When bed bugs bite in a NYC Coop

by nobugsonme on March 14, 2014 · 7 comments

in bed bugs in condos and coops

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.

You can also view additional Bedbugger stories about cooperatives and condominiums.

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!

1 Daylight March 19, 2014 at 11:52 am

This family is between a rock and a hard place. They need effective action to be taken against their infestation to eradicate the bugs from their apartment and any other infested ones in their coop. Without the adjoining and other units found infested being treated properly, the chance of their unit becoming bug free is slim. The building management should take care of this with the best methods available to be sure the entire building is clean and safe from this ordeal.
If residents can come together over this and stand strong, the board hopefully will do the right thing by heeding the advice of the experts Sorkin and Bloom.

2 CarpathianPeasant March 21, 2014 at 7:20 am


With all due respect, what should happen and what does happen is too often two different things. That’s the problem. 🙂

3 Daylight March 21, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Yes, Carpathian, sad but true!
Perhaps the family can anonymously post flyers on the other residents’ doors if they don’t want to speak up directly to them. The shame of having them has taken its toll, but the stigma of bed bugs can not be greater than the need to rid them from one’s life and avoid spreading them to others. People have to realize what affects one affects all. There’s no more sweeping them under the rug.

4 Tamara Mann March 26, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I live near Venice Beach, CA and have a bedbug issue right now. The infestation is very low we believe but still here though they have not traveled away from the one room it seems. We figured it out about a month ago based on the bites we both had and my husband killed about 12-13 of them. The bites are usually in a row. He even went through allergy testing that was expensive as we did not connect the bites to bedbug infestation until a month ago. Two weeks ago we sprayed the guest bedroom and hoped the problem was gone but they were not all gone as he got bit once more and the bedbug gone when he awoke itching. There are more details but the key items are stated already. We decided to get away from poison and are working with a firm that has a bedbug beagle. The Yelps are good for the company. We were asked to first Hepa vacuum clean thoroughly and then go crazy with alcohol spray bottles, spraying into all crevices and baseboards and furniture, if any. We got rid of a wooden bed frame we had bought used back in Aug 2013 (a major issue, so people should stay away from used furniture) and we think they were living where the screws are holding the frame together. Our mattress is encased with special bedbug encasement that you can get at Bed Bath and Beyond and they cannot get in or out of this encasement. We have not seen one bug, nymphs or eggs. The canine owner said he doubted we had much of an infestation. We will have the dog come next week to see what it finds. However, our lives are upside down from this situation no matter what. It is very disturbing to think these lurk in your home. We may have brought this from one or another trip (one to NC in October and one over NY’s eve in downtown SF) or from a building we own in SD that has had bedbugs though the pest guy did not think we would bring this from one visit, more likely he thought from a traveling suitcase. Be cautious about traveling, they all say! And check any hotel you stay at for any Yelp comments, etc. about bedbug infestation.

5 Emm March 26, 2014 at 4:54 pm

My Co-op added language a few years back into the rules and regulations after dealing with owners not treating their infestations. The co-op now requires owners to deal with their infestation within a reasonable period of time (generally 1-2 weeks after the problem is identified to begin treatment and show progress), or the board would take over treatment and charge the owner for the treatment and associated costs. So far this has been effective.

My one critique of how my co-op handles things is that even if a neighbor causes your infestation, it’s still your responsibility to pay for treatment. Individual owners are also responsible for paying for their neighbors to get inspected, although the building will at least require the PCO be allowed into the unit to inspect.

6 nobugsonme April 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Hi Emm,
It sounds like your coop’s plan is better than many but yes, not perfect.
Allowing inspections is a big plus.

7 nobugsonme April 2, 2014 at 11:29 pm


Have you or the canine team now found visual evidence of bed bugs (bed bugs, cast skins, fecal stains, or eggs?) This is an essential step. Please come to the forums if you’d like to chat with others who’ve had the problem, or experts.

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