ELYRIA — Brunner Landscape arrived at a south Elyria home Tuesday afternoon to help exterminate a cockroach infestation plaguing the neighborhood on 14th Street.
Brunner Landscape — owned by the same family as the man who owns Brunner Real Estate LLC, owner of the property at the epicenter of the infestation — was tasked with cutting and collecting the grass at the property at 435 14th St. and hauling it way. Then, the landscaping company sprayed the lawn and the house and removed the trash cans near the home to be cleaned.
Jim Brunner, owner of Brunner Real Estate LLC, said the tenants he had were the culprits of the infestation and left the home a mess when they left. The renters signed onto the lease last year and just stopped paying rent in the last few months, receiving an eviction notice early in the summer, Brunner said.
Brunner says the tenants left the house about 10 days ago, leaving an estimated $10,000 in damages to the property including a broken stove, cabinets and refrigerator. When his company started to clean the home, he said roaches were found, and he said they sprayed in the home and moved the garbage and broken furniture outside to be picked up, which he said was sprayed again.
That’s when Dan Horton, a neighbor nearby, started to notice roaches near his property and notified Brunner as well as the city and county officials.
From there, the infestation leaked to multiple houses, invading homes with residents finding them under trashcan lids and at other times by the hundreds in and outside the homes.
Penny Legg, 41, a resident living near 13th and Bank streets, learned about the infestation from another neighbor late last week. By Monday, her family started to find them everywhere.
“There had to be over 500 cockroaches on my back porch and around the base of my home,” she said.
Tuesday, she said spent about $150 on supplies to exterminate the roaches and threw out things like new carpeting and food for fear it was already infested. Brunner did supply her with some extermination supplies, but it wasn’t enough, she said.
The Elyria City Safety Service Department became aware of the infestation Monday after receiving a complaint about the incident, said Assistant Safety Service Director Kevin Brubaker.
“When it comes to roaches we issue violations because we have to get them to react quickly,” he said.
Officials from the city and Lorain County Public Health visited the property to evaluate the infestation.
“I think the house does still have roaches, and he will have to do this repeatedly until the roaches are gone,” Brubaker said.
Lorain County Public Health Director Dr. David Covell said the infestation of the different houses seems very strange for pests known to stay isolated within walls of structures rather than migrating.
“It happens in apartment complexes but unusual for cockroaches to travel from house to house, so spraying immediately is definitely important,” he said.
The cause of the infestation spread is not confirmed, but through his experience, Brubaker said it could have been caused by the mass exodus after the property was sprayed.
“Roaches are brought in, and when they get exterminated, they scatter and that’s what these folks are dealing with,” he said.
Brubaker said the issue of covering the residents’ expenses from the infestation must be settled between them and the property owner. Horton said it would be the right thing to do.
“I just think it’s (Brunner’s) responsibility to provide to these different homes infested with cockroaches the expense,” he said.
Brunner also has offered to do the same for the other houses affected by the infestation with his landscaping company as soon as he can contact the residents.
“I have it just as bad as they do, I hope they know I’m going to take care of the place,” he said.
In addition to the infestation on 14th Street, a possible separate infestation also is affecting the homes on 12th Street. Another complaint was for 325 12th St. where tenants live in the home, which complainants said have roaches spreading to other houses, Brubaker said.
Allied Exterminating Inc. will visit both properties as soon as today to get rid of the roaches and return however times necessary to stop the infestation.