August 15th 2016

Chistine Kim Monday
Channel 3 News

Bed bugs are infesting a Las Vegas home and the renters say their landlord hasn't done anything about it. They've been living in those conditions for months and say they were recently told it was their problem.

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Bed bugs are infesting a Las Vegas home and the renters say their landlord hasn't done anything about it. They've been living in those conditions for months and say they were recently told it was their problem.

"They crawl up the walls, they're on the baby gate, you can see them on their toys," said Kathleen Ogara.

She and her husband Kevin Fulgenzi moved into the house in April, and shortly after, noticed what they first thought were ticks from the dog. They say they tried various ways to get rid of the bugs, but the situation got worse. They started seeing bite marks all over their bodies, including on their 1-year-old boy, Joseph.

"If we knew what they were, we would take action right away, but I've never seen a bed bug before, until this," said Fulgenzi. "They're getting worse and worse. Every time we spray, it seems like they come back even more."

They realized the bugs were actually bedded bugs when Ogara took her son to the pediatrician, who told them what they were. Ogara says she emailed her landlord immediately after, about the problem.

"I wrote this email saying I wanted help and didn't know what to do. The next day, I go into labor," said Ogara. "We come back to a bug infested house. We've tried and they didn't call us back. We had pest control people tell us it's spread throughout the house, you need to tent the house. The other day, I'm feeding her and I see a bed bug right next to her head on the burper, and I look, put my head up and they're all over my hair and pillow."

"They responded that it's not their problem and we need to deal with it. That's why we did all the bug sprays and all that stuff. We thought we didn't have a right to stand on," said Fulgenzi.

The Directing Attorney of the Civil Law Self-Help Center Lauren Pena says under Nevada law, the landlord has a duty to address the bed bug problem after a written notice.

"When there's a situation like bed bugs, that becomes a habitability issue, and upon notice, a landlord has 14 days to fix the problem or use his or her best efforts to fix the problem," said Pena. "Then, the tenant has several rights under Nevada law. One of them is to withhold rent, the other is to terminate the lease and move, the third is to sue the landlord, or the fourth is to fix the issue herself and then withhold that portion from the rent."

Ogara says more than 14 days have passed since she first sent the written notice about the bed bug problem, and her family is still struggling with the infestation. In fact, she says she received a 5-day eviction notice because she withheld rent. Pena says the best thing to do is to make sure you bring written notice and the rent check to court.

"Written notice is important, so keep the written notice and if you decide to withhold rent, then keep a copy of that letter, post your rent with the court, and that's the best way to execute your defense before the judge. This is the best way of saying this landlord knew about the habitability issue, they didn't comply with the law by fixing it within 14 days, I’m withholding my rent. Look, judge, I have it with me today and then proceeding forth that way."

Ogara says it's been a frustrating and confusing process.

"I don't know what else I'm supposed to do because I can't pay a huge rent and pay for {getting rid of bed bugs} on top of it," said Ogara. "It's disgusting. It's so gross. You can see it everywhere and you're constantly scratching and itching."