Being a landlord is no easy task. It is riddled with responsibilities, from screening all tenants to taking care of maintenance repairs and keeping properties clean.Perhaps one of the most dreaded calls a landlord can get is, “I think we have bed bugs.” According to a 2015 Bugs Without Borders Survey, conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, the No. 1 place where pest professionals report finding bed bugs is apartments/condominiums. That’s why it’s important for landlords to be prepared and respond effectively.
As a landlord, you’re bound to run into a bed bug issue at some point in time. First, you must determine what laws apply to your state to ensure that you know what you are responsible for should you be faced with a tenant infestation. Twenty-two states have laws addressing bed bugs in rental properties, institutional facilities and schools. In many states, landlords have a duty to maintain their buildings free of pests. Although laws in most of these states use very general terms for ‘pests,’ those in Florida and New York City specify that landlords must exterminate bed bugs. In some states, landlords only need to act if more than one unit is infected. Once you know what laws pertain to your state, develop a proactive plan to prevent bed bugs from entering your building. For example, schedule a pest control or K-9 inspection after each tenant leaves. You can also provide guidelines for new tenants on prevention tactics, such as not bringing in used furniture and carefully inspecting luggage after a trip.
When responding to a tenant’s complaint of an infestation, follow these guidelines:
• Respond with empathy and understanding for the person making the complaint. Bed bugs can cause fear and hysteria, so a little kindness and compassion can go a long way when speaking with the person who reported seeing bed bugs.
• Promptly inspect the areas in question, especially beds and areas where luggage might be stored. Look for the bugs themselves, their shed skins or dark spots on sheets, bedding, walls, electric outlets, etc., as this may be an indication of bed bug fecal remains.
• Contact your pest management company. The sooner the problem is eradicated, the better. Make certain that whoever you use to treat the problem has a great deal of experience in bed bug eradication and offers a warranty for their work.
• Schedule a follow-up pest control or K-9 inspection after the treatment has been completed to confirm all bed bugs have been eliminated.
• Document all actions taken.Bed bugs are not something to mess around with, especially as a landlord. Nothing will cause residents to scatter and new tenants to avoid your property like the plague like a report of bed bugs. That’s why it is important to be proactive in preventing an infestation and in responding to a tenant’s report of bed bugs.
This article was originally published in Rental Housing Journal.