house/home / sydney / urban

Roaches without borders

Cockroaches, particularly those with the rapid reproduction habits of the “German” cockroach, are not subject to legal property demarcations and the properties thereof. They do not obey tenancy laws neither. This reality seemed to have escaped the landlord when I tried to explain to him, via the ever-polite estate agent, that I’d rather he arranged for the entire property to be sprayed, gelled and trapset with roach poison, as opposed to just my flat.

After I reported significant infestation on the condition report, I got a call from the agent, saying that the landlord had “requested access to the studio for a fumigation next Wednesday.” I was surprised by this as I hadn’t expected any such attention to be paid to the report, which also made note of a few other fun discoveries I had made since moving in. I was advised that yes, it was just for my flat, and given another phone number to call for any further inquiries.

At the end of the line was … let’s call him Baz. Baz works for a pest control company, so he has all the equipment at home. He wouldn’t tell me which company or what materials he would be using, implying I think that he was doing the job off the books for a cheaper payment in cash. Baz assured me the materials were “non-toxic” (except to roaches, apparently not so obstinately resistant after all?). He also couldn’t agree more that it would be useless for him to only do the job on the part of the property that I occupy, which is a large terrace house with many shared surfaces. The cockroaches will just move elsewhere, and then recolonise my place when the atmosphere clears.

I relayed this information to the agent, and remarked that at any rate it seemed rather unfair that I would be singled out for roach-free living while the other residents had to continue putting up with the creeping, crispy multitudes. He concurred, and arranged for the whole property to be done. One day, just before christmas, I walked in the door and reeled in the thin air. The neighbour that hoards goods leftover from market stalls was hefting a stack of records, cursing that he hadn’t been told the pest guy was coming. I guess this would have presented another administrative problem for the ‘lord, in that the other residences are managed by a different real estate agency.

I found out that the bad paint job on my place had been performed by this neighbour, and the payment he was offered consisted of a modem that had been thrown out onto a pile of rubbish outside.

The women who live next door, whose lives seem to swing daily between explosive anger, keening grief, pill runs and loved-up home-making, reckon they’ve got the best solution when it all comes down to it. An old margarine tub, grease still clinging to the edges, with a piece of food at the bottom. Roaches go for the food, can’t climb back out. They catch tens of them that way every night.


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