Resident of senior citizens complex claims complaints about bed bugs lead to his eviction

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Bed bugs aren't hard to find at one Fresno senior living center. One was crawling on the eviction notice Robert Valenzuela received from the managers of Fresno's Senior Citizens Village. He had a few more captured in a baggie. He says they are such a problem he covers his chair with a plastic tarp to keep them off.

"I have to live among that as a punishment, why do I have to live like that. They can come and spray, help me, but they are not doing it, instead they gave me an eviction notice for 60 days to get out of the apartment."

The management did send in a pest control company but they told Bob he didn't properly prepare his apartment for spraying, so they couldn't do the job.

Guillermo Moreno, the Assistant Manager of the Senior Citizens Village denies Valenzuela's eviction has anything to do with his complaints about bed bugs.

"We don't evict for pest control issues."

Moreno says confidentiality rules prevent him from giving the reason Valenzuala's lease is being terminated. And Moreno maintains bed bugs are caused by the tenants.

"We rent all units pest free. So any type of pest issues normally rest with the tenant."

The apartment next door also became infested with bed bugs a year after the 88-year-old woman who lives there moved in. Her son, Michael Carnes tells us,

"It was a nightmare, they were all in my mom's chair and all that."

Carnes went to management and was told the bugs were his mother's fault.

"And so I informed the people over there at Senior Village and they said, no, your Mom had to bring them over here with her after she'd been here a year. All of the sudden after being here a year they appeared?"

The problem was not resolved until Carnes paid management $150 to have a pest control company come in. Moreno says residents are responsible for the pests they bring in.

"Whoever originates the bed bug, whoever originates the pest has to pay the fee because they originated the pests. If you are an apartment owner you can't go around spraying for free if your tenants continually cause pest issues."

Residents believe the bugs came from an old mattress that was left sitting next to the building. Tenant advocate Simone Cranston Rhodes says bedbugs have been a problem there for months.

"In August of 2015, me and my co- worker became aware that there's many senior citizens in this Senior Village that had bed bugs and roaches we were trying to advocate for them and improve their situation. "

But she and Michael Carnes say few were willing to speak up for fear of retaliation. Carnes told Action News;

"All these people are scared. Especially now, they are using Bob as an example, see, look what happens when you speak out. We are kicking him out."

Moreno emphatically denies Bob Valenzuela is the victim of any sort of retaliation.

"When a tenant reaches a non-renewal of (the) lease it's because they've had multiple rule violations but doesn't affect them but affects all of their neighbors.

Robert Valenzuala is 72. He's lived at Senior Citizens Village for 7 years. He says he has no place to go. He has until the end of May.

Management notes they have more than 700 units, of low-income senior citizen housing, and have so far had only a few complaints about bed bugs.

The city of Fresno's Code Enforcement Department tells Action News that they have received 10 complaints about bed bugs at Senior Citizens Village over the past 16 years. The city also notes that the responsibility for dealing with vermin like bed bugs lies with the property owners, not the tenants.
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