Bed bugs continue to plague Boston, but the news is not all bad

by nobugsonme on May 11, 2009 · 4 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bug inspections, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, best practices, boston, massachusetts, spread of bed bugs

A new article from the Boston Herald warns of a difficult bed bug spring, and notes a continued yearly rise in bed bug complaints to the Boston Inspectional Services Department.

The bedbug resurgence that began in the early 21st century is creeping and crawling with a vengeance, according to national and local experts, who warn of a particularly pesky spring.

“As the weather gets warmer, we typically get more complaints,” said Boston Inspectional Services Department Assistant Commissioner Dion Irish. “The bedbugs get more active as the climate gets warmer.”

According to ISD, as of April 15, Hub bedbug complaints already had surpassed yearly totals for the two previous years: 223 complaints in 2009 versus 182 complaints in 2007 and 210 complaints in 2008.

However, there are some things Boston is doing well.  For example, as the Boston ISD website states,

Our Standard bed bug notice of violation also requires that owners inspect all units in the dwelling, and they must treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units to the infested unit(s).

(Emphasis added.)

We hear from tenants in other cities that many (if not most) landlords will not voluntarily pay to have adjacent units inspected, let alone the entire building — even though their PCOs or entomologists may recommend this.

Having a policy that requires adjacent units to be treated means small and difficult to detect neighboring infestations may be nipped in the bud.  And having the entire building inspected means there’s more chance of detecting additional infested units.

All of this costs money, but when you think of the amount landlords in other cities pay to perpetually treat units one by one, piecemeal (a process which may never remove the problem), it does not seem like a bad idea economically.

The article notes that the city’s aggressive response to bed bugs in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood has made a difference.

Irish said the department is working to make sure there’s quality pest control available to property owners, and noted landlords are responsible for extermination costs or face housing court.

“Whenever we’re aware of an infestation, we require multiple exterminations and monitoring,” Irish said, touting the city’s get-tough policy for improvements in the Allston-Brighton area.

That neighborhood had seen a concentration of bedbug complaints dating back to 2003. Thanks to outreach efforts, a strategy of quick street-side pickups of discarded furniture by the Department of Public Works, and aggressive treatment of infested and surrounding units, “those areas are no longer troubled areas,” Irish said. The number of complaints in Allston- Brighton dropped from 38 in 2007 to 27 in 2008. There are 25 complaints there so far this year.

(Emphasis added.)

Obviously, Allston-Brighton is still troubled by bed bugs, but it appears to have been much less troubled in 2008 than in 2007.  Keeping in mind that bed bug problems will tend to get worse in time, as the problem spreads through a neighborhood, a reduction in complaints like this is good news indeed.

On the other hand, there are 25 complaints in 2009 so far — suggesting 2009 is on track to be big for bed bugs in Allston-Brighton.  Is this a factor of a less aggressive recent approach in the neighborhoods?  Or is it a sign that this is indeed “a particularly pesky spring” for bed bugs in Boston?

In any case, it looks like Boston has lots of work to do.

See Bedbugs back on attack –

1 Boston Bugterfuge May 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Allston-Brighton is infested (jk) with college students, so there is typically a huge changeover on September 1. One thing I have always learned living in Boston is to avoid driving off of Comm Ave on that day, or be prepared to wait at every corner for a mattress to be unloaded or a dresser lugged in front of your car. Anyway, you would expect more complaints in the fall-winter than in the spring-summer because this is when the tenants will discover an existing infestation or you would think. But consider: it usually isn’t college students that are reporting their bed bug problems to the city, instead, they report the problem to the apartment management company to get treatment (students possibly out of state, unaware of rights etc.). The last thing management wants to do is report bed bugs to any city agency. Just some thoughts

2 anonymous May 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I have to say, this article is full of crap. As a non-college student in the Allston-Brighton area who dealt with an infestation last fall and called the city and got the runaround, I can say with certainty that the Housing Division is NOT doing all they say they are. I ended up having to deal with it by having my lawyer call my landlord. Last I checked, they didn’t inspect or treat other units in my building.

Fortunately, my landlord DID hire a good exterminator for my unit only, and I’ve been bug free for nearly six months, but I’m still moving next week (and terrified to do so, I might add)

3 nobugsonme May 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Hi anonymous,

We linked to the Boston Inspectional Services Department’s website which states their policy. If they are giving such orders and landlords aren’t following them, or if you feel Inspectors are not following BISD policies, I would recommend calling BISD.

4 nobugsonme May 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Oh, and good luck with your move! I appreciate your comments.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: