Hank Investigates: Bug Battle

HYANNIS, MASS. (WHDH) - A roach infestation that’s so hideous— one woman tells us they’ve crawled across her face while she’s sleeping.  Investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan found local residents fighting a bug battle for years, and guess who’s helping pay for their rent?  Hank Investigates.

Roaches.  All over this Hyannis woman’s apartment.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Montana told 7 Investigates.

Oh her dishes. Climbing up her coffee table. Crawling out of her ceiling vents.

“I cry, a lot,” Montana said.

On her wall. On her kitchen cabinets. In her kitchen cabinets. Trapped inside her microwave door.

“I’m scared,” Montana said.

In the fridge. In the freezer. In the bathroom. In her bedroom.

“I’ve had one on my face. They’re in my bed,” Montana said.

Montana says she’s spent the last two years fighting a battle against the bugs and photographing this infestation in the apartment where she lives with her two young children.

Her rent here is subsidized so Montana can’t afford to leave the complex.

She’s been asking to be transferred to a unit in a different building.

“I just want a clean home more than anything for my kids,” Montana said.

Since 2017 she sent emails complaining to the apartment management company. They sent exterminators, but the roaches came back.

We found after the local health department continued to receive complaints from Montana and other residents, it told apartment managers to get a more aggressive extermination schedule.

But Montana says even then the roaches kept coming.

“I’ve killed thousands of them,” Montana said.

She had to stop keeping food in her cabinets. And she says her daughter started using inhalers because she’s allergic to the roaches. “Would you want to live like this?”

And we found: you’re helping pay for her family to live like this.

That’s because like some other residents in this Hyannis affordable housing complex Montana’s rent is subsidized by federal tax dollars.

That money goes to a nonprofit company that owns and manages the building.

And the people who run that company insist they’re trying their best to beat the bugs.

“We’ve gone building by building and identified units that have any type of infestation,” Jennifer Cavaco, vice president of regional operations for the Preservation of Affordable Housing said.

The company tells us they’ve hired a new exterminator and now instead of only responding to cockroach complaints they’ll do regular exterminations.

And the Hyannis health department has sent warning letters demanding all residents cooperate.

“Our mission is to provide sustainable healthy affordable housing for residents and we’re equally frustrated,’ Cavaco said.

They granted Montana’s request and she’s now moved to another building in the complex.

And good thing, the day we interviewed Montana we found a live roach in the hallway and in Montana’s apartment a fresh cockroach corpse on a picture frame.

“I’m angry I’m sad. I’m horrified. I’m tired,” Montana said.

Massachusetts law says there is a way for tenants to withhold rent if they feel their landlords are not providing a healthy environment. In Hyannis, town officials have now notified Montana and her neighbors about that.

Click here for more on Massachusetts renters’ rights.

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