Richmond tenant wants rent refund because of bed bugs

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond woman is fighting to get her money back after she says she signed a lease and paid a month-and-a-half in rent, only to find out her new apartment was infested with bed bugs.

Beatrice Burton said she sued to live by herself in a house and she wanted to downsize, so she checked out an apartment complex called Kingly Ones in Richmond.

“I was shown an apartment that was really nice, it had a fireplace, bay window and then after signing the lease, being handed the key, I went into the apartment I was assigned to and, lo-and-behold, there were bedbugs and there were a lot of cosmetic damages, it was just horrible!” Burton exclaimed.

Burton said she never moved into the place because she did not want bugs to infest her belongings.

“I’ve worked for what I got, nobody gave me anything, nobody. I’ve worked for what I have and I have nice stuff and I would not put it in there,” she said.

After she saw the bugs, Burton said she made an about-face to the apartment manager’s office to ask for a refund.

“The manager tells me no, they can spray, they can come in and treat it and then they have to come back in two more weeks and retreat,” Burton explained. “Like, what am I supposed to do while you’re doing that? I paid you my money, I paid you over 900 dollars to move into here.”

8News spoke to a manager who wished not to be identified.

“We are aware of the situation, been working with her to come to a resolution,” they said. “(We’re working) to address her issues, they’re working with her.”

Burton filed a complaint with Richmond’s Department of Planning and Development. The city sent a letter to the apartment complex to address the plumbing, electrical and water heating.

The letter states that “failure to comply with this notice may result in criminal court action and fines up to $2,500 per violation, per day.”

Attorney Russ Stone said usually cases like this are settled and determined by the lease that was signed, but there are exceptions.

“But it doesn’t end with the lease because there’s also the Virginia residential landlord tenant act in Virginia that says that certain things are basically are the responsibility of either the landlord or the tenant,” Stone said. “Now, when it comes to bedbugs or any other kind infestation that could make an apartment uninhabitable — and that’s the key word, whether it’s habitable or not — but certainly a bedbug infestation could make an apartment uninhabitable, then the duty of the resident is to notify the landlord that we have this problem. Then the law says it’s pretty much the duty of the landlord to fix the problem whether it’s through treatment of whatever it can be done.”

“Ultimately it’s going to be up to a judge to decide whether the landlord has to give the money back it seems to me she has a pretty good case.”

For the time being, Burton said she will continue to pay her rent through an escrow account until the matter is resolved in court.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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