The blue sign plastered outside 73-year-old Florence Danios's apartment door, addressed to pest control, was pretty loud and clear: “HIGH RISK! ASTHMA, DEAF TENANT. DO NOT TREAT OR ENTER.”
She put it up after the first time that a pest control guy entered her apartment while she was undressing, getting ready to hop in the shower. She didn't hear him, of course — but once the chemicals from the pest spray waded into her room, causing her to have trouble breathing, she immediately knew who was outside her door. This had happened to her before, at a previous apartment complex. And she swears that, before she signed the lease at the HomeTowne on Bellfort apartments in southwest Houston, she informed management about the incident and asked that they never send pest control to her unit so she wouldn't have to deal with that again. To Danios, it appeared that they must not have been listening.
This time, she waited until enough time had passed so he would be gone, then hurried to the kitchen to grab her inhaler. Sure enough, on the counter, she found a green note from the exterminator saying he had been there. But instead of just apologizing for what happened and promising it would not happen again, Danios claims that, soon, management began sending pest control on a weekly basis. Apparently, the sign outside her door was simply not loud and clear enough.
That's why Danios has sued HomeTowne on Bellfort and also the pest control company, Envirotrol, claiming that they had harassed her and explicitly ignored her simple requests to be left alone. (The attorney for the defendants said they would not be commenting because of pending litigation; the trial is set for July.)
“I was feeling helpless and hopeless," Danios said in an email, "because HomeTowne did nothing to protect or prevent their pest control contractor from coming to my apartment without prior notice."
Despite the fact that Danios had lived at HomeTowne for two years with no problems, she was evicted less than two months after she started having these pesky pest control disputes. However, she successfully took HomeTowne to court and won a wrongful eviction lawsuit given that the reasons for kicking her out — taking photographs of the pest control, refusing to sign a waiver of liability HomeTowne had issued to her — were not explicitly banned in her original lease, her attorney, U.A. Lewis, said. After Danios won that case, she wanted justice for the harassment, Lewis said. Danios had been trying to quietly settle the suit for more than a year with HomeTowne, which, denying the allegations in court filings, it apparently refused to do.
Lewis claims that, even if HomeTowne and Envirotrol's actions were honest mistakes — accidentally sending pest control, Envirotrol just following orders — she doesn't see any justification for what happened. Because still, why wouldn't you notify a deaf woman that you're sending a stranger to her home? And that sign. Believing that pest control just didn't see it, Lewis said, is too far-fetched.
But more confusing, Lewis said, is why any of this happened at all. What kind of motivation would a senior living apartment complex manager have for overriding the wishes of a disabled elderly woman in order to aggressively continue sending pest control that she didn't request, as Danios says happened?
"That has been puzzling me for months," Lewis said.