3 Reasons For Property Managers To Change Their Approach To Bed Bug Infestations

While bed bugs were at one time rarely seen stateside, they've been making a comeback in recent years thanks to the increased number of international travelers. More than 99% of pest control companies say they saw a bedbug infestation in the past year, and infestations are occurring in places like offices, daycares, and public transportation, which makes them hard to avoid and increases the chances of infestation in residential dwellings. Many states don't require landlords or property managers to take responsibility for pest control, and property managers often put responsibility for bed bug infestations on the tenants, even if they provide other pest control services. If this is your policy, here are some reasons why you might want to rethink it.

Home Remedies Can Damage Your Property

Tenants who can't afford bed bug treatment, or who believe that they'll be penalized for reporting bedbug infestations to their property managers, are likely to resort to home remedies to try to get rid of bed bugs. Or, worse yet, they'll simply live with the pests as best they can. Not only are these strategies likely to be ineffective, they could end up doing damage to your property.

If you rent furnished dwellings, an unchecked bedbug infestation can result in furniture that's too far gone to save. Once an infestation is out of control, the bugs can stain the fabric and damage any wood beyond repair. Even if your units are unfurnished, the bugs will infest appliances and carpets if left to breed unchecked. Furthermore, common home remedies that tenants might use, like spreading kerosene on furniture legs, pose a significant risk to your entire building.

Ultimately, the tenants will eventually leave, but the bed bugs will stay, and you'll be stuck figuring out how to get rid of an advanced infestation on your property. You'll also end up replacing or repairing any damage that the bugs and the tenants have caused. It's a lot easier to simply take care of an infestation in the early stages.

Unreported Infestations are More Likely to Spread

"My apartment has bed bugs," is definitely not a phrase that any property manager wants to hear. But it's better than the alternative – finding out once your tenants are gone that a bed bug infestation has been raging uncontrolled for the past year and has spread to other parts of the building. Damage to your property isn't the only risk that comes with a bed bug infestation. It's easy for the bugs to spread through a building. If one apartment has bed bugs, it's almost a certainty that the adjoining apartments above, below, or on either side also have bed bugs.

The longer it takes for a tenant to report the problem, the further the infestation will spread. And of course, tenants who are afraid to report an infestation for fear of fines or other reprisal are the ones who will allow an infestation to get so out of hand that it spreads through the building before you hear about it.

The truth is that there's no one that is to blame for a bed bug infestation. The tenant who reports the problem could have brought in the bed bugs, but they could also have been there due to a previous unreported infestation. They could have been brought in by a visitor to the building or a maintenance worker. There's just no telling. If your policy is to charge tenants for all or part of the bed bug treatment, consider an amnesty policy for tenants who report the problem. If the tenants who ignore the problem until an inspection uncovers it are the ones that have to pay, your tenants will have an incentive to apprise you of a bed bug problem before it gets out of control.

Frequent or Unmanageable Infestations Will Lower Your Property Values

The last thing that you want is for your property to get a reputation as a building with frequent or unmanageable bed bug infestations. Even without visible damage to the property, if it's common knowledge that the building has bed bug problems, you'll attract less tenants, and the ones that you do attract will be less desirable tenants. Tenants with clean credit and criminal records and pristine rental histories have the option to rent in buildings that are not known for itchy infestations.

Keeping the lines of communication open with your tenants can help ensure your property stays clear of bugs and your property values stay high. Make sure your tenants are aware of the signs of a bed bug infestation. Some people don't have a physical reaction to the bites and may not be aware of other early warning signs of bed bug infestations. Help educate them on conditions that can allow bed bugs to thrive – clutter is a common culprit – without being judgmental.

Education and rapport will help encourage your tenants to report a possible infestation early, and it will help keep the incidence of bed bug infestations down. Not only will that protect your building, it will also protect your building's reputation.

It's a good idea to develop a relationship with a pest control company that's used to working with property management services and has experience with bed bugs. That way, if and when the time comes that you discover an infestation, you'll be sure that your property and your tenants are in good hands.  

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