HINSDALE — Residents of an apartment complex say they are unhappy with management’s response to a bedbug infestation there, while the building’s owner says it’s simply following its exterminator’s advise.

Residents at Hinsdale Main Street Associates first alerted Southwestern Community Services to the bug problem in January. Southwestern hired exterminators with bug-sniffing dogs to inspect all 16 apartments in the two-building complex.

Three apartments tested positive and Southwestern has hired exterminators to treat them next week. But some residents said Southwestern was slow to act and should treat the whole building.

“Southwestern is adamant that that’s not going to happen,” said Beth Farr Salg, who lives next to one of the infested apartments. “They don’t care what we have to say or what anyone else has to say. They’re only doing those three apartments.”

But Southwestern’s Compliance Officer James A. Stitham said the agency is doing what the exterminators advised in treating only the three apartments. He would not rule out treating the rest of the building in the future.

“This problem is getting addressed professionally … If I was living next door or near bed bugs, I’d be concerned, too,” Stitham said.

There will be a follow-up inspection within 30 days of the treatment, he added.
One resident who declined to give her name because she was embarrassed to have bed bugs in her home said after the initial inspection she was told she didn’t have any, only to get a phone call last week saying she actually did.

Since then, she has been washing all the clothes and linens in the house, which she shares with her boyfriend and 5-year-old daughter.

“I’ve just been vacuuming and washing and vacuuming and washing. I don’t know what else to do,” she said.

She filed a complaint with the town regarding Southwestern’s response. Hinsdale Building Inspector Rodney Lawrence could not be reached for comment.

“You’re living out of trash bags. They haven’t provided anything, just a pamphlet, that’s it,” she said.

Bed bugs can hide out in household clutter, books or carpeting and spread easily. Tell-tale signs of them are small, dark specks on bed sheets or mattresses, which are drops of blood.

Legally, who is responsible for handling bed bugs is a gray area, according to Sarah Mattson, policy director at N.H. Legal Assistance and a member of Bed Bug Action Committee, a partnership of public health workers, landlords and tenant advocates based in Manchester.

Generally, she said, landlords are required to provide safe, habitable living spaces, she said. But there are no rules at the state level for how fast they must respond and how much they must exterminate.

“There is not a specific law on bedbugs in the landlord-tenant statue on the books now,” she said.

That could change soon. A bill currently before the N.H. House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee would create a commission to look at bed bugs in the state given the bugs’ resurgence nationwide.

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