At Campus Lodge Apartments, USF student battles his apartment management over bed bugs

6:14 PM, Nov 29, 2010   |    comments
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USF student Michael Bennett shows his arm bitten by bed bugs
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Tampa, FL - Awoken by bed bugs biting his body last Tuesday morning, University of South Florida student Michael Bennett packed up his stuff and left his apartment keys at the front desk.

Read: USF student forced out of apartment following infestation of bed bugs

"I was so grossed out," said Bennett.

Bennett, 21, had only been living in the furnished unit at the Campus Lodge Apartments since August. With final exams this week, he says, the timing is terrible.

"I mean, this is just more than a place to stay. This interrupts my whole life. I got school, studying, everything. It has just been a major hassle," he said of moving out of his apartment during finals week into his parents' home in Spring Hill, 45 minutes away from school and work.

He was hassled even through the holiday thanks to a big bill. Creeped out by the critters, Bennett refused to return to the apartment, even after the exterminator treated it.

So, management sent an early termination of lease letter with a balance of $3,850.30.

"Four grand is almost what I paid for my car! I mean, that's a lot of money," said Bennett.

When 10 News got in touch with corporate management with Campus Lodge out of Texas, they said the bill was actually just a clerical error. In fact, they say they are allowing him out of his lease with no early termination fees because "it's the right thing to do."

"I think that's the fair thing to do," said Bennett (who had not heard from management himself by the time of our broadcast on Monday.)

To find out what's fair for you, if you're in a similar situation, we sat down with landlord-tenant law expert, Attorney Dennis Lopez of Tampa.

"Reasonable people agree that the presence of bed bugs in your living space would in fact render it uninhabitable and relieve him of further obligations," said Lopez.

What constitutes uninhabitable is up for debate and sometimes a judge has to settle that. While tenants do have rights, Lopez says, they must document their debacle.

"The law does require that they are to give written notice of that to the landlord and if the situation is not rectified in a reasonable period of time, the tenant is relieved of their obligation to continue to pay rent under the lease," said Lopez.

With the bed bugs behind him, Bennett can focus on his finals.

The Campus Lodge Apartments corporate management says it has gotten rid of the bed bugs and has already found a new tenant to move into Bennett's apartment.

Florida law does not require landlords to disclose prior problems, like bed bugs. That goes for hotels, too. However, citizens have started generating a list of bed bug infestations in hotels and apartments around the country. Click here to check that list.

Erica Pitzi, 10 News Reporter

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