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2 On Your Side: Seniors, Landlord Spar Over Bed Bug Bill

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY (CBSLA) — It is the last thing you want to find in your bed -- bed bugs.

Two senior citizens say they're being billed thousands after their landlord refused to cover the extermination.

Solomon Aleka called 2 On Your Side, asking for help with a bed bug problem.

Inside the apartment he shares with his wife in San Bernardino County, you can see the bugs.

How has the experience been for him?

"Oh terrible. It's tough. It's hard for my wife too," said Aleka.

The Air Force veteran got emotional talking to Lazar because he says his landlord at Loma Linda Springs wants the couple to pay for the extermination -- to the tune of $2,400.

"My wife and I can take care of ourselves, but that's not the point," said Aleka. "They're taking advantage of people."

People like Martha Jimenez, who lives in the same senior apartment complex: her husband has ALS and is paralyzed from the neck down.

"I take care of him day and night," said Jimenez.

Last spring, Jimenez says she woke up, covered in bed bug bites.

"My chest, my legs, my arms — it was horrible," said Jimenez.

What's worse  — the 74-year-old is also on the hook to pay $2,400 for the extermination. It's money she just doesn't have.

"I just couldn't speak. I just couldn't talk," said Jimenez. "Right now, I am struggling to pay."

2 On Your Side turned to an expert on tenants rights, Larry Gross, who is the executive director of the Coalition For Economic Survival. He says California law requires that landlords maintain a unit as being "habitable" and free from rodents and bugs.

"If there are situations such as bed bugs, it's the responsibility of the landlord to eradicate it, and they're responsible for paying for it," said Gross.

Gross says the only way a landlord can attempt to stick their tenant with the bill is if they can prove the tenant is responsible for the bed bugs.

"When you're talking about a building with multiple units in it, it's hard to pick out one tenant as being responsible for them because they can move from one unit to another," said Gross.

So how can Solomon and Martha's landlord, Spruce Grove Inc. out of Santa Ana, get away with sending them the bill?

"Unfortunately there are landlords that will pass along costs — even if it's illegal," said Gross.

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