Marquis on Gaston is one of those faux-luxury apartment complexes plopped by one of Dallas' cool neighborhoods (in this case, Deep Ellum), advertising itself with descriptors such as "gated community," "suburban living in an urban environment," "luxurious pool area," "French patio doors," "distinguished community" and the claim that "Marquis on Gaston residents live surrounded by elegance."
If a lawsuit filed by a former tenant is to be believed, some of the Marquis on Gaston residents also live surrounded by bed bugs.
Joseph Curtis began leasing his unit in May 2012 and saw bedbugs crawling on his skin shortly after, he says in a complaint he filed last spring. He tried to bug bomb the unit, and when that failed, he says he told the leasing office. The managers at Marquis agreed to to hire a pest control worker and then told Curtis the problem had been resolved. He signed a new lease in 2013.
But in March of that year, Curtis says the bedbugs reappeared. Marquis followed up with more pesticide treatment and heat remediation, a newer method that turns a home into a giant oven to kill the bugs. Still, Curtis says the bugs returned. He says the pest technician told him it was because Marquis' management wasn't killing the bugs correctly. Instead of quarantining all the apartments affected and treating them all at once, "the infested units were treated piecemeal," the suit says, "which allowed the bedbugs to hide in the walls and ceilings while one unit was being treated," only to re-emerge in the next apartment after the treatment was over.
In August 2013, the Marquis apartments evicted Curtis, charged him an extra month of rent, and "invented other allegations" about Curtis to "cover up the truth" about the apartment's ongoing bedbug problem, his suit says.
I met with Curtis, an adjunct American government professor at El Centro college, a few months ago to interview him about the suit. He said that records from the pest control company and Code Enforcement would show that the apartment was infested before he moved in. He also showed me a medicine jar holding a dead bedbug, which he said he was saving as evidence.
In a counter-claim, Marquis on Gaston portrays Curtis as an unstable, bedbug-collecting maniac. In doing so, the apartment tacitly admits that there was some sort of bedbug problem there, though Marquis blames it on Curtis, accusing him of bringing in a used mattress that started it all.
After Curtis moved in to Marquis in 2012, "Marquis had the premises treated in accordance with the protocol determined by its professional exterminator," the apartment says.
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Yet the exterminator apparently didn't kill all of the bugs. In May 2013, the filing says, "Curtis entered Marquis' leasing office and threatened to unleash a bottle of live bed bugs he held in his hand." Somehow, the leasing office allowed Curtis to keep living there until August, when Marquis says Curtis told a new neighbor that her apartment was infested with bedbugs and that the previous occupant was a devil-worshipper, convincing her to end her lease. The next day, "Curtis informed Marquis that he was storing bed bugs in a cooler on the premises, which Marquis' representative later confirmed to be true."
"The only bedbug issues we had were treated," says Marquis' Houston-based attorney Patrick Drake, "and from what I can tell, he's used it as some sort of opportunity to, I don't know what word you'd say ... an opportunity to, if nothing else, to be released from his lease."
The suit is scheduled for a trial this June, unless everyone decides to settle before then. Marquis is currently offering 663 square-foot apartments for $1,043 a month.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.