Cleveland family hit by bed bug attack at rental home

Tenants contact the Cleveland Health Department

CLEVELAND - Olivia Lawrence and her two children thought they were renting a nice home on Cleveland's east side, but a bed bug infestation at the house has left them scrambling to take cover.

Lawrence, and her 16-year-old son Devonta, showed NewsChannel5 pictures of their bed bug bites.

"Nasty, disgusting, horrible and filthy," said Devonta. "I just kept waking up with little bites all over me, bites all over my chest."

Lawrence contacted the Cleveland Health Department after she claimed the property owner Julius Sanford was taking enough steps to clean-up the bed bug issue.

The health department determined the house was infested before Lawrence rented the home two months ago.

"My kids were bitten in the house," said Lawrence. "My daughter is allergic to bites, so her face, her whole jaw and neck were swelled up from these bed bugs. He is not complying at all."

Lawrence explained her landlord hired an exterminator, but the effort wasn't good enough to take care of the problem. 

At one point Lawrence claims she actually had to leave the house.

"We had to sleep in this van for a whole week, me and my children," explained Lawrence. "These are not my bed bugs, these are his bed bugs. I gave this man $1,500."

Lawrence took action and contacted Cleveland Housing Court. She placed her rent in a court appointed escrow account, hoping it would further motivate her landlord to address the issues at his rental property.

"We're going to get him to fix this house up, so that was the first step," said Lawrence. "Once you get the report, take your money downtown, that's what I did. I took my money downtown and set up an escrow account."

NewsChannel5 contacted the landlord and he responded immediately. 

The landlord apologized, and told NewsChannel5 he wasn't aware the house was infested by bed bugs when he first rented it to Lawrence 50 days ago.

He assured NewsChannel5 he would give Mrs. Lawrence a full refund, and provide additional extermination services until she is able to find a new home for her family.

5 On Your Side Advice: Consumers should always feel free to contact their housing court and have their rent placed in a court appointed escrow account until their landlord repairs existing violations.

Tenants should not withhold rent money on their own.

NewsChannel5 and will follow-up on this developing story.

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