have a new apartment in Portland and have managed to round up some used furniture from Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus.

"We can't afford to fumigate any of this," Hardy said. "I'd sell it, but then I'd just be passing the bedbug problem along to someone else, and I wouldn't do that. So we really have no choice."

The family has spent the last few days in the apartment cataloging everything they're leaving behind. They'll need it when they take landlord and building owner Buddy Aiken of Alfred to court over the state of the building.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this all existed long before we moved in," Schidzig said. "He knew about it, and he rented it anyway. And now we're caught."

Aiken has a different story.

"If there's bedbugs, she brought them with her," he said Thursday. "We cleaned that house before she moved in. There wasn't a flea, not a bedbug, not a problem until she was in there. She brought them in. She grew the bedbugs and spread them all over the house."

Everything was fine when the family moved in shortly before Christmas, Schidzig said.

"The carpeting was a little dirty, but we said that was OK," she said. "We told him we'd get those cleaned."

A few weeks in, however, she began noticing a rash on her arm. Then the rash spread to her children. On top of that, the family began suffering some sort of stomach malady, with nausea and diarrhea.

"We didn't know what it was," she said. They suspected fleas, but an exterminator confirmed the presence of bedbugs. That explained the rash, Schidzig said.

"We pulled a mirror off the wall, and there were literal nests behind it," Hardy said. "They were just in the wall, but nobody was living here and they were dormant. As soon as we moved in, they began moving around. We woke them up."

Schidzig claims Aiken instructed her to hire an exterminator and agreed to reimburse her. She did, paying $900 to fumigate the building in January. Then, they wound up in court in February when Schidzig and Hardy failed to pay that month's $800 rent.

"I thought that would be the easiest way to reimburse us for the exterminator," she said.

Aiken disputes that. He paid for the exterminators, he said. Schidzig was behind in her rent and facing eviction as of March 31.

Schidzig said she contacted the city in March when it was clear the extermination hadn't worked, and Code Enforcement Officer Tom Maynard came out to look around.

"I was there to look at the bedbugs, but I smelled something else," Maynard said. He looked around the back and found black water and suspected sewage clogging the cellar. That would explain the family's stomach problems, Schidzig said.

"Everything was frozen when we moved in and covered in snow," Hardy said. "We didn't know about the sewage until later on when it started to thaw out. Then we could smell it."

Maynard immediately condemned the building, giving everyone until April 30 to fix the problems or clear out.

Maynard said the city did contact Aiken two years ago about a broken sewer pipe in the basement of 29 Spring St. He was told it was fixed.

Aiken says his property is fixed. That the sewage is coming from a city pipe off of his property.

"I've seen it, spraying green water into my backyard," he said. "It's coming from somewhere, the hospital or a factory or something, and it flows into my backyard and then into that cellar. It's a wet basement, and it's going to have water. But it's not a broken pipe. There is nothing there for me to fix."

But Aiken said he can't fight the condemnation. He's already facing a March 16 foreclosure on the building for $110,479.30 he owes to CitiMortgage Inc. Lewiston assesses the building at $47,550, according to tax records.

"How can you fix something that doesn't exist?" he said. "There's no broken pipe, so there's nothing I can do. It's the city's fault, and they refuse to fix that pipe dumping on to my property."

The condemnation order still stands as of April 30, Maynard said, for the owner to either fix the problems or demolish the building.

Schidzig said they are worried someone will come in and claim all of the things they've left behind, but there's little they can do. Everything, from pots and pans to the children's play sets are suspect.

"I hope that doesn't happen, because they'll just be spreading the bedbugs everywhere," she said.

The family had taken to sleeping on a white sheet in the middle of the living room.

"You can see them crawling toward you," Hardy said. They kept baby-food jars filled with water at hand to collect the bedbugs.

"You don't want to squish them when you pick them up, because you're just squishing blood," he said. "So we put them in these jars to get rid of them."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Diane Tierney's picture

to marooned

I would also agree with you, that not everything can be blamed on the property owners in alot of instances. A s a Landlord myself, of course I agree. But according to Mr. Aiken's own statements, he says he had his pipe checked, and says it is not his pipe creating the problem, all fine and well. But the problem still is there, sewage on his property that could make some one very very sick. His most responsible thing to do was to take a loss on the renting of that house until all was resolved. He KNEW the problem existed already. These tenants would have not realized that particular problem until everything outside began to thaw since they moved in the winter. As for the bed bugs, during the cleaning of the vacant house to ready it for the next tenant, had who ever did the cleanning actually moved things, such as mirrors on the walls and such they would have seen them then. Do they not remove the mirrors before they paint the walls? As the young woman stated, the carpeting wasn't even cleaned however, and agreed to have those cleaned herself. I don't know about how other land lords out there are doing things these days, but I know that when I get an empty property(whether a house or apartment) I have a cleaning crew that goes in and cleans everything from top to bottom, replace all light bulbs etc. after my maintanance crew has gone in and repaintedd every room, they use an industrial machine and clean the carpets after they are finished. I try to have everything looking as good as new before that property will be rented out again. I do a personal inspection myself, to put the last okay on it and call it available. It's alot of work, but I can say I take pride in my properties, and I have had no complaints. I will NEVER rent out anything dirty, or in less of a condition I would would myself want to move into. I have one property(house) sitting right now, yes I had a sewage problem, the tree roots do grow up into those pipes and cause damage. It's no one's fault that it happens, but it is someone's fault if they don't tent to it right away. And is Mr. Aikens aware of the fast that if the pipe in your basesment breaks or backs up and the sewage has leaked from it, that every few months you are also required to lay down lime in that area every few months to get the odor neutralized completely? If you just leave it, the odor will keep surfacing and smell just as bad as when you had the leakage? So I will not even list that house as available until I am sure the odor is completely neutralized(usually takes about 6 months) I would rather take the loss of renting it, then taking a risk of making a family sick.
I personally know the young woman in question of this article, I have previously rented to her, and she was one of my best tenants. To believe that she brought those bed bugs into that house however, I would refuse to believe. Those little buggers layed dormant until people moved in, and they came out for a feast. The usual extermination that they would use for cock roachs does NOT kill bed bugs. I would be willing to guess that they were there from whoever lived there before Ms. Schidzig and Mr. Hardy moved their young family in there. In this case even as a landlord and reading this story, i have to side with the tenant, and they should be reimbursed for everything they have lost. Ms. Schidzig is not someone to just try to pass the buck, as I saw someone else on here make as a comment. Word can travel amongst land lords, or from tenants to other land lords when they give their references, and I can only say, Mr. Aiken's name has come through my office more then once. He may be a good land lord, perhaps he just needs to be a more conscientious one.

Diane Tierney's picture

A. Francis

You may have had a good experience at that house and with Mr. Aiken, but let me tell you this, I know Ms. Schidzig. I have previously rented to her and she was a very good tenant. Her only reason for having to move was because she was expecting another child, and needed a larger apartment, and unfortunately I didn't have one available or I would have not had one hesitiation on moving her to a larger one ! I find it very insulting to Ms. Schidzig that you would ask, where did she come from before moving into that house...a homeless shelter? NO she did not ! Ms. Schidzig is a clean person, and her children are always clean as well as her housing.
You may have rented from Mr. Aiken 2 years ago, but what about who lived there between the time you moved out and before Ms. Schidzig moved in. Your "googling" og bed bugs is correct in the fac of how fast they multiply, however... as others on here have also already stated, they can actually lay dormant and survive without eating for 2 years ! Whoever lived there before Ms. Schidzig surely carried them off with them to the next place they moved to. I have seen the house in question, and though it looks to be a nice house, unfortunately it is not being properly maintained. I remember what it looked like in yester-year when it had still belonged to becky2972's grand parents. Each year, the property just seems to deteriorate more. It also sounds like you are claiming you never smelled the sewage from this leaking pipe while you lived there ? I have one property now that I do have a sewage pipe that has a leak, the smell is horrible, I have had the pipe fixed, and I will not even rent it until the odor has been neutralized...BUT, is Mr. Aiken aware of the fact that even after a pipe is repaired, it s his responsibility to spread lime on the ground in that basement every few months to neutralize the odor the sewage has left in the ground? He can't just go blaming the city. According to this story Ms. Schidzig didn't report this sewage leak, because as she said she moved in, in the winter, and everything was frozen over, so you wouldn't have even known about that part until the thaw. I can guarantee Ms. Schidzig did NOT bring those bed bug into that house ! I would put my business and reputation on the line for her ! Mr. Aiken blames the city for this "Pipe problem" which means he has been aware of it, and he should never have even rented out that house until a solution to the problem had been reached! Is he even aware of how sick he could have made that entire family? Does he care ? I don't like to say whether another property owner is good or bad, I will just say that Mr. Aiken's name has come through my office more then once . And as far as why she would decide to leave everything behind, well extermination for bed bugs does not work. Like a cock roach however, they do crawl into the motors of appliancs, computers, televisions and lay their eggs too. I can not blame her for leaving everything behind. She has an autistic child, and I can also understand why she would not want to take his toys with them, even though she could boil them, she would still be reluctant of him placing them in his mouth. I feel very terrible for this young family, and I am glad to know they have moved to Portland, and hope all will be well with them there. I also believe they should be reimbursed for every thing they have lost. So before you ask where someone may have come from A. Francis, I think you should choose your words a litle more carefully, this family has been through more then enough already, no need to make them sound like "street people" which they are certainly far from being.

 's picture

Landlord

I am a landlord and one time had cockroaches moved into an apartment by a new tenant.  I had to clean the building and after moving her and her belongings off of the premises have never had another bug in my building.  I have had some nasty tenants so don't blame every renters problems on the owners.

Marvin Coker's picture

Comments that have been removed

Excuse me preaves but the things that I said were very true about Mr. o'brien I worked for him for 6 years and he is that way even worse, he's very deceitful and evil.

Anyways there is people running other people down like the tracfone thing the other day for example people were really bashing the poor people and putting them all into one catagory like they all were having a grand ol time on the tax payers money. It was not cool, but I didn't see their bashing the poor get taken down.

Why didn't they get taken down preaves? Please tell me.

Marvin Coker's picture

[removed]

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How do you get to owe $110

How do you get to owe $110 grand on something that's valued at $47,550?

Marvin Coker's picture

Don't rent

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"If there's bedbugs, she

"If there's bedbugs, she brought them with her."

What's Aiken suggesting, "Have bugs, will travel?"

Sarah LaPierre's picture

Those of you who say to check

Those of you who say to check out a landlord and building are right...but...are you supposed to crack open the walls to check for nesting bedbugs??  The adult bugs can live for up to 2 years...can I say it again...2 whole damn YEARS WITHOUT EATING!  And they are still laying eggs during this time.  Granted, the baby bedbugs can only go 5 days without a food source, but 2 years is a very long time.  Not to mention the fact that the insecticides/pesticides that are approved for use in homes and residential areas WILL NOT KILL BEDBUGS!!!  All they do is keep them from coming out, so they will hibernate in the walls, in the next apartment or building next door.  It is next to impossible to get rid of them.  The best thing to do is what this family *is* doing.  But not everyone can afford to move, let alone without any of their things.  It's a bad situation all around, for the tenants and their children, the landlord and THE CITY as a whole.  Where will these bugs go when no one lives in the home??  If the city demolishes the home, where will the bedbugs go then??

 

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Excellent post georgie anna!

Excellent post georgie anna! Tenants should take the time to check their prospective landlords the same as a responsible landlord should check out prospective tenants. Through friends and acquaintances it should be easy to know who the problem landlords are; a quick check with the code enforcement office should also help in knowing if there have been problems with a landlord and housing unit. As a former landlord it seems every one knew who the problem landlords were and it works to a tenant's disadvantage in looking for housing when their history  includes living in undesirable landlord's buildings. Just like in any other situation looking for housing involves making responsible choices and doing your homework.

Carrie LaRoche's picture

I don't understand...

I moved into an apartment once and later realized there were roaches. 

I did have to throw out some furniture I wasn't comfortable with the ability to clean but didn't throw everything I own out. 

I first bombed the hell out of the place and kept it closed for an entire weekend. Came back in and found numerous bugs... appalling since I had no idea how bad it really was. 

I brought my laundry to a laundromat (sorry laundromat) and washed everything in hot water to kill any eggs. I cleaned everything with hot, soapy water and re-srayed everything before putting it in boxes. 

I didn't bring anything with me and never had another problem anywhere else I lived.  It was a lot of work but I certainly couldn't afford to replace everything. 

Beds, sofas and other soft furnishings should probably be disposed of.... but everything else ?

Audrey Alcala's picture

Landlords

I agree with "seacat7up".....when you rent a place...problems can't always be seen right off. I speak from experience after renting a mobile home from hell rented from a horrible landlord. What looked like a wonderful mobile home turned into a nightmare. Electrical troubles, leaking roof, heating problems, rotting floor that had been covered up..........etc.  Getting the landlord to do anything was a joke. It always seems like once they have you in and the rent is paid.....you're on your own.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

In an area that has the

In an area that has the amount of vacant apartments Lewiston has, I find it hard to feel sorry for any tenant claiming fault with their landlord. They (tenants) have a responsibility to themselves to inspect the rental housing before moving in. As far as this family, lets face it, bedbugs (or any bug) will not live on or in pots & pans. Other items can be washed in boiling water and be sanitized. Some things may have to be disposed of, but not everything you own. I do not sympathize with the landlord either; people like this should not be in the rental housing business. My main question is where is the City code enforcement department. Instead of just staying in their office waiting for complaints to act, they should be in the field inspecting properties and closing sub-standard housing. It is time for them to use their back bone and stand up to the offenders.  As it is they do some inspections and threaten and bluff, but if the property owner ignores them they go away.

bedbugs

Its not the tenants fault at all.  I currently live in an old apt in an old house.  Before I moved in it took the landlord three weeks to get the water running.  (he pays for the water & sewer)  it also took him 3 weeks in the cold to get the furnace running after I had spent 250.00 for oil and froze for three weeks until he decided to finally get the furnace running.  Now my front door doesn't lock at all, he knew about that too. Told me the door is no good after being broke down by police a few years ago... but it was too cold to fix.  I've been here since sept 09 and it still isn't fixed.  My daughter and I live in the living room because it's too cold in the bedrooms even with the heat on.   No we're facing eviction because we had to buy oil and pay elec instead of rent because i was unemployed.  I just started a job but now I'm 4 months behind.  Yea they worked with me but this apt has alot of issues.  not enough outlets no fire escape except the front door,  So what looks good at the time isn't always.  We even still have a celing light that came out of the ceiling and still hasn't been fixed and the landlord lives in the house we rent.  It only goes to show there are a lot of jerks that are landlords and only cares about the money, not the tenant.  I feel for this family.  Luckily they found  place to go.  Im still looking and I don't have the money for anything, and I need to be out by next fri apr 30th.  I'm waiting for the state to let me know about housing.  Until I hear, I guess my 6 yr old daughter and I will be homeless and on the street.

Sarah LaPierre's picture

An infestation like that

An infestation like that doesn't happen in a matter of months, besides a one time fumigation, intended for fleas will NOT get rid of bedbugs...these can not be killed with the type of pesticides we have available today...it takes starving them and the adult bugs can live for almost 2 years...got that 2 YEARS...without feeding.  This family is living a nightmare.  Whether they brought them in or not should not make a difference, there should be help available to them.  Bedbugs are pretty much almost impossible to get rid of.

Peter Blake's picture

Amazing

It is amazing that people would even rent some place like this to begin with and for $800 a month surely they could have done better finding a place.  I understand with several children it may be difficult to find enough bedrooms or someone who is willing to rent to you, but come on now... did they really put any effort into looking for an apt. before they took this one?  We have some doubts about that.  Common sense says never get involved with doing this in lieu of rent.  Those issues always come back to haunt people especially when there is nothing in writing.  Demolish the building.  Don't blame the city or the hospital or the neighbors.  Maintain your property.  We Reason this goes for all tax payers and recommend that all renters get for the small fee what is often refered to a renters insurance.  It really helps, but no one ever thinks it will be they who are in need.  Reason with ME.

Marvin Coker's picture

Slumlord

This guy is a complete idiot, he's a no good slumlord that tries to blame everyone else for everything

These slumlords are very evil people, I know because I used to work for one.

He kept me so tensed up from his yelling, threatening and belitteling me.

A funace needed to be replaced in another part of the building and he blamed the woman there for it because she controlled the heat, he said she burned out the furnace, so he raised her rent by $85.00 to help pay for it, he thought it was funny.

Anyways I got tired of all of bull that I gave up the low rent and went somewhere else,

I pay almost double what I paid there but I have peace of mind.

I hope that the family has a good day in court and get the award they deserve.

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