Allegedly Ignoring Bedbugs Bites Landlord; Judge Issues Arrest Warrant

Monday, December 22, 2014
Lisa P. White
Contra Costa Times

A landlord who allegedly ignored a bedbug infestation at his California Street apartment building turned himself into police last month after the court issued a warrant for his arrest.

On Nov. 7, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David Flinn issued the warrant for Athan Magganas on one count of misdemeanor violation of the city's municipal code regarding insect infestations, and set bail at $10,000. Magganas surrendered at the Concord Police Department on Nov. 13, posted bail and was released, said Sgt. Russ Norris, code enforcement supervisor.

In March, Concord launched a program that treats bedbugs as a public nuisance and gives the Concord Police Department's Code Enforcement Unit the authority to oversee tenant complaints.

Attorney Rena Rickles, who represents Magganas, did not return calls seeking comment.

The city alleges that Magganas violated the municipal code by failing "to maintain structures and exterior property of multiple-family rental dwelling units free of rodent, insect or vermin infestation, which created an unsafe or unsanitary environment on the subject or adjacent buildings or properties."

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 Concord's city attorney's office. Magganas is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 26, Bayer said.

Since April, 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 records.

As a last resort, the city is using the legal system to force Magganas to rid the property of the tiny insects that feed on human blood and usually bite at night.

In the 16 other cases reported to police since the ordinance went into effect, property owners worked with the city to address infestation problems. In addition to the Magganas case, four others are still open, Norris said.

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 levies fines starting at $100 and increasing to $500 for each citation, plus a re-inspection fee, until the landlord eradicates the insects.

Tenant advocates and the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords, have praised the city's approach.

Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate because they live in upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding as well as along baseboards and in cracks and crevices. They also can move easily between apartments. 




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