Bedbugs fall well short of the next global pandemic. They do share one thing with swine flu, however: It's impossible to know for sure the exact course of their spreading.
You wouldn't know that from this week's Rogue, Bakke Properties, LLC.
Five weeks ago, Bakke Properties identified disabled tenant Edith LeVar as the cause of the bedbug infestation in her unit at the Bronaugh Apartments, the federally subsidized building Bakke owns on Southwest Morrison Street.
"On March 31, 2009, bedbugs were discovered in your unit," lawyer Leah Sykes writes in a 30-day eviction notice from Bakke Properties' law firm, Bittner Hahs, PC. "You are the cause of the bedbug infestation in your unit [emphasis added]."
Multnomah County's advocates for low-income and disabled Portlanders disagree, and say the landlord overreacted by taking legal action first. "You cannot blame a person for a bedbug infestation," says Carolyn Waterfall, a program supervisor for the county's aging and disability services.
LeVar says she has no idea how bedbugs entered her apartment. The tiny, blood-sucking vermin can be carried on people's clothing, luggage or furniture.
LeVar does acknowledge her landlord had another problem with her: Bakke said LeVar's son and a granddaughter were living in her unit. But LeVar thinks Bakke used the bed bugs as an excuse to try to kick her out.
Sykes declined comment. A Bronaugh Apartments manager referred the Rogue Desk to the building's owner, Kenneth Bakke, who didn't respond.
After advocates with the county intervened on her behalf, LeVar was able to prepare her unit for fumigation and Bakke dropped its effort to evict her. They shouldn't have gone to that extreme in the first place.
Correction August 17, 2009:
On May 6 of this year, WW wrote a column about Bakke Properties, LLC, and an issue it had with a tenant, Edith LeVar, in its property on Southwest Morrison Street. This column needs some clarification. Specifically: The column implied that Bakke began an eviction process because bedbugs were discovered in LeVar's apartment. In fact, there were three reasons given in the eviction notice: the bedbugs, the assertion that LeVar's son and granddaughter were living in the unit but were not named tenants, and the clutter that LeVar had left in front of her apartment. LeVar was not evicted, because she remedied those issues, including cooperation with Bakke's pest control treatment. Bakke had the unit fumigated and eradicated the bedbugs on May 1. WW regrets the original publication of the column without this clarification.