New bed bug rules for New York City! Bed Bug Portal goes live

by nobugsonme on March 30, 2011 · 36 comments

in Bed Bug Advisory Board, bed bug treatment, bed bugs

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:

myth2

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.

What’s here?

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.

There’s also a standalone “Myths and Facts,” and a link to the article “Bed Bug Biology and Behavior” by Dini Miller (PDF).

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.

What’s missing?

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).

[Emphasis added.]

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.

[Emphasis added.]

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.

[Emphasis added.]

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!

 

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1 supercalifragilisticexpialidocious March 30, 2011 at 7:24 am

“There’s also a standalone “Myths and Facts” (Plural! I guess this is the rest of what I was supposed to experience in the interactive table)”

Similar, but not quite the same.

2 Winston O. Buggy March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am

I think this is an excellent step forward on many fronts. And all must realize and understand that this is a work in progress and those who are administrating it are aware of that. And I’m positive that as new information becomes available for the site once vetted it will be posted.

3 Doug Summers MS March 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

The site seems to work well on the Windows version of Firefox.

4 nobugsonme March 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Thanks, Doug.

I edited this post (3/29) to remove the discussion of Firefox glitches in Mac, and to add this above:

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.]

5 nobugsonme March 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Hi Winston,

I agree this is a great step forward (which I hope is clear above) and it’s clear the city plans to add more to the portal in time.

6 nobugsonme March 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Thanks, Super. The glitches I experienced initially in Firefox for Mac seem to be gone, so I removed that comment from the post above.

7 David Allen March 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

When dealing with bed bugs, it really makes my skin crawl. However, I’d have to say that bed bugs do bite during the day. While serving in the Military I’ve spent a lot of time in many different housing facilities that had many different people in many different times. It’s a real big deal that these little bugs can cause such a big problem for some many people around the world. In some counties their just happy to have a bed, but even throw I believe that they will bite in the light, because after being on duty all night long and going to bed during the early morning and waking up around 4 pm I had and issue with being bitten or what ever they do to our skin. This isn’t a good thing believe me.

David Allen

8 Mona March 30, 2011 at 10:22 pm

We moved into a building on the Upper West Side last July with an ongoing infestation (back from 2006 according to bedbugregistry). I am glad the law requires notification before lease signing now, even though I wish it had existed last year, I hope it saves some renters from anguish. We recently signed a lease on another apartment in Manhattan, and specifically asked for the form. The lease agent said we are the first one’s to ask, and if we had not, I am pretty sure she would have had us sign the form last – after the least as part of a bunch of paperwork. I think the new laws should be more publicized. I told many people mentioning planning a move about this. I am just a bit concerned that it is only the bedbug history of one year, because in our building the infestation is so widely spread that once the treatment wears off, the bugs are back with the next tenant in the first month of the lease. One positive side effect: most units in the building now have in-unit washer/dryers despite it being far from a “luxury rental”, maybe this is what NYC needed to upgrade to what should be normal in terms of modern housing. Thanks so much for writing your blog, we truly appreciated!

9 Lou Sorkin March 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm

A quick review (I looked it over earlier and possibly some items have been adjusted).
It’s a step in the right direction. I just think the info wasn’t reviewed carefully prior to uploading to website.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/html/basics/bed-bug-id.shtml
How to identify a bed bug
Much is attributed to adult insect and it’s not always reddish brown, not
always flat and round or oval and has stubby wing pads. Why not have a
picture of engorged insects, too? Nymphs are wingless. Adult pictured
actually isn’t shiny rusty red. Shiny after eating (and elongate) because
glossy parts of abdominal segments are now visible due to expansion during
feeding (shiny parts hidden when not engorged). If any have fed they will
be elongate in all stages and nymphs reddish due to imbibed blood visible
through translucent exoskeleton. In description: swollen and larger after
eating. Antennae aren’t short and thick, only 2 basal sections are
thicker than distal two. Probably person writing this info didn’t
look carefully or looked at other health dept pub listed below (www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/vector-faq1.pdf). I
personally think the apple seed analogy is not good for adult size
comparison: some people say look like apple seeds, size of apple seeds, etc.
Why isn’t juvenile stage also called nymph? Analogy of size doesn’t take
into account 5 nymph stages, not one, so poppy seed only approximates one
nymph stage. After feeding also color is red and then dark brown, and
shape changes to more elongate from oval. 6 legs not longer than body in
nymph shows leg extended past rear edge of abdomen.
Egg description ich should be inch. Hatching might be best to say 1-2
weeks rather than 2 weeks.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/html/basics/bed-bug-myths.shtml
Bed bug life cycle around a penny
Information should be listed as 1st stage nymph, 2nd stage nymph, etc., not just
1st stage, 2nd stage, etc.
Bed bugs cannot fly and will not jump from the floor to the bed.
True. Bed bugs have no wings and cannot fly, jump or hop.
— Adult bed bugs do have wings, but only short front wings and no hind wings.
Sometimes they appear to hop due to quick movements.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/downloads/pdf/is-it-a-bedbug.pdf
Bed Bugs: Reddish brown, flattened and oval in
shape; about 1/5 inch long; short thick antennae; dark
protruding eyes and wing-like structures on either side of
the head; Immature bed bugs are similar to adult, about
the size of a poppy seed and yellowish-white in color.
— Description based on adult even though not necessarily reddish-brown
and flattened all the time. Person doesn’t know what a bed bug looks like
describing antennae as short and thick (obviously only sees basal 2
segments). Wing-like structures on either side of head are actually the
right and left sides of pronotum, not 2 separate structures. Immature
description size refers to only one stage of 5 nymph stages.

Cockroaches: dark brown to reddish mahogany,
flattened, oval in shape; 1 1/5 – 2 inches long; long thin
antennae; large eyes and membranous wings; abdomen
with tail-like structures; Immature cockroaches are similar
to adults, smaller in size and without wings
— Description of cockroach is restricted to American cockroach and
doesn’t take into account more common German and Brown-banded. Wings are
more leathery than membranous.

Carpet Beetles: Round, solid brown to blackish, or
have irregular pattern of white, brown and orange scales;
about 1/5 inch long; short club-shaped antennae;
inconspicuous eyes, and a hard outer shell covering their
membranous wings. Immature beetles are about the
same length as adults and are covered with dense tufts
of hair.
— Description of adult beetle is trying to include a few species.
Immature beetle is larva of only one beetle pictured, not the other and
description is based on the larva presently figured, not on other species.
Also size is the size for a mature larvae ready to pupate since when they
hatch from eggs they are smaller than 1st instar bed bug nymph.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf
Unfortunately, drawings of bed bugs and not photographs.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/vector-faq1.pdf
This is an old one and information on spraying mattresses, sofas, etc. has
never been updated since there are products that are allowed to be applied
this way. Picture of bed bug is poorly cropped and 3rd & 4th antennal
segments have been chopped off as have tarsi from most legs. Person would
say that antennae are stubby because of this image.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/downloads/pdf/bed-bugs-moving.pdf
Wash clothing immediately as you normally would. If you suspect bed bugs,
launder washable items in hot water and dry on the highest setting for at
least 20 minutes. Dry cleaning and steam cleaning will kill bed bugs in
fabrics (including soft luggage) that can’t be washed and dried at high
settings.
— Drying is more important so if material is clean, just use the dryer.
Possible that green dry cleaning (uses CO2) will not kill bugs and eggs.

The visual presentations use 2 of my pictures.
What are bed bugs?
Information really based on adult insect and immatures not really
described or pictured. Life cycle shows 1st & 2nd instars full of blood
and 3rd, 4th, 5th unengorged.

Are bed bugs harmful to my health?
The first image is of many young nymphs on my left hand. There is a red
birthmark on my hand. There is no description of the image so people will
think that this is the result of bed bug bites. Viewing audience doesn’t
get correct description.

Other image is from How can I tell if I have bed bugs?
My image shows a raw wood shelf with a larger bug and small bugs and
droppings and eggs but none of these are actually described so viewing
audience doesn’t really get correct information.

reference is very good.
http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pesticides/pdffiles/bb-biology1.pdf

Don’t care much for this one
http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed
solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are
reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size
of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood
meal.
— reddish-brown, wingless, etc. not quite true. May not be so dark in color, can be orange-tan to brown to darker brown or reddish brown. A freshly molted bed bug is white and often with dark matter still in the gut. Lincoln’s head is actually quite big compared to adult bed bug.

There’s also the information about how many eggs a female produces ranging
upwards of 500 in her lifetime. I think there was only one ref to 500 in a
lab setting and that’s what everyone keeps stating because it just gets
the most press. Probably upwards of 200 would be max number under normal
conditions. Look at aforementioned online ref: reference is very good.
http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pesticides/pdffiles/bb-biology1.pdf

10 Sam Bryks March 31, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I had a look at the NYC site. Lots of good information there..
great resources as well.
I hate to be the naysayer in some aspects because there is so much good stuff there, or seem like a “party hack” in promoting the IPM concept, but I could not find anything in the up front fact sheets till I got to some videos by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann in which she presents the concept .
I find that there just seems to be a kind of disconnect among some of the communications folks and even NPMA that resists embracing the high value of the concept. NPMA, for example, relegated IPM to a list of non-chemical methods, but excluded it totally from where it should have been which is as a Pest “MANAGEMENT” process. Considering that EPA and CDC, as well as HUD, and a wide range of IPM Extension folks most notably in the IPM in Schools sector, not to mention the British Institute of Health (forgot the full name), all state unequivocally that IPM as concept and process should set the hallmark not only for bed bug management but for ALL pest management.
Though the new regulation requires that landlords keep proper records, and implies the appropriate follow-up, it seems that they are being told to document, document and fix, fix, but without really being given the tools on how to ensure that they can succeed. The guideline for pest control firms has nothing in it about IPM. ZERO… This is a formula for more failure in control.
the line about inspect and treat if necessary seems obvious to me, but there is the question of cost-effective inspections – who? a detection dog team at great expense? A super who has no idea except as they might learn fast or avoid altogether…
A pest control guy who is under pressure to do units cheap and fast?
sure the information is there if someone searches through lots of resources, but by not encapsulating the IPM approach and roles and responsibilities in a way that is easily understood, — it is just going to be a lot harder for everyone.
It isn’t just New York City of course. If NPMA can’t get it right, why would anyone expect a municipalityto get it right even though CDC/EPA and many others keep reminding about the importance of the concept. Even though Cornell IPM put out a most excellent brochure on bed bugs with IPM in the title, even that seems to have been missed somehow..
Oh well, we just need to keep soldiering on.

Sam

11 Sidrah April 1, 2011 at 7:10 am

Nice article…. an effective approach towards a common problem. Such actions should be implemented for other states also.

12 nobugsonme April 2, 2011 at 1:05 am

Hi David,

No one here is going to dispute that bed bugs do bite during the day. They are more active at night if they can get food that way. In your case, they adjusted. They live to eat.

13 nobugsonme April 2, 2011 at 1:08 am

Thanks for your kind words, Mona.

“We recently signed a lease on another apartment in Manhattan, and specifically asked for the form. The lease agent said we are the first one’s to ask, and if we had not, I am pretty sure she would have had us sign the form last – after the least as part of a bunch of paperwork.”

Yeah… they’re not supposed to need to be asked for the forms, and they’re not supposed to produce them after the lease is signed.

People need to report landlords to the DCHR when the forms are not produced and at the correct stage of signing the lease (e.g. before). Unfortunately, people living in a building may be reluctant to do this out of fear of angering landlords.

A washer or dryer in the unit is my new definition of a NYC luxury apartment! :-)

14 nobugsonme April 2, 2011 at 1:15 am

Hi Lou,

Good analysis.

Unless I am mistaken, it looks like a lot more information has already been added. That’s great to see.

15 nobugsonme April 2, 2011 at 2:21 am

Hi Sam,

Thanks for your comments.

When this blog first started, many people seemed to think IPM meant “no pesticides.” People seem a bit more aware these days — thanks in part to resources like those from Cornell– but it depends on the crowd. I agree there’s a lot more that needs to be done to communicate the message.

You’re right to be concerned about conveying to the public and various players the complexity of inspections and treatment: it’s hard to convey in a moment how complicated all of this is. “Inspect and treat if necessary” sure sounds nice.

It does not convey how difficult (and yet not impossible) it is to find a sample quickly, or how much skill and time is needed to do treatment or even inspect properly. (It’s why we have at least until recently had NYC housing inspectors asking tenants to see their bed bugs.)

And yet when the message does get across that skill and knowledge are needed, I’ve seen consumers panic that “no one will be able to solve their bed bug problems,” which is also problematic and not true.

I guess what I’m saying is yes, we need to keep soldiering on, and I expect we will be for some time.

16 Nicole Levine April 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

This is going to provide great information on what is going on in New York City. Glad to see New York City getting serious about bed bugs.

17 Dora Bush April 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

This discussion is not theoretical as far as I’m concerned. I’m in NYC, and have had bedbugs in my studio apartment for 3 months now, even after extensive “treatments” — pesticide, steam, repainting and plastering — by a company that ostensibly has a good reputation (though I have found them to be careless and not thorough at all). My landlord wants to clear the problem up, but he’s getting lousy advice from the Pest control company. Where do we go for comprehensive guidance on treatment?

18 bed bugged in a coop April 3, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I am an NYC coop apartment owner with bed bugs that I had THOUGHT were brought into the apartment via luggage/travel, but learned yesterday actually came to my home from the apartment below. In this apartment resides a very elderly, but still active/out and about woman whose apartment is extraordinarily cluttered. Took my PCO about 3 seconds to find definitive signs — blood stains, a casing on the headboard — he didn’t even bother to turn the bed over. The room below my own bedroom is filled — completely packed so that you cannot enter — with old clothes. PCO thinks she transferred them there from her bedroom, and then they got hungry and made their way through the walls, up to my apartment.

I’m on the board of my coop and my fellow board members are all set to apply maximal management here — a thermal/chemical combo — but we have no idea how we are going to deal with an elderly hoarder who may completely refuse to cooperate. She has already stated to family members (whom we have asked to intervene) that she will not get rid of any of her stuff. She doesn’t believe she has a problem b/c she “isn’t getting bitten”, etc.

So I’m looking around online for legal information. Everything is pretty much about forcing your landlord to act, but not so much about dealing with this kind of resident.

Advice?

19 nobugsonme April 4, 2011 at 12:49 am

Hi bed bugged in a coop,

Sorry you’re dealing with this.

I am not a lawyer, and you may need to consult one, but there are some good resources from Habitat Magazine (the magazine for Coop and Condo Board Members).

I will paste some of them below.

Bed Bugs
Discussion of legal issues on Habitat forums (2009: may or may not contain outdated information)
Habitat’s article on the bed bug portal
Bed bugs and boards (2006: again, it may contain some outdated information, but there are a few interesting paragraphs about Warranty of Habitability as applied to coops):

Elizabeth Jensen writes on Habitat:

There’s legal controversy over whether boards should notify all owners, says Timothy Wenk, a lawyer at Shafer Glazer who specializes in bedbug litigation. “There is a stigma attached to bedbug infestation, even though it is not related to cleanliness,” he notes. Nonetheless, he advises clients to notify other apartment owners when an infestation is found. “These little beasts are known to travel apartment to apartment,” he says, and failing to warn neighbors to be on the lookout could lead to lawsuits over the damages and unnecessary hardship caused if the bugs do spread.

Wenk believes the implied warranty of habitability under Real Property Law, Section 235-b, gives co-op boards, but not condos, “a duty to eradicate the bedbug infestation” in the same way a landlord must. As such, he says, co-ops are probably responsible for the extermination costs and also have a duty to evict an owner who doesn’t “follow instructions and coordinate with efforts to eradicate the bugs.”

Finally, a feature from 2009 about how one large coop dealt with bed bugs, legally, treatment-wise, etc.

I hope this helps, and please let us know how it turns out.

20 nobugsonme April 4, 2011 at 1:10 am

Hi Dora,

I’m not sure, to be honest. The city is willing to give advice to 311 callers, but is it not likely to be coming from anyone with specialized knowledge of bed bugs. The portal does have a section for Landlords, which may be helpful.

You can ask advice from some experienced and knowledgeable pros on our forums. Feel free to post there if you want to discuss your situation or ask for advice.

In a multi-unit building, it’s important that adjacent units (above, below, all sides) are inspected and treated if necessary. If bed bugs persist for a while despite treatment, neighbors may be the cause. This is part of the new rules for NYC described above, and may help offer guidance to the landlord.

At what intervals have your treatments occurred?

21 nobugsonme April 4, 2011 at 1:12 am

One other thought: the NYCDOH bed bug portal offers a page for homeowners and tenants, which includes a link to Adult Protective Services.

That’s extreme, I know, and heartbreaking. So is eviction. It’s an awful situation.

If the resident-owner really is a harm to herself and others, then she may need a social worker and some kind of intervention. If she is still in control of her faculties, then simply understanding the stakes here might lead to cooperation. (I’m not an expert on the law, pest control, or mental health issues, for the record.)

22 bed bugged in a coop April 4, 2011 at 10:18 am

thanks so much for the time you took to provide me with that info — very, very much appreciated. i’ll post a f/u as events unfold…

23 bedbuglady April 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I’ve been hired by a landlord of several buildings, with over 100 units in most buildings, to handle bed bugs. That is my only job. We’re on the West Coast. I’m following the cases in New York because we don’t have many out here.

I help our tenants as much as I can with information, I answer questions, I provide garbage bags for clean-up, etc. I have been paying for mattress covers, climb-ups, and sometimes providing quarters for low-income tenants to do their laundry. If tenants are willing to do their part to get this done, I think it’s worth the expense to protect the building from these bugs.

Luckily, our pest control company is AMAZING! They have been working themselves out of a job. We haven’t had any complaints in weeks. I’m brinigng a K-9 unit in to confirm we’re good.

The problem we have is that a portion of our tenants do not prepare for treatment. They do not clean. They do not wash and dry clothing and bedding. Frequently, I walk in to a unit that is so packed with garbage that you wouldn’t want to be in there. Luckily, our pest control guys will lay things like DE in the walls to help protect other tentants while we fight with the packrats and uncleanly tenants.

I would like to see more court support for landlords who are trying to do the right thing. It’s not always about the big mean landlord.

24 nobugsonme April 5, 2011 at 12:29 am

Good luck!
Sounds like a difficult situation for everyone…

25 Sam Bryks April 5, 2011 at 1:34 am

Dear BedBugLady,
I have no idea of your background in this, but when i hear someone who is supposed to help describe tenants as “uncleanly”(no such word really),or as “fight with the packrats” – sounds like you have really lost your way.
First, bed bug infestations have nothing to do with cleanliness. That is another issue. Sounds like people with mental health or social issues who need help.
Courts won’t help much i’m afraid.. or if there is someone very good in the court system, they would refer to a social support agency to help those tenants.
This is not easy.. but it takes some research on available resources, getting the health department involved and getting a professional or someone who is skilled in helping people.. The problems these people have were there before the bed bugs arrived, and they probably have been forgotten or abandoned because of their illness. bottom line,, these people need help, compassion, and someone they can trust and it doesn’t sound like you have those skills,, so get someone who can help you to learn how to help these folks..
otherwise, they become homeless if they fall through the cracks and they deserve better..
that’s my take on it..
with frankness and respect,
Sam

26 Sam Bryks April 5, 2011 at 1:48 am

Thanks for your comments..
bottom line of course is that we need to keep educating all stakeholders, but I get upset when some of those who should be leading this with excellent information just refuse to focus on IPM..and this is really where it is best understood. EPA, HUD, CDC and many extension departments promote this, but here is a major city that still doesn’t “get it” in spite of all the expensive communication pieces with artwork and so on.. Looks pretty.. but actually less effective than some real life images. I love good doc with excellent graphics but showing artist’s renditions of “bed bugs” is no where as good as the real images shown in ways that people can recognize them in relation to real objects be it a hand or a pencil or a penny.
We really need to educate key stakeholders onthe IPM process such as health inspectors and property management folks. I recently gave a talk and after presenting the basics of IPM, asked the class of about 40 key people from school boards, health units, property management, legal aid and support agencies and about 5 said they knew what it meant before my presentation. A few weeks before that I gave a talk to more than a 100 property management folks and about 3 or 4 people acknowledged knowing the concept before I spoke.The others simply didn’t know what IPM was even though they had heard of it, and had some notion of what they thought it meant..Most think it means using methods other than pesticides.. NPMA in their BMP Bed Bugs basically described IPM as a list of non chemical methods.
I am not an IPM “fanatic” as such, but i know that the way to solve the problem necessitates a real understanding of what IPM really means. Otherwise, all the reasons why control has failed will continue… It’s not about resistance.. It is about good management and that good management is in the M of IPM.
will have the presentations from my workshop up on my website over the next few weeks and months.. will let y ou know when.
best wishes,
Sam

27 bed bugged in a coop April 5, 2011 at 11:24 am

Hi Sam,
Yes, bed bug infestations have nothing to do with cleanliness, but getting rid of them certainly does. See my post above! Of course compassion is required, but if you yourself have dealt with hoarders and other mentally ill people, then you must know how incredibly difficult it is. In a bed bug situation, these individuals are ruining the mental health and quality of life of their neighbors. I can hardly blame bedbuglady for referring to “fighting” with the packrats. Social service interventions are certainly called for, but are very slow and not always very effective, as I learned through many years doing exactly this kind of work in New York City. Finally, isn’t is petty bad form to criticize people’s spelling/grammar etc.? Especially in a comments posting? I mean, for all you know, English is BBL’s second or even third language, in which case her fluency is impressive.

If you read my post above, you will see I am essentially in the position of landlord, as well as someone with a small child who reacts to the bb bites. I agree with BBL — it’s not always about the “big mean landlord.”

28 bed bugged in a coop April 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

For anyone else reading in a similar situation, the answer is to move to terminate the owner of record’s proprietary lease and seize control of the property, evict, etc. We also have contacted social services, but feel we cannot just wait to see if that works before taking strong legal action against the resident of the apartment. Does that make me uncompassionate? If yes, I don’t mind a bit!

29 bed bugged in a coop April 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

And, P.S., why on props to bedbuglady’s employer, a landlord who apparently is trying to solve this problem rather than let everyone get bitten up???

30 bed bugged in a coop April 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

sorry, meant to say “no props”

31 nobugsonme April 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks, Sam. Please do keep us posted about the presentations!

32 Bugged in Brooklyn April 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

Hi – Sorry if I’m completely missing this, but I am trying to find out what the tenants rights are when bedbugs were found in a multiple dwelling building. The recently updated information, as with multiple calls to 311, I still am not able to find out if the landlord is legally required to use a licensed professional to exterminate. (As you mention in your blog post above – which is great btw, a real life saver)

The bedbugs were found in the walls/furniture of the unit above us. I am concerned as the landlord did not take appropriate action and has only used essential oil spray (Rest Easy) to deal with the problem. Our slumlord’s being a real A-hole about the whole thing and trying to play the blame game (what are we 15?) urgh.

Can anyone help? Anyone else run into similar problems?

33 nobugsonme April 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Bugged in Brooklyn,

You’re right– the Bed Bug Portal (and even Met Council’s bed bug page) are vague on this.

The landlord has to “eliminate bed bugs”. We’re told it’s illegal in NYC for a landlord to apply pesticides to your home (or have someone else do so) unless s/he is a licensed applicator.

That said, it may technically be legal for him to apply an essential oil spray, because it’s not considered a pesticide. This does not mean he is taking appropriate action, however.

I would call Met Council on Housing: they give excellent advice and know the housing laws in NYC in and out. (Note that the Bed Bug Portal repeatedly links to them as a resource.) Details on how to get in touch here: http://www.metcouncil.net/contact.htm

Do you have bed bugs yourself? If so, I suspect Met Council will tell you to call 311 since the landlord is not taking appropriate steps to eliminate bed bugs. If not, your neighbors who got the Rest Easy treatment may need to call 311 themselves.

34 sam bryks April 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Bedbuglady,
first, i mean no disrespect in pointing out an error in spelling. that is how we correct and help spelling. It is certainly not disrespectful. I don’t take a critique of my own spelling as disrespectful.
In Canada, we have a human rights code that requires reasonable accommodation in the face with a disability be it physical or mental.
When someone starts to characterize people as “packrats” it is very negative and using the word “fight” really says it all. This is not about a “fight”.. It is about solving a problem – and you get a lot further by being supportive and compassionate than judgemental. I stand by what I wrote.
Hoarding is a mental health issue that requires support. It is not your fault of course, but it happens, and it necessitates getting help for people. Some landlords see this as totally outside of their scope of accountability or legal responsibility, and look to an easy fix such as eviction, but that helps no one. There are lots of people out there with various reasons that prevent them from preparing, not only hoarding, but other health issues such as arthritis, and old age, or other health conditions including mental health issues, isolation, shame, etc… The landlord can just go the eviction route, but here it is not so simple due to the human rights code.. but really the best approach is to see this as a part of property management and to facilitate support. You might be amazed at how some support agencies will help people at no or little cost depending on their financial situation, and hoarding is not restricted to the poor… Famous case of two sisters in NYC (I think) who were well off and were victims of hoarding. A book was written about them.
Sam

35 nobugsonme April 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thanks, Sam.

Canada’s laws may be more enlightened than those of the US in this respect, though I would hope that property managers (or coop boards in the case of bed bugged in a coop) would try and get the resident some assistance with their problem rather than simply rushing to evict.

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