The return of bed bugs to the American landscape is something building managers and landlords like yourself should be aware of. And not just be aware, but try to stop in your residential properties. Being proactive in finding and stopping bed bugs is imperative, because doing so can prevent the issue from escalating into a much larger one. It's not only the most effective approach but is most often more cost efficient as well. Because apartments and units are so close to one another, no matter what kind of building or complex you manage because residents share facilities like lobbies and laundry rooms cross-contamination is always a serious concern. It is important to take any complaint from a resident about a bed bug infestation very seriously. Since bed bugs can travel at a speed of four feet per minute, they can very easily travel from one apartment unit to another, and wreak havoc before you know it. A big part of being proactive is educating residents about bed bug prevention and communicating with them what that process should look like. To help make sure you are doing everything you can to have a pest-free property we put together some helpful tips and recommendations for you and your tenants to follow:
- Have bed bug policies and procedures in place. This could be incredibly important depending upon where your building is located and your city or state's rules. Some places have specific laws in place to give responsibilities to both landlords and tenants. For example, some laws may say that landlords and apartment managers must deal with a bed bug complaint by a specific time frame. And some cities also even have rules for tenants regarding when they should report bed bugs.But even if your property does not have a current infestation problem, it's a good policy to put rules in place asking tenants to report bed bug infestations immediately, and for you to promise to deal with it in a certain time frame. Give tenants rights, but also responsibilities. That means being proactive if there is any chance there are bed bugs in their homes. Better safe than sorry.
- Explain what bed bugs and the evidence of an infestation looks like. Adult bed bugs are only the size of an apple seed. Bed bug eggs are even smaller, and look like dust. So it's a great idea to offer pictures for tenants so they can see what the pests look like. You may also want to include pictures of what bed bug bites look like -- they can be similar to hives.In addition, explain where bed bugs are commonly found -- in cracks and crevices, and along beds' headboards, to name a few examples. Education and communication is fundamental in effective bed bug prevention. You should also make sure your staff has been trained in this area as well.
- Use multiple languages to get the point across. In 2016, one cannot assume that all residents speak English. Make sure that any printed prevention tips are done in multiple languages, especially Spanish, the second-most popular language in the U.S.
- Warn residents about the dangers of used-furniture, or furniture from the street. That too-good-to-be true chair or love-seat they found might be infested with bed bugs, and that's why it was being thrown out in the first place. Explain how pests can hitch a ride on such furniture, and strongly discourage (or even ban) tenants from bringing them in.If one of your residents is throwing out something that has been infested with bed bugs, you might want to wrap the item in plastic and label it as being infested with bed bugs, to make sure that nobody else grabs it and perpetuates the problem.
- Laundry room dryers can be a big tool in stopping bed bugs. If your tenants travel, buy used or vintage clothing, or go to places that are of high risk of bed bugs, you should let them know that the heat from a dryer can help in getting rid of them. Putting clothing in a laundry room dryer under 20 minutes on high heat will kill the majority of any hitchhiking bed bugs. While not foolproof this tip could help and it is a great idea to let your residents know.
- Be compassionate and understanding. If bed bugs are found in a tenant's apartment, keep in mind that your tenant is likely going to be devastated and even humiliated over the situation. So treat them with compassion, dignity and most importantly discretion. While you will need to let other tenants know about the situation, especially close neighbors, always try to protect privacy whenever possible.
- Pay even closer attention with senior housing. Senior citizens may be in a little bit of denial, or have lack of awareness, when it comes to bed bugs. Be aware of that, and realize you might have to do a little more probing, and ask a few more questions to find out if they may be dealing with an infestation. Often seniors have bed bugs but do not even know it due to their mental state which makes regularly checking your units for bed bugs that much more important.
- Find a professional bed bug company you trust. Not all bed bug professionals are the same. Make sure to find somebody who follows integrated pest management procedures. The time to find a bed bug professional is now, before you have an overwhelming crisis. The best professionals can also give you advice to keep the bugs at bay. In particular, finding a bed bug company who offer property managers services and only specializes in detection, inspection and verification work. That way you know the results you are getting are completely unbiased and accurate. Ask them if they would be using a bed bug detection dog to sniff around the apartments being evaluated. A trained dog's sense of smell is much better than humans, and they can sniff for things like bed bugs, we might never have otherwise noticed. If they do find an issue ask them to refer you to someone they trust to have your infestation removed. That way you are only dealing with companies you know you can trust.