Bed Bugs in NYC: How Can a Landlord Deal With Them
If you are a landlord, you are confronted with a lot of different situations. One of the problems you may be confronted with is that of having a bed bug infestation problem. As a landlord, we thought it was important for you to know what you can do to effectively handle a bed bug infestation.
Be Ready for the Possibility
The one thing that can help you to effectively deal with a bed bug infestation is to be aware of the possibility of this occurring. If one of your properties has a bed bug infestation here are some things you’ll need to be prepared to do.
- Educate yourself and your property management on how to effectively identify a bed bug problem
- Find out what the laws are for reporting an infestation of bed bugs in your area.
- Develop a plan to prevent bed bugs, such as inspecting every property once a tenant vacates the premises, offer guidelines for reporting a problem.
- Write a policy and present it to your tenants to explain the guidelines for reporting and managing a bed bug problem.
- Stress the importance of reporting a suspected bed bug infestation to you or any other person on your management staff.
- Don’t blame tenants because this may prevent them from coming forward to report a problem.
- Call a qualified and well-documented pest control service with proven experience in treating bed bug infestations, big and small.
We know that this is a lot to take in but if you are fully aware of the possibility of this happening to you, then you are more likely able to deal with it when and if it does occur.
How To Effectively Respond As A Landlord Or A Tenant To Bed Bugs
While it is important to act quickly to a report of a bed bug infestation, there are some things that you should do to help you effectively respond to an infestation of bed bugs.
- Make sure that you inspect the area in question immediately
- Ask tenants to identify where they suspect the problem is located
- Evaluate other units in the building to ensure the problem hasn’t spread
- Even if you do not see them in other units, you may want to veer on the side of caution and have adjacent units treated for bed bugs.
- Try to identify the source of the problem.
- Help your tenants prepare for treating the infestation problem.
Responsibilities and Rights of Landlords and Tenants and the plague of bed bugs, which had once been a phenomenon of the distant past, is now back with a vengeance in New York.
Bed bugs are indiscriminate, equal-opportunity pests that will go wherever there are plentiful blood meals for them. Heavily populated communities in Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn have all seen an uptick in reported infestations in public spaces and private homes.
Landlord’s Responsibility is to Provide a Bed Bugs-Free Living Environment
If the home you own is invaded by bed bugs, you can simply consider some of the self-help options presented on this website (not recommended), or you can quickly call in an exterminator.
A reliable pest control company will do a thorough bed bug inspection in your home and recommend a course of treatment, which may include organic options such as bed bug heat treatment.
But what if you live in an apartment building, or other temporary housing like a university dormitory? There is a possibility that you have brought the bed bugs with you, but there is also a possibility that the bed bugs were present in the building before you arrived.
Furnished apartments and places with cluttered storage areas and closets can be very fertile breeding grounds for bed bugs.
So what are your options when you are renting a place? You may be surprised to hear that twenty three states have passed or enacted bed bug specific legislation or rule making, including New York. These ordinances govern the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
Always Inspect for Bed Bugs When You Move in to a Rental Space
When you move into a new place, especially a furnished living space, it is important to do a thorough bed bug inspection to eliminate the possibility that they are already present.
You must take bed bugs seriously, particularly if you live in densely populated New York City communities. Bed bugs have been declared a public health pest by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and it is difficult to treat a full-blown infestation.
Do an inspection of your rental space several days before you move in. Better yet, have a good look around while you are viewing the place before you rent. Even if your new place has been cleaned to a shine, remember that bed bugs can survive without feeding for a long time in small nooks and crannies.
If your new place is unfurnished, have a quick look at any carpets or drapes that may be there when you move in. Bed bugs have also been known to colonize on walls near electrical outlets.
Familiarize yourself with what bed bugs (and their evidence) look like from photos that you can find on the Internet. Inspect the place carefully in good light before you bring in any of your own belongings.
If your new place is furnished, it will require a more extensive inspection. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight to go over all furnishings and fabric coverings on walls and floors (flashlight apps on phones work fine for this). Begin with the bedding and the bedroom, and then move on to other rooms.
If you are satisfied that no bed bugs are present, plan to do a regular inspection, say once a month, to catch any stray individuals that may have hitchhiked on you into the house and are beginning to colonize.
What do you do if you find Bed Bugs in your rental space?
If you have followed the advice above, then you will have found the bed bugs in time to avoid infestation of your own belongings. We strongly advise against attempting to eradicate an infestation on your own.
Rather, before you move anything in, contact the landlord, who must very quickly arrange for a pest control service to visit. The bed bug exterminator will inspect and recommend some form of treatment, possibly bed bug heat treatment or other organic forms of extermination.
If you detect bed bugs after you have lived in a place for a while, then your course of action can be a bit trickier. As a tenant, you have certain rights and responsibilities regarding bed bugs, as does your landlord.
Most state ordinances clearly place the primary responsibility for controlling bed bugs on landlords. They must provide inspection and treatment services to rental units and common areas when necessary.
Bed bug inspection and treatment must be consistent with the National Pest Management Association’s best practices for bed bug control, and a professional pest control service must treat the area until all bed bugs are gone. One of the most common bed bug-related questions in New York is whether a landlord or tenant is responsible for bed bug detection and treatment.
In most situations, pest control is considered to be the responsibility of the landlord. Some places have exceptions to this rule in cases where it can be proven that the tenant brought the bed bugs into the building.
The possibility of suing over bed bugs
If your landlord refuses to take care of the problem or drags his heels, you may be in for a fight. If the problem is big enough for you to move, it’s usually not too difficult to get back your security deposit, in addition to getting out of your lease. But you may be entitled to much more. In the past several years, a number of lawsuits have been fought and won by tenants who had bed bug problems that were not taken care of in a timely manner.
How much you can get will depend on the severity of the problem that you can prove. In some cases, tenants have been rewarded a sizable portion of the rent that they were continuing to pay during the infestation. In extreme circumstances, you may be able to receive punitive damages, which can be substantial. It really all comes down to what you can prove and what you experienced during bed bug infestations.
Know your rights
Tenants’ right to a bedbug-free environment is provided for in New York City’s Housing and Maintenance Code, which specifically obligates the landlord to eradicate bed bugs.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) characterizes bedbugs as “hazardous” and requires the landlord to correct the problem within 30 days. You can find more detail on this topic on the Metropolitan Council on Housing Fact Sheet on Bed Bugs.
“Bed Bugs: Responsibilities and Rights of Landlords and Tenants” was written for The Bed Bug Inspectors and edited by Maria Sumoza.