EVERETT — Austin Webb realized he had enough when his air fryer and stove were filled with cockroaches.
Webb, 28, lived with his wife and kids in the Rivers Landing apartments for about 16 months. Webb claims the 100-unit complex managed by Williams Investments removed parking spots, refused to pick up trash around the building and had their cars towed, he said.
Then came the roaches.
Webb said cockroaches infested their apartment for a year while management neglected to fix the problem at 3015 9th Street in north Everett.
Eight of the Rivers Landing units are under contract with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County to provide rental assistance for low-income tenants, said Jodie Halsne, the agency’s director of tenant assistance. HASCO covers a portion of those tenants’ rent each month.
There have been no reports of cockroaches or other pests with the apartments under contract with the housing authority, Halsne said. At least a half-dozen Google reviews of the complex, however, claim the apartments have had problems with cockroaches and bugs for years.
“The whole entire time I was there I had to deal with cockroaches and pigeons,” one commenter wrote four years ago.
“Horrible experience, from rats & … roaches to mold & broken sewage pipes,” another said last year.
Several other reviews from three or four years ago praise the property manager at the time: “It’s cleaner, no overparking.”
In a statement to The Daily Herald, Rivers Landing regional manager Dan Albaugh said he is aware of the roach problem.
“We have had great success in eradicating roaches when the tenants work with us by both allowing our pest control experts access to the home to treat, and keeping a clean home that doesn’t provide food and shelter for the bugs to repopulate,” Albaugh said. “We have found that when the individuals that are causing the problems leave, we are able to quickly and easily fully eliminate the pests.”
He said there have been restrictions on landlords, such as the eviction moratorium that ended in October 2021, making it difficult to enforce lease violations.
“Some of these homes that are causing the problem,” Albaugh said, “are refusing to allow us access and are also keeping their homes in such a state as to make treatment ineffective.”
On Feb. 8, Rivers Landing failed to pass at least one housing quality standards inspection — for reasons other than roaches. According to inspection records, the tub in a tenant’s bathroom was a health hazard because it was continuously leaking; light fixtures in the kitchen were not fully illuminated; and cold air could enter through all of the apartment’s entrances. The inspection is the minimum standard HASCO uses to determine whether to continue a housing assistance contract, the housing authority’s executive director Duane Leonard said.
If a HASCO unit fails inspection, the contract enters an abatement period, where HASCO stops paying its portion of the tenant’s monthly rent. If the landlord does not make the changes within 90 days, the contract ends — putting the tenant at risk of eviction, Halsne said.
“It’s sad,” Webb said, “because people don’t like change, they like remaining in the same place. We pay tax dollars for these things so people that are less fortunate have a decent place to live.”
Webb and his family first moved into the apartment in October 2021 to improve their rental history before buying a house. The following January, they noticed the first roaches.
“They started filling every space,” Webb said. “… We couldn’t cook a meal because there would be cockroaches everywhere.”
Webb and his wife, who asked to not be named, complained to property management many times over the next year about the infestation, but it was never addressed, he said.
Last month, Webb’s family moved out from the first floor, where the infestation seemed to be worse, he said. Management reportedly inspected the apartment and saw dead roaches covering the floor, Webb said. A few weeks later, they received a bill that took $500 out of their deposit to clean up the infestation, he said.
“They blamed it on us and told us we were the only unit that had cockroaches,” Webb said.
Management required Webb to provide evidence that his family kept a clean home, to prove the cockroach infestation was not their fault, he said. Webb and his wife knocked on every door of their side of the building to see if other neighbors were experiencing the same thing, he said. Almost every tenant signed a petition affirming their apartment had roaches. Webb’s family was refunded the money after presenting the evidence, he said.
Rivers Landing declined to respond to a followup question about tenants being told only their unit was infested.
After talking with his neighbors, Webb believes the insects covered at least a third of the entire building.
Many tenants applied for work orders to get rid of the roaches, Webb said.
A current Rivers Landing tenant, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of eviction, said cockroaches also invaded his apartment, despite living on the third floor. He has lived at Rivers Landing since 2021. He said he first noticed cockroaches in April 2022. Management didn’t send someone to his apartment to take care of the roaches for at least five months, he said.
“I watched the guy walk into my apartment and walk out, he wasn’t here longer than two minutes,” he said. “I walked into my apartment after he left and I didn’t smell or see anything.”
The property management also told him he was the only tenant with a roach problem.
“They are slumlords,” Webb said, “charging someone $500 for a treatment that lasts two minutes.”
In July 2022, a fire broke out in one apartment at the Rivers Landing complex, according to the Everett Fire Department. Webb said part of the apartment complex burnt down due to the fire. The fire affected a total of three units, one of which was already vacant, management said.
The amount of cockroaches grew in the summer, exacerbated by dumpsters filled to the brim with garbage that wouldn’t be emptied, the current tenant said. Tenants would litter the stairwells with garbage bags.
“People will walk out of the stairwell from their apartment and drop it off the back porch and leave it there,” he said. “You can see the trail of water seeping from the garbage into some people’s apartments.”
Rivers Landing management said the dumpsters get emptied four times a week, and a contracted cleaner picks up trash around the property three times a week.
The current tenant said he has been looking for another place to live to avoid the roaches.
“I have a feeling it’s going to get really bad in the summer,” he said.
Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; email@example.com; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.
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