If you’ve been in the property management business long enough, you’ve come across bed bugs. Hopefully just from hearing someone else’s experience, but most likely have had your own. Multifamily rental properties have seen a major increase in bed bugs over the past few years, and it only looks to increase.
If, you’ve received the following call, I’m sorry:
Tenant – “Hey, Property Manager, I think I have bed bugs”
Property Manager (in his/her head) – They have bed bugs. – “Okay, I will have a pest control company contact you to set up an inspection.”
Although your initial reaction is to burn the building down, and move out of state to an island where not even snakes exist, take step back and gather yourself. It is important to get that unit and surrounding units inspected. The unit that called in, may not even be the unit that is infested. In a multi unit building, it is important to have all surrounding units inspected that share a wall. Bed bugs can travel through and along ducts, vents, electrical, plumbing, cracks or anything else your mind can imagine. They like dark hiding spots, and will infest them. It is also important to have the unit inspected, as it may not even be bed bugs, they could be bat bugs. Don’t schedule a treatment before getting the unit and surrounding units inspected.
So your exterminator is scheduled, and 4 units are scheduled to be inspected, the original unit and all shared wall units. What next? Hope that the unit that called is the culprit and that none of the other three units have any signs of bed bugs. That is the best case scenario. If not, you will have to expand your inspections until you come across a unit that does NOT have bed bugs. Then you can begin. Typically, the two main choices of treatment are between heat and chemical.
Heat Treatment Vs. Chemical Treatment
Heat Treatment –
When I first began in property management, heat treatment was the way to go. Expensive, but the way to go. Essentially, the exterminator, turns the unit into a sauna. The unit is slowly heated to a temperature between 117 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, the bed bugs exoskeleton is compromised and the bug dies a day or two after treatment. All life cycles of bed bugs are killed during this heat process.
This is a costly procedure and the company who we use only guarantees results for 30 days, which is worthless really because a bed bug can go dormant for up to a year and Orkin has even proved bed bugs can go up to 500 days.
Chemical Treatment –
Insecticides are used and typically 2-3 visits are needed. Which, if you are using a reputable company, should be included in their bid. Chemicals are sprayed along barriers, where bugs are found and where they are predicted to move. The bugs move through the chemicals and then die.
Other Option: Steam
Steaming is a spot treatment. You need to know where the bugs are to kill them. Miss a spot of steam and the treatment is worthless, the spread will continue.
I’ve used all three on my duplex and after $10k worth of pest control expenses. It has been over a year and no sign of the BB word.
A rental property that shares walls is a unique problem when dealing with bed bugs. The shared walls allow for spreading of bed bugs but also, makes treatment much harder. Some best practices for preventing bed bugs is knowledge. Tenants may not even know what bed bugs are. It is your responsibility to help teach the tenants. Hopefully to minimize the chance of bringing in bed bugs to your property.
- Bed bugs are brought in to properties – so be careful when traveling and using second hand furniture
- If bed bugs are detected, call immediately as to prevent further spreading
- Do not try to self treat, bed bugs require professional treatments
Bed bugs suck, there is no way around it. They have become more and more prevalent in multifamily dwellings and rental properties. They are expensive to treat and are very resilient, requiring multiple treatments most times.