Concord Seeks Arrest Warrant for Landlord Who Allegedly Ignored Bedbug Infestation

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Lisa P. White
Contra Costa Times

The city seeks an arrest warrant for a landlord who allegedly has refused to do anything to eliminate bedbugs from an apartment building on California Street.

Since April, property owner Athan Magganas has ignored multiple violation notices and fines totaling $800 from the city for failing to exterminate bedbugs in two apartments in his 20-unit building at 2175 California St., according to Concord police.

In September, the city filed a request for an arrest warrant for Magganas in Contra Costa Superior Court on one count of misdemeanor violation of the municipal code. The infraction is punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both, according to Lance Bayer, special counsel to the city of Concord's city attorney's office.

A judge has not ruled yet on the city's request, Bayer said Monday.

Magganas did not respond to calls seeking comment.

In March, Concord launched a six-month pilot program that treats bedbugs as a public nuisance and gives the Police Department's Code Enforcement Unit the authority to oversee tenant complaints. In the 15 other cases reported to police, the property owners worked with the city to address the problem.

Once a resident files a bedbug complaint, a code enforcement officer mails a notice to the property owners, giving them 30 days to hire a pest management company to inspect and do extermination work at the rental unit. If the owner doesn't respond to the letter within 10 days and a county employee subsequently verifies the presence of bedbugs, the city will levy fines starting at $100 and increasing to $500 for each citation, plus a re-inspection fee, until the landlord eradicates the insects.

City Manager Valerie Barone told the City Council in September that the bedbug program has been so successful, Concord is "rolling it out as a regular part of our code enforcement efforts."

Bedbugs are tiny, flat, reddish-brown insects that feed on human blood and usually bite at night. They live in upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding as well as along baseboards and in cracks and crevices. Experts say bedbugs are difficult to eradicate because pesticides don't really work, and the insects move easily between apartments.

Groups representing tenants and landlords praised the bedbug program, which they helped the city develop.

The owners of two apartment buildings on Diana Court put the tenants up in a hotel while an exterminator tented and fumigated the structures, according to Guillermo Elenes, from Tenants Together, a statewide renters' rights organization.

"There has been progress made, I want to emphasize that. We are happy with the results," Elenes said. "But there is much more that could be done; there are still a lot of unreported situations."

He pointed out that the recorded message on the city's code enforcement phone line is in English, which has been an obstacle for some Spanish-speaking residents. In addition to tenants, Elenes urged the city to consider allowing social workers, community advocates and other third parties to report bedbug infestations.

Theresa Karr, executive director of the California Apartment Association's Contra Costa/Napa/Solano Division, said Concord code enforcement officers appear to be doing a good job.

"I think that they're not there to nail you, they're just there to resolve the problem," Karr said. "The thing that, hopefully, will happen here is that they will start having fewer infestations." 

FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. 

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