Over at Apartment Therapy, the bed bugs are back, posing troubling questions for renters

by on July 24, 2007 · 9 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, moving

Bedbugger has followed the great bed bug saga of Amanda at Apartment Therapy with intense interest, and we have been torn between grateful relief at the apparent bed bug savvy of some of Maxwell’s readers and deep concern over the continuing lack of basic bed bug awareness among the rest, our fellow New Yorkers and apartment dwellers.

AT’s latest bed bug story, however, is a little different. In an AT Good Question, Anne asks, What Can I Do If They Lied About Bedbugs?

I just signed a 1yr lease for a new apartment. Prior to signing, I asked the management company whether there had been any roach, mice, or bedbug infestations. I was most particularly concerned about bedbugs. Management said no, and I believed them. However, after signing the lease, I returned to the apartment to take some measurements and met some of the prior tenants…

Oh, no, no! We know where this is going and we can see between the fingers covering our eyes that it’s not going to be pretty:

They said that one of the four roommates did indeed have bedbugs and that the management company sent an exterminator three times!

OK, first thought, one of the four roommates had bed bugs? That is an interesting, and perhaps revealing, way of putting it. If one of the four roommates had bed bugs, the other three roommates had them too. Even if they were not allergic to the bites, or were not bitten, or the bed bugs did not actually spread to their rooms (I think I just strained my optimism muscle), an apartment with bed bugs presents what you might call a situation for all who live there, a situation often freighted with stress and anxiety, sleeplessness, an overwhelming amount of work, and all-around aggravation. Laundry, cleaning, decluttering, bed bug treatments, all of these simply cannot be a matter solely for the one person in the apartment who is being bitten. I hope this is what occurred in this apartment: everyone worked together in one effort even if the roommates simply can’t bring themselves to say that they, too, had bed bugs. The alternative scenario is not very encouraging, and would not bode well for poor Anne, since any hope of the bed bugs being gone from this apartment starts with the image of a cohesive, supportive set of roommates bent on eradicating the bugs tormenting one of them.

All of that speculation aside, however, I am not forgetting that they did tell Anne about the bed bugs! Yes, indeed, and well done! Therefore, I am prepared to believe that these roommates are good bed bug citizens trying to do the right thing, which brings me to the second troubling thought, did they actually get rid of the bed bugs, or are they moving because of them? Well, we can’t possibly know. So, what should Anne do?

I am very angry at the management company and feel foolish for taking their word. I am going to insist that they exterminate the apartment again before I move in but dont know what they will say.

Is there anything else I can do at this point?

Consulting a lawyer as a first step to terminate the lease is one possibility, perhaps the wisest. Bravely taking your chances is another. Yes, insisting on a professional inspection, perhaps even a bed bug dog inspection, would be advisable. We’re told that treating an apartment for bed bugs, successfully, involves sleeping in it, in order to draw out the bugs. I’m not sure that I could have any confidence in a pre-moving treatment plan for an empty apartment. In our heart of hearts, if Anne were our dearest friend, what would we tell her? I know what I would tell her! And you, bedbuggers? What would you say?

Still, in a major U.S. city, and perhaps elsewhere, what are the chances of moving into a building with a previous infestation history? Should the infestation history matter? In what way? If, or when, most buildings in an urban area have experienced infestations, would it not be better to ask What is your pest control policy? in addition to Have you had bed bugs here?

I’d be interested to hear perspectives from lawyers, PCOs and renters who have encountered or are worried about encountering Anne’s difficulties. The leasing, enforceable, obligations of landlords… do they include disclosure of bed bug infestations? Should they?

Finally, you don’t have to be in the middle of an apartment search to think about bed bugs. You can start a conversation about bed bug prevention and eradication protocols with your landlord and neighbors now, before you ever have a problem. Learn the basics and ask the tough questions.

If you are apartment hunting in New York City, you can look up violations at your prospective address at the HPD website here. Check the bed bug registries for your new building and new neighborhood here and here. You should also read Bedbugger’s landlords, tenants, and legal issues FAQs. And, yes, visit AT for inspiration; we hope you make yourself a lovely, bed bug-free home.

1 nobugsonme July 24, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Great post, Nomo! Thanks for that!

My only question on reading the AT site was this: were the bed bugs eradicated?

To spell it out more fully, were the bed bugs only in the one apartment and were they eradicated?

If they were only in THAT apartment, it is fully possible that the three treatments sufficed. We also do not know how long ago they were treated. If it was a while and the formerly “infested” roommate had no further trouble, then perhaps it is fine.

The problem is, NYC will soon have few buildings that have never had a bed bug infestation in any apartment. That an apartment was once infested is not cause to avoid it forever (or soon the housing market will be very scarce!) but I would certainly want to know more. And I would not trust a landlord who lies about anything, but alas, this is the world we live in.

I hope that in future, bed bug dogs are certified and universally available, and that landlords who have had apartments treated can have them tested before being rented to the next party.

2 July 28, 2007 at 1:10 am

This is my question about bedbug dogs and their owners: I assume that they actually run into places that are infested. So, how do we know that the dogs/owners aren’t carrying bugs everywhere they go?

3 nobugsonme July 28, 2007 at 11:25 pm

Hi Anonymous,

Good question. You should speak with any bed bug dog professional at length before hiring him/her. It is currently an unregulated industry, so find out where the dog was trained and by whom, ask about any tests that have been done on the dog (independently-run tests if possible), and ask about what the inspection entails (no pun intended) as well as precautions the tech takes to avoid spreading bed bugs. I realize only the last question is relevant to your comment, but I wanted to remind folks about the necessity of finding out everything you can before hiring a bed bug dog (and the same holds true about PCOs).

Remember, though, a human inspector working without a dog could transmit bed bugs as easily. They’re more likely to travel in a trouser cuff or in a bag, than on a short-haired dog. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but it’s probably less likely than a human bringing them in. (Probably more of a worry if the dog was in a very infested room –say one next door– and then came directly into your home.)

4 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 12:47 am

Oh, this is great! It’s so rich! Sometimes I like to comment here, before reading anything in the links: this is one of those times…

If I, a very poor person, had to move, as in HUD housing is VERY scarce here in SF–and the bugs are almost running wild, this is what I might have to do. This issue did come up and so I had it all thought already: here it is:

Let’s assume too: The landlord had said “This apartment has been sprayed 3 times and it has no Bed bugs” since I had to move–I’d have to go anyway but I’d not take their word that the place had no bugs. I’d also be skeptical about the spray history too. I’d not let on … I’ve got to move in right?

a–I’d do my best to have all my Bed bug arsenal with me =$ 300 = min a studio.
b–I’d move in myself first only for as long as I could, say 2 weeks =min.
So I’d also have to pay rent in two places for at least one month
c–I’d clean the center of the sleeping room see FAQS
d–I’d place heavy plastic leaving 2 feet leeway all around, secured to floor with
two strips of Frost King carpet tape. I’d seal them down with good masking tape.
Then I’d lay down a good goop of Vaseline in the center of the carpet tape 100%
e–I’d set up a tent, as Bed bug proof as possible with the two feet leeway.
f–I’d sleep there only, for those two weeks, + only after also using FWDE in all
corners of room, including in crown molding + baseboards–and by front door.
g–Each morning (I’d) get out of tent warily, contact killer in hand–I’d spray any
and all bugs I saw. I’d exit.
h–Repeat for two weeks: then I’d decide if I should sue them, move in or whatnot.

* I’d prefer to be able to get the chance to do this for one full month.
* If the bugs are dying away … I’d start moving my isolated stuff in, as I’d have
no choice–I’d be now be financially quite strapped!
* I’s save and log and take pics of the entire process
* I’d then check my lease and call 311 and get them to spray.
* By now … I’d have a lot of clout in the sue should I choose that route.
* Id keep all my things isolated and be prepared for another month of this FAQS
* Each day I’d vacuum my heart out too!
* If needed–I’d steam the rugs!
* Total apx .extra cost 7-800.00
* Total lawsuit = at lest 5,000
* I’d win the case and buy $1000 worth of new supplies and try to move again.

These are the times we live in, as NOBUGSONME points out!
But I’d also do other things too. To find out what they are …
A—read and grasp ALL the FAQS here .. B—search the site … see the vidios and the pics …. Then C–come on in to the forums and read the moving FAQ! Yet again.

Yup, that’s what I’d be stuck doing! But, even if you have bucks–a lot of this would be good to do anyway.

Now I’ll read what nomo, and AT have to say and I’ll get on all those great links too!

Loved the Blog

5 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 1:57 am

QUITE COOL. LOVED THE AT link. I loved the little bird house in orange they are highlighting. Too bad, it looked like it was made of wood. Had it been metal, I’d “mite” like to get it and bring it into my new bed bug free place–hopefully–as per my comments above in that grueling procedure–if it worked–and I stayed in stead of brought them to suit in a court of LAW…
See in my little scenario, the bugs might have won.
Unforutantely, if I tried to get them to spray again before I moved in–I’d likely loose the option to move in, the poor are really getting pushed and shoved around here in SF–they and I are getting ill and sick over it.
thanks again.

6 nobugsonme July 29, 2007 at 9:44 am

Hi WIllow,
Yes–bed bugs in low-income and moderate-income housing is one of my biggest concerns. We need housing laws about keeping rentals pest-free to be enforced. They aren’t. And we need public education, because if tenants are bringing bed bugs into a building via their workplace, schools, via secondhand items, or by visiting friends, then the landlord can spray, vikane, or thermal all s/he likes–they will come back.

I also feel we need specific laws about disclosure: too many move into infested units — often it is clear the landlord knew of the infestation. In others, the success of treatment was not verified. This may be a problem with the form of treatment (for example, spraying an unoccupied unit will probably not work–the bugs can hide out until more “bait” appears.)

7 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

You’d think that by now some of the dumber or lazier or cheaper landlords and property owner’s would be starting to get that message; I t is actually cheaper in the long run to do it right at the onset—right?
I’d think they would have figured out that waiting longer before renting and repeating treatments and warning new tenants, would, be so much cheaper and so much less of a hassle and a “drain”.

This “Oh we had no idea the place had bugs” well, frankly it has got to stop soon no?
So, you are back.
Welcome home

8 willow-the-wisp July 29, 2007 at 2:58 pm

oh well I may have bb’s again, not too sure … I ordered the indoor mesh bed bug proof and other bugs proof too tent. I just now saw in the forums. I guess there will be no movies and popcorn for me for a while, but 125 and change is not too high aprice forme to pay–once.

Double-thanks Nobugsonme
All my troubles just dissapeared upon your timely return!
Hope it was bed bug free werever it was you were!

9 hopelessnomo August 17, 2007 at 9:54 am

I would LOVE a property in paradise, Costa Rica, how did you know?

But, I’d have pretty extensive pest exclusion specs for you, if you know what I mean. 😉

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: