October 16, 2019
Bed bugs — those creepy crawlies that are found, obviously enough, in beds — are experiencing a resurgence in cities across the United States. And, these pests are rapidly becoming a problem for apartment complex owners and managers. According to Nelson Townes III with QBE North America, the risk is that infestation from one renter’s home can be transferred to the apartments of other tenants, without the renter being aware of the problem.
Basically, just about any property is vulnerable to two types of the insect: Cimex hemipterus and Cimex lectularious. Nor do good housekeeping habits eradicate the problem. Lack of hygiene, Townes said, doesn’t have anything to do with bed bug infestations.
Part of the cause of, and reason for, such infestations is proximity. “Bed bugs often travel through ducts and false ceilings across an apartment complex,” Townes said. Furthermore, bed bug eggs can latch onto clothing, meaning a neighborly visit can result in an apartment unit infestation. Even a maintenance person could unwittingly be the carrier.
In addition to bug bites and serious discomfort for residents, litigation against property owners from residents suffering from infestation is becoming more common. Townes pointed out that nearly two dozen states enacted laws or regulations “requiring hotels and other types of commercial residences to keep the public safe from bed bugs.” Apartment landlords are also subject to these laws and regulations, and have been sued.
Certainly, treatment is the only cure for a bed bug infestation, but in the past, property managers and apartment complex owners had to bear the expense. These days, however, specialized renter insurance programs, available both to property managers and renters, can help defer the costs of bed bug treatment, while reducing the potential of litigation.
And, when it comes to extermination, the tenant needs to be on board to help halt infestation, and to cooperate with extermination efforts. An article written for Landlordology noted that, the first step a landlord needs to do when faced with a potential bed bug crisis is to hire an exterminator to actually identify the problem — the tenant’s bites could be due to fleas or roaches. If the cause does point to bed bugs, the tenant will need to:
- Clear away clutter.
- Encase or get rid of the mattress.
- Wash everything in hot, hot water. This includes blankets, sheets, bedspreads, and all clothing that’s been on the floor.
- Vacuum everything — twice. Vacuum rugs, floors, furniture, bed and all cracks in the room — then get rid of the vacuum cleaner bag in an outdoor trash can.
Above all, the landlord should share the following best practices to eliminate infestation:
- When traveling or staying in a hotel, check the headboard and around the bed.
- Also, when traveling, inspect luggage for telltale signs of infestation, before bringing it back into the apartment.
- Don’t bring mattresses or furniture left on the streets into the apartment unit.
Certainly, the best way to prevent infestation is a proactive approach. Noted Townes: “Proactive elimination of bed bugs reduces the opportunity for (them) to travel from one place to the next, helping us all sleep soundly.”
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Tags: Apartments & Multifamily