The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city will soon be changing some of the rules for how landlords (and other property owners) deal with bed bugs, and it’s not too late for those of you in San Francisco to learn more about and weigh in on the proposed changes.
The Chron reports,
Some of the proposed changes include requiring that landlords who provide a mattress and box spring in a unit also include a bed bug proof encasing; requiring landlords to provide bed bug prevention guidance to new tenants; and requiring that landlords who offer daily, weekly and monthly rentals look for bedbugs in units every month.
Many pest management professionals would agree with encasements, though it should be stated that a poorly designed encasement is worse than useless; so is a torn one. (See our FAQ on encasements for more.)
Handling a mattress or box spring which is encased can cause tears more easily than you’d think. If you have a cat with claws, you’re in real risk.
Mandating encasing, then, would seem to be a complex matter, and may actually do more harm than good if hotel guests or short-term tenants end up with torn or poorly designed encasements which simply serve to better hide and harbor biting bed bugs.
This concern aside, it seems like there’s a lot of really good policies here.
For example, the new rules stipulate that monitors will be installed and inspected periodically for six weeks after the final pest control treatment for bed bugs (and this placement and monitoring will be done by “trained employees” or licensed PCOs). Results of periodic monitor inspections will be placed in a log that DPH employees or tenants can request to view.
That seems like a very positive development, since not knowing if bed bugs are truly gone is a universal problem among those who’ve just had bed bug treatment.
Another thing which is included in that list of proposed changes (PDF, highly recommended) is a statement that clarifies that landlords are not the only “Responsible Parties” for eliminating bed bugs:
Owner will always be named as a Responsible Party, but in addition, a tenant may “contribute to a condition that constitutes a nuisance” or a PCO may “fail to correct a condition that constitutes a nuisance” and thus also be named additional Responsible Parties.
As such, the policies give specific responsibilities to tenants (such as promptly reporting bed bugs, complying with preparations and treatment, etc.). There is an explanation of how to proceed if the tenant can’t do their own prep due to physical limitations.
However, some PCOs would object to the requirement that tenants wash, dry and bag all clothing (see Tenant 4.1 in the proposed policies PDF). We know several highly reputable firms which don’t automatically require clients to wash and dry and bag all their clothing. I can see that the SFDPH is trying to mandate a typical prep scenario (which tenants might object to even when PCOs do require it), and yet requiring it when a PCO might not call for it seems pointless and onerous on tenants.
The proposed rules require PCOs to carry out their job in a certain way — inspecting entire units and all adjacent units (above, below, on sides) to those infested, inspecting common areas, and documenting inspections. This seems like a positive development. We often hear from PCOs that they want to inspect adjacent units, but landlords often try to avoid paying for this.
If you’re in the San Francisco area, you can participate in a public meeting about the proposed changes tomorrow:
The public is invited to weigh in on this pesky topic from 1:30-3 p.m. Thursday [March 22, 2012] at 101 Grove Street in Room 300. The health department plans to finalize the new rules by the end of May.
Despite a few concerns, there’s some really exciting and innovative policy work here.
For a comparison, here are the current Director’s Rules and Regulations: How to Control Bed Bug Infestation (2006, PDF) from the San Francisco Director of Public Health.
This is the current San Francisco Department of Public Health bed bug page (with links to fact sheets for landlords, tenants, and SROs, in English, Chinese, and Spanish).