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.