The New York City media was busy with bed bug news yesterday, including that of a new bed bug page from the New York City Department of Health, as well as new rules for treatment in rental units, and regarding protocols professionals use to treat bed bugs.
Last year, the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board made a number of recommendations. The city awarded $500K in funding to implement a number of these including an internet bed bug portal. Yesterday, the site Bed Bugs: Information, Resources, and Management for New York City Residents was launched with educational information, though it sounds like they’re not quite done with it yet.
The site hosts the 2010 guide “Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely” (English PDF; also available from the portal in six other languages), and features lots of bed bug resources, as well as interactive lessons on topics including:
- What are bed bugs?
- How can I tell if I have bed bugs?
- Are bed bugs harmful to my health?
- How can I get rid of bed bugs?
- How can bed bugs be prevented? and
- Bed Bugs: Myths and Facts
Most of these aren’t really interactive, consisting of an audio track, one image, and some bulleted points which appear at intervals. Still, it covers the basics and is a helpful introduction.
The Myths and Facts quiz is interactive:
I had some initial problems with the interactive tutorial on several browsers for the Mac, but it all seems to be working well today on Firefox. [I have removed a now pointless discussion of the minor glitches I was seeing in various browsers.]
In the latest version of Safari for Mac, however, you can’t complete the “Myths and Facts” quiz, because the “next” button doesn’t work; you get only one Myth or Fact and the party’s over. Safari users will want to use Firefox, as they probably want to much of the time anyway.
Below that interactive table, the standalone sections seem to be pretty informative.
There is a section also called “What are bed bugs?” (much more helpful than the one above it) which goes to a “Bed Bugs Basics” page, with information on bed bug identification (Nice, but they need some unfed and fed first instar photos!), a link entitled, “Is it a Bed Bug, Cockroach, or Carpet Beetle?” (PDF) — good, but bring on the book lice (psocids) and the spider beetles, which are commonly mistaken for bed bugs by our readers.
It is great that the city is using some existing resources like the Miller article where possible, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Bravo!
I would go a step further: I think bed bug materials created by government employees and published on government websites should be open source. But I digress!
Last but not least, “Hiring a Professional,” also in the standalone section, links to a PDF with — you guessed it — helpful tips about hiring a pest management professional.
The NYC Bed Bug Advisory Board’s Report from April 2010 (more on this here, with link to a PDF) recommended that
. . . a Bed Bug Portal would serve as an outreach tool where residents could download fact sheets and educational resources, view instructional videos or slide presentations, and find other documents. It could also provide tools such as inspection forms, contract language, and the elements of a training curriculum that City agencies, property owners/managers and other institutions can adapt to their own needs.
In particular, New Yorkers should have step-by-step instructions on how to control bed bugs in their homes and possessions. This should include information about their rights and responsibilities, and what to do to prevent, confirm and manage an infestation. Information exists but there is great inconsistency. Landlords should have information about their role in bed bug management, as well as facts about spread, prevention, legal issues, and appropriate methods of gaining cooperation from tenants. They also should have protocols for dealing with the movement and discarding of bed bug infested items within their buildings, and contract language to include with leases that requires the provision of access in the case of bed bugs.
The portal should also offer statistics by district (10-11).
Some of the above is touched on in the educational materials that are live today (as of April 1st), including information targeting various constituencies (health professionals, moving and storage, homeowners and tenants, landlords and building managers, etc.). Again, bravo to the city for linking out to existing materials, like those provided by the Met Council on Housing!
Still, more materials can and should be added to the site to accomplish those goals. (And it’s clear from the city council’s press release that the city intends to add more materials to the site in time, though it’s not clear exactly what will be included.)
It’s clear to me, for example, that tenants need more information about what happens when they call 311 to report bed bugs (which generally happens only if the landlord does not react to requests for help).
Tenants also need to know about the new law in NYC requiring landlords to disclose bed bug infestations to new tenants in a DBB-N form (more on that in these posts from last year). This is mentioned in the “Information for Homeowners and Tenants” section in the sidebar.
It’s pretty clear many landlords are choosing to ignore the new disclosure rules, if they are aware of them. I have heard of two cases in the last few weeks on our forums, where prospective tenants were not provided with the disclosure form or information about bed bugs in the building. In one case, the landlord did not disclose the building’s bed bug problems (which s/he was aware of) and the tenant moved in and later discovered a bed bug. In the second, the landlord disclosed after the tenant signed the lease (and a broker was involved). And these are not the only cases I have heard of.
I’m also waiting for some kind of information for homeowners who can’t afford professional treatment, but don’t know what to do — those step-by-step instructions the Bed Bug Advisory Board suggested.
Of course, I’d much rather people on low incomes get some sort of assistance with treatment (or, better yet, that everyone in NYC have access to something like Toronto’s Bug and Scrub, with it’s sliding scale pricing), but we need something for those who can’t pay for treatment.
Clearly, New Yorkers need more than what’s on the NYC DOH website right now.
That said, the new materials are much welcomed. Better some material now and more later, than waiting for a massive unveiling. Right?
Besides buzzing about the bed bug portal, the news media was excited — and a bit confused — about the new rules which apply to landlords and tenants.
Ny1 notes that
When bedbugs are found in any apartment, building managers will have to inspect the apartments next door, above and below and treat any that are found to be infested. They also have to use a licensed exterminator and use other treatment strategies in addition to pesticides.
Hey — I thought the laws here already said landlords had to use licensed pest control firms?
Note that some news outlets like Crain’s New York were describing the new rules differently than NY1, stating that “landlords are now required to inspect and treat units adjacent to infestations;” the New York Post printed similar information.
I hoped the city’s press release would sort this out, but I now see it is actually the source of the confusion.
First it says,
Under their new protocol for issuing violations, the agencies will require owners and managers of properties where bed bug infestations have been identified to inspect and treat units adjacent to the bed bug infested unit, use a licensed pest control professional to treat the infestation, and employ a variety of treatment strategies rather than depending on chemical pesticides alone.
However, later the same press release contradicts this statement, saying
- Owners must now inspect, and if necessary treat units adjacent to, above and below any unit where bed bugs are found.
- Where bed bugs persist, or occur in multiple apartments in the same building, the Health Department will require property owners take several additional pest removal steps (i.e., notify tenants that bed bugs have been identified in the building, develop and distribute a building-wide Pest Management Plan to all tenants).
- To verify that bed bug infestations have been properly treated and conditions conducive to infestation have been addressed, owners who are repeat offenders must have their licensed exterminator complete an Affidavit of Correction of Pest Infestation.
- Owners, who fail to provide these documents in a timely way to the Health Department, will be issued a Notice of Violation and will be required to appear at a hearing before the City’s Environmental Control Board where fines may be issued and non-compliant landlords may end up with a lien on their property, which was not possible before.
It’s not entirely clear from the NYC Press Release whether landlords will be required to (1) inspect all units and treat only infested units, or (2) inspect and treat all units, though I suspect the first meaning is intended. Can anyone in the know confirm this?
There’s also the rule that pest control firms must use “other treatment strategies in addition to pesticides.” That seems like a good start, but leaves the menu wide open for a whole range of combinations ranging from better (pesticides and steam and dust, steam and pesticides, dust and pesticides) to not-good (dust and contact killer sprays).
I’m not a pest control expert, but the last option might take a long time.
Ah, and the media was also buzzing with the HPD bed bug statistics (here, again from Crain’s):
In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010, the city tracked more than 31,700 bedbug-related 311 calls—a 20% rise over the prior year.
Sing along with me, “Most people don’t call 311. Most people don’t call 311. Most people don’t call 311.”
That song never changes from year to year.
The statistics are grim.
I am interested in feedback — from tenants, landlords, and professionals — about these new rules for bed bug treatment in NYC.
Your turn: hit the comments below!