Dealing with Bed Bugs in your Rental Home – Atlanta Property Management

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson

DEALING WITH BED BUGS IN YOUR RENTAL HOUSE

The Facts:

 -Bed bugs are small but they can be seen without the aid of magnification.  Adults are about the size of an apple seed.  Juvenile bed bugs are very small and more difficult to see. They are oval and reddish brown in color.

-Bed bugs feed on human blood and can live for up to a year without feeding.

-Bed bugs usually hide during the day then come out at night to feed.

-Most bed bugs will be found within 8 feet of a sleeping area or resting place (inside the mattress, box springs, bed clothes, furniture cracks, under carpet or rugs, etc.)

Prevention (Instructions for the Tenant to cover at the move in appointment):

-Do not bring furniture, mattresses, sofas, etc. found on the street into the home.

-Do not place backpacks, suitcases, purses, on beds, sofas, or upholstered chairs, especially right after a trip away from home.

-When traveling, always check the bed and surrounding area for bed bugs before unpacking or laying on the bed or sofa.  Keep your suitcase off the bed and make sure to inspect the suitcase carefully before re-packing to leave.

– If you discover bed bugs in any of your clothing or shoes, wrap them in plastic until you can launder them on the highest heat setting the materials can take.  Shoes can be placed in the dryer for 30 minutes at a medium-high setting.

The Response:Encourage residents to report bed bugs immediately.  Make sure your maintenance contractors know to report any indication of an infestation.  The longer an infestation is allowed to continue, the wider it will spread, which will make it more difficult and more expensive to eliminate.  While there are some pesticides sold at hardware stores that claim to kill bed bugs, they often do not work, at least not fully.  This is likely due to the amateur’s inability to identify and treat where the bed bugs are hiding.  Many times they are in hard to reach spots such as inside the mattress or behind wood work.  The most effective way to get rid of bed bugs is using a professional pest control operator.  They have better equipment to locate and treat the problem.  They can even access specially trained dogs to locate where the bed bugs are hiding.  We recommend that the landlord take control of the situation to make sure the infestation is dealt with effectively.  Then they can charge the tenant, if applicable, for the work performed.  If the landlord directs to handle the problem, then there is a higher probability that the work is not done correctly which could turn into a problem for the landlord when the next tenant moves in.Liability (Who Pays):In a single family rental we would normally charge the tenant for the cost of the treatment.  If the bed bugs were not present when we performed the move in inspection, then the tenant must have brought them into the property.  However, that is not always the case.  If a rental house had a previous bed bug infestation, then they may have re-appeared due to no fault of the new tenant.  Remember that bed bugs can remain dormant for up to a year without feeding.  Also, in a multi-family property it is much more difficult to prove who brought the bed bugs in.  The bed bugs could have come from a neighboring unit and that neighbor may not have reported the issue.  You would need to prove who brought in the bugs before assessing charges against the tenant.  In several states, such as Florida, their law specifically states that the owner of a multi-family building (not houses or duplexes) must pay to have bed bugs removed unless the landlord can prove which tenant is responsible for the infestation.  For single family landlords, consider adding a clause to your lease such as “Tenant shall be responsible for the immediate treatment of any bed bugs in the Premises by a licensed pest control operator and the immediate and permanent removal from the Premises of any mattresses, bedding, clothing and other similar items that may contain bed bugs or bed bug larvae.”

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