Toronto landlord fights bed bugs, stays friends with tenants

by nobugsonme on November 26, 2008

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, diatomaceous earth, Joe Fiorito, landlords and tenants, ontario, toronto

Joe Fiorito has a great story today in The Star about a landlord (David Brown) and his super (Eric Marshall) and their battle with bed bugs, which started when Eric inspected a unit where the “walls were black and moving” with bed bugs (shudder):

David said, “We found bedbugs in two units; this one, and the one below. We renovated. We put insecticide powder down; diatomaceous earth, with a weak insecticide. Then we put in new floors; laminate, tight-fitting.” They also put new quarter-round on all the baseboards, and they sealed all the cracks; they rebuilt walls and sealed and sprayed the drywall; they put powder in all the electrical outlets; they caulked everywhere they could.

David, who has five buildings and is negotiating to buy three more, said, “I think I’ve spent $15,000 to $20,000 on bedbugs over the past five years.”

I was curious. He said, “I have a social responsibility. I don’t want a reputation as a slum landlord. I regard my tenants as my customers; some have become my friends.” I was disarmed.

David and Eric (who was a social worker before he became a super!) demonstrate that it is possible to fight bed bugs with DE + insecticide, and apparently without traditional spraying. However, it’s worth noting they did a lot more than dust a bit of powder around the room.

Getting rid of bed bugs is almost never easy.  And I would not want to encourage people to try and fight an infestation with just dust, in the absence of other extreme measures.

However, the most important messages we can glean from David Brown’s building are:

  • treating bed bugs the wrong way can cost landlords more than dealing with the problem properly,
  • treating bed bugs properly starts with educating yourself about bed bugs,
  • tenants need to know they can report bed bugs (indeed, need to know bed bugs exist) so that treatment can occur before things get out of hand.

We know from other stories that if tenants fear they will be blamed, or fear they will have to pay for treatment, they may be reluctant to come forward.

In the end, this costs everyone — landlords, tenants, neighboring tenants — much more money and pain.

David Brown and Eric Marshall to have found ways to avoid this scenario; that Brown dealing well enough with bed bugs in his rooming houses to be able to  grow his business during the current bed bug epidemic is itself a lesson to other landlords.

Do read the rest of Joe Fiorito’s excellent story here.


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