The story focuses on Lisa Courtney’s bed bug battle:
Courtney tossed out her bed, mattress and linens. CityHousing, Hamilton’s social housing agency, had her Cumberland Avenue apartment treated and life returned to normal.
But now, the bedbugs are back. Courtney’s anxiety has shot up with reports of three neighbours with the same problem.
“I’m psychotic now, because people down the hall have them, too,” she said.
Landlords need to learn that you can’t simply treat the unit of the person who complains about bed bug bites. You have to have all adjacent units (above, below, and on all sides) carefully inspected and treated if necessary.
Apartment managers would be advised to read this article from Techletter.com about dealing with bed bugs in the properties under their care.
Since bed bugs can be hard to detect, especially in the early stages of infestation, landlords may also consider that treating all adjacent units where bed bugs have not been found may be a good idea. The City of Boston’s Housing Division actually requires this when the Inspectional Services Department finds bed bugs in an apartment:
Our Standard bed bug notice of violation also requires that owners inspect all units in the dwelling, and they must treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units to the infested unit(s).
Boston landlords treat adjacent units even if they turn up no visible signs of bed bugs.
You don’t know how often Bedbuggers tell us (often in the forums) both of the following: (a) I have had 4+ bed bug treatments and the problem persists, and (b) none of my neighbors have bed bugs. When pressed, people invariably say neighbors were “asked.” Since as many as 50% of people don’t react to bites, asking doesn’t do much. Many times, inspection also turns up nothing. And then a few months later, lo and behold, bed bugs are back.
You also don’t know how often I hear (often in discreet emails) about professionals eventually discovering the badly-infested unit, with so many bed bugs they’re falling from the walls in broad daylight — invariably a bed bug infestation later discovered in a building where some other poor soul thought they were the only ones infested. Sometimes neighbors don’t know they have bed bugs because they can’t see them.
Other times bed bugs are clearly visible, but residents don’t know what they are, or fear repercussions for bringing the problem to light, or are impaired in some way such that they cannot recognize the problem or act on it, or (in rare cases) they know and just don’t care (shudder).
The good news is Hamilton is taking bed bugs seriously:
Stan Yung, a Hamilton public health manager, says the city is already intervening. It has been tracking cases since 2005 and now has a new public education campaign.
(I look forward to hearing how they are tracking infestations.)