Let’s face it: bed bugs bite. But when they bite in multi-family housing with lots of owners, things get complicated. The New York Times offers advice today to a family dealing with a protracted battle with bed bugs, in a New York City cooperative apartment (“Ask Real Estate: When Bed Bugs Bite”).
The resident in this case has had a bed bug issue for a year, and reports that the problem started in a neighboring unit and spread to several others. The building’s exterminator has not succeeded in eliminating the bed bugs thus far and the family is considering thermal treatment, while also enquiring about legal routes for getting someone else to cover the cost of bed bug treatment.
The Times consulted experts on real estate and bed bugs. Elliott Meisel, a local real estate lawyer, urges the coop owners to get rid of bed bugs before trying to fight a legal battle.
Local bed bug experts Gil Bloom and Lou Sorkin (himself well known to users of this site), in turn, warn against thermal treatment of one unit in a situation like this, and suggest other units be inspected to determine the full scope of the problem so it can be fully addressed.
And there were very useful suggestions from Ask Real Estate’s Ronda Kaysen on how to get building management to address an issue properly:
Enlist other affected neighbors to sign a letter to building management urging them to solve the problem. Tell them that they must take the lead and employ an exterminator experienced in handling infestations in multifamily buildings. If management doesn’t respond adequately, file a claim in housing court to compel them to employ more effective methods. Raising the issue at a shareholder meeting might shame the board into responding and help you gather allies whose homes might also be at risk. But be aware that the approach could also backfire: No one likes the bearer of bad news.
I am interested in hearing about other coop- or condo-dwellers’ experiences of fighting bed bugs in their buildings, and also additional tips from experts.
Please comment below if you’d like to share!