Former tenants say their apartment had a bat problem management company did nothing to solve

This house on Moro Street is where Katy Fink, senior in journalism, lived in 2019 and where Audrey Wilson, senior in animal sciences, lived in 2020. Both say they found bats in their apartment. (Bailey Britton | Collegian Media Group)

Nearly two weeks ago, senior in animal science Audrey Wilson served Frontier Property Management with a 1430 form. She moved out of the basement apartment filled with bats and bat guano, but she is not the only person who says they had problems in that apartment.

In 2019, Katy Fink, senior in journalism and mass communications, lived in the apartment Wilson just left. Fink experienced problems similar to Wilson in the nine months she lived there with her boyfriend.

In addition to bats, Fink said she experienced poor air quality, flooding and mold.

“I would get these really bad gushing bloody noses,” Fink said. “And I’m like, ‘Okay, this is not normal,’ like, I wouldn’t have these issues any other times. I chalked that up to the poor air quality because we had a bat infestation in our house.”

The first time they saw bats, Fink said, was in the middle of the night.

“I remember the first couple weeks we moved and we had heard some noises,” Fink said. “One night I woke up to some noises in the bedroom. I turned on the lights thinking it was like maybe a moth or … maybe a bird had gotten in the air vent, but it turned out to be a bat.”

Fink says her boyfriend caught the bat in a towel. A couple of weeks later, Fink said she found a bat in the bathroom sink. She also found bats in the kitchen cabinets.

“Frontier would basically cancel any maintenance requests from us that had to do with bats,” Fink said. “So at that point, we were like, ‘Okay, Frontier knows there are bats in here, we’ve reached out multiple times, we have video and picture proof.’ They would just cancel the request.”

Tyler Holloman, owner of Frontier Property Management, said Frontier uses several different vendors for maintenance and pest control. Some property owners, he said, prefer to do maintenance on their own.

“A lot of people don’t know that Frontier — and most property management companies — don’t actually own the properties that we lease out,” Holloman said. “Our team is responsible for working with each individual property owner and figuring it out if they have certain vendors that they like to use. We have some owners that prefer to do most of their maintenance themselves to save on cost. We have some owners who have relationships with other vendors. It’s really owner specific.”

Fink said she filled out maintenance requests through the Frontier Property Management portal, but Frontier canceled the requests without their knowledge. Other requests, such as a request to fix the dishwasher or door handles, were fixed promptly.

Bianca Valdez, Frontier portfolio manager and director of marketing, said in an email Frontier “make[s] every effort to be responsive and timely with all maintenance requests.”

“We encourage our tenants who have bat issues (or any pests) to contact us directly and we work with them throughout the mitigation process until the issue is resolved,” Valdez said.

Fink said no pest control company nor Frontier ever inspected the apartment for bats while she lived there.

Fink says she moved out in the spring after the washer on the floor above her apartment flooded the basement.

“We had a flood of standing water in the basement of that house,” Fink said. “So we reached out. We were like, ‘Hey, we have a flood with like, you know, standing water. What do we do about this?'”

Fink said Frontier told them to clean it up and someone would come check it out in a day or two.

“We did not cause this flood,” Fink said. “We were just unfortunate enough to have to deal with the effects of it.”

Fink said director of leasing Cayle Hubert did a walkthrough of the apartment a few days later and he said the apartment was fine to live in. Hubert was unavailable for comment.

“We’re like, ‘What, like, you don’t see an issue with this? The only reason it’s clean is because we cleaned it with no help from you guys,'” Fink said. “So we were kind of confused at that point.”

At that point, Fink’s boyfriend and Fink’s mom showed Hubert mold in the unit caused by the flooding. After the tenants requested to move to a new unit twice and were refused, Fink said they threatened legal action. Frontier then moved them to a different property.

“We never went forward with legal action, but it got to the point where we threatened it,” Fink said. “It seemed like that was the only point in time where he took our worries seriously.”

Fink said the only reason she and her boyfriend stayed in the unit for so long was because the rent was cheap.

Some bats are federally protected, which makes removing them from dwellings a long and arduous process.

“The 1973 Endangered Species Law put bats under Federal protection,” Valdez said. “Because bats are federally protected, they cannot be harmed or killed in mitigation and neither can their habitat be disturbed, even if the habitat is the tenant’s home. To complicate the process further, bat remediation is a highly specified task that has to be done in a series of steps. The entire process for bat mitigation is regulated and can be very time-consuming.”

While understanding the need to protect the bats, Wilson worried about getting bitten and needing rabies treatment while living there.

“Between the management and the owners, there’s little communication, little action,” Wilson said. “And then they say they have no liability. They told me they weren’t going to pay for any rabies vaccinations for me or my pets if I got bit, and that’s like, $3,500 I can’t afford when I’m already working multiple jobs and going to school and trying to learn.”

Holloman said if a tenant got bitten, it would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ve never actually had [rabies] happen,” Holloman said. “So I wanted to speak to the specifics of what that would look like, but we’ve been fortunate and never had to deal with that.”

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.