A proposed class action alleges the operators of Birmingham, Alabama’s Bankhead Towers Apartments have willfully and wantonly violated federal health and safety regulations in refusing to correct what the plaintiff calls a “pervasive pest problem”—in particular with bed bugs.
The plaintiff, a Bankhead resident, alleges in the 22-page complaint that the failure of defendants Bankhead Towers Apartments LTD. LLC; Bankhead 2192 AL LLC; Millennia Housing Management, LTD.; and Millennia Housing Development LTD, LLC to address the pest issue has created an “uninhabitable living situation” while the entities continue to profit from leasing “pest-ridden apartments” to low-income and/or vulnerable members of the community.
According to the lawsuit, health and safety regulations set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates that all premises that receive funding through Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 be decent, safe, sanitary and in good repair. Moreover, all areas and components of such housing must be free of vermin, have no evidence of vermin infestation and comply with local building and maintenance codes, the case says.
The lawsuit states, however, that Bankhead Towers and its co-defendants, major recipients of Section 8 funding, have refused to do anything to address a bed bug problem plaguing renters’ residences. According to the complaint, the plaintiff has, to no avail, “persistently advised” Bankhead management and maintenance staff of a bed bug infestation throughout the building and has herself “repeatedly suffered the indignity of being bitten by these vermin.”
The lawsuit alleges the defendants have gone so far as to try to hide the apparent bed bug infestation from residents, including new and returning renters.
“Management and maintenance persistently failed to correct this vermin infestation, which remains present today,” the suit claims. “Defendants, as a matter of policy express or implied, attempted to conceal the vermin infestation from Residents, including those renewing leases or moving into the building, by omitting mention of bed bugs in Resident meetings, notices, or other communications and ignoring notices that infestation was occurring.
Broadly, the defendants have received and thus should have been well aware of a series of notices and reports issued over the last decade by HUD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to a nationwide resurgence of bed bugs, the complaint asserts. Nevertheless, Bankhead residents have been “abandoned by management” and left to discover on their own that the building was plagued by a spreading bed bug infestation, the plaintiff says.
As the lawsuit tells it, the effect of the defendants’ inaction toward the bed bug problem on residents has been alarming, leading some to periodically live elsewhere amid feelings of fear, shame, anxiety and disgust. From the complaint:
“Due to the inaction of management, Residents feared falling asleep, afraid of the vermin gorging upon their blood, afraid dawn would find them itchy, inflamed, and speckled with red bite marks and/or streaks throughout their bodies.
Due to the inaction of management, Residents grew increasingly apprehensive about the real risk of infections, allergic reactions, and/or scarring resulting from this vermin infestation.
Due to the inaction of management; Residents grew to feel shame and humiliation for the pervasive presence of vermin in their leased unit and/or wider apartment building;
Due to the inaction of management, Residents suffered from constant fear and anxiety the vermin would invade their rented unit and/or remain in the same.
Due to this unrelenting fear of vermin, Residents periodically had to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, when the toll of cohabitating with vermin or the ever-present threat of invasions of vermin became unbearable.”
To date, Bankhead Towers “remains infested with bedbugs and current Residents continue to be endangered and damaged,” the case claims.
The lawsuit looks to represent all individuals located and living in Bankhead Towers Apartments from within the longest period of time allowed by statute before the filing of this lawsuit up through and including the date of any judgment in the case.
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