On Your Side: Protecting you against bed bugs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As you plan spring break and summer vacation, a warning about bedbugs!

In the last fiscal year, more than 200 hotels across the state were cited for bedbug violations. There are problems at local apartments as well.

"All these black spots are from the bedbugs," said Shaniqua Fields, who lives in an apartment in Jacksonville.

Fields said she very recently dealt with a bedbug infestation in her apartment.

"Gross," she said. "That's the only word that can describe it."

She claims there were hundreds of critters crawling and claims she still keeps her clothing in bags.

"They would crawl on me," she said, "I even had a bedbug on me at work."

Complaints about landlords and bed bugs is one of the most common complaints to our On Your Side team. But the problem extends to hotels too.

Florida hotels and motels are inspected two to three times a year. Our investigation showed that last year, there were 210 violations statewide. In Duval County, 21 hotels were given bed bug warnings in 2013.

FCN went to a motel on Kings Avenue. During its most recent inspection, a high priority warning was issued. Problems reportedly included bug infestations, and other issues that can't be mentioned at dinner time. The hotel general manager said the problems were fixed immediately and then passed a re-inspection.

A similar story at a hotel on Salisbury Road. The desk clerk showed FCN room 234, which inspectors said had 10 bedbugs. It passed a re-inspection too.

"Generally, the heat in a dryer above 113, 115 degrees will kill the bedbugs," Peninsular Pest Control's Technical Director said Thursday.

The challenge is, when you check in, hotels are not obligated to tell you about recent bedbug problems.

Attorney Mike Hancock, who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death, said there is no requirement in the state of Florida to post a sign or warn all customers that there have been bed bugs in any rooms, at any time.

He also said there is no law requiring hotels to refund you of a bed bug problem. Typically, he said they will move you to another room. He said it's definitely possible that you can get a refund.

Hancock recommends that you:

1. Report the bugs to management

2. Don't leave the hotel before you report it to management.

3. Show them the bites on your body

In Orlando's Orange County, home of dozens of entertainment choices, 31 hotels were cited last year. Bottom line, do your homework before you book.

And in Shaniqua's case, know your rights as a tenant.

Shaniqua's apartment property management told FCN they are diligently working to resolve her bed bug problem. They said they do not know where the bugs came from. The property managers have recently treated her apartment and have given her a full month of free rent for her inconvenience.

The management told FCN that if Shaniqua is still having an issue with bedbugs, they guarantee they will fix it.

You First, here is some important information:

-The Jacksonville Bed Bug Task Force- 904-255-7450

-If you have complaints or find bed bugs in your hotel, call the Department of Business and Professional Regulation immediately at 850-487-1395

-If you have a problem or complaint about your landlord, call 1-800-HELP-FLA

-Check apartments and Hotels in North America for bed bugs via The Bedbug Registry: http://www.bedbugregistry.com/

-CDC warns of acute illnesses associated with bed bug insecticide chemicals: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm6037.pdf

-CDC Information on bed bugs: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/

-The landlord's obligation to maintain the premises: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String&URL=0000-0099/0083/Sections/0083.51.html

-The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Bed Bug Guide: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/hr/forms/documents/5030_096.pdf

-Hotel inspection process information: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/2009FoodCode.html

-The number of licensed establishments by county in Florida: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/hr/reports/statistics/documents/licensesunitsbycounty.pdf

-Request a refund: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/documents/RefundRequest.pdf

-File a complaint: https://www.myfloridalicense.com/entercomplaint.asp?SID=

-Information from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on how to stop bed bugs in hotels safely: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-hotel-eng.pdf


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