Granted, having to dealing with the rising costs of bed bug infestations in apartment buildings is a serious financial strain on property owners. Guess what? Wherever people gather, congregate or live you are going to be dealing with bed bugs whether you like it or not. If you are not prepared to do what is right, set up a proactive process, and make some rules you are going to lose your precious ROI.
In effort to constrain some of the costs and shift the responsibility elsewhere, some clever mind came up with a Bed Bug Addendum for tenants to sign. In the state of Texas, property owners don’t have to prove their premises is clear of infestations, most of them don’t properly check for bed bugs before someone moves out and they don’t disclose any prior problems while basically dumping the whole responsibility on tenants.
Now, I’m not saying a Bed Bug Addendum is a bad thing if fairly written, and the owner is doing what is required of them upfront, I am saying the way this one is written is horrible! In addition, what makes it worse is that it already comes with the boxes “pre-checked” for you.
As, an owner of a multi-unit property, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to maintain a clean, safe and habitable property for the sake of each of my tenants and me. Tenants will come and go, and it is YOUR buildings and your pocketbook that is going to pay for mistakes YOU make that can potentially include structural damage and many lawsuits.
However, with this Bed Bug Addendum, what they are not getting is, shifting blame, or attempting to hold tenants responsible, can only make any bed bug situation worse, and let me explain.
Handing them a piece of paper with a few paragraphs on bed bugs does not even come close to what one needs to know about bed bugs. Most tenants don’t understand bed bugs, what they look like, where they came from, how they got them. Furthermore, many still think they don’t exist or they are immune to them. So in essence, you are expecting people to know what takes pest control months and sometimes years to figure out.
All they know is you just shoved a piece of paper in front of them “pre-checked – stating they have inspected the dwelling prior to move in or by signing this Addendum that you did NOT observe any evidence of bed bugs or bed bug infestation.
You may ask if they had or have bed bugs – which of course they will always say no, but because of the length of the addendum and the stack of papers they have to sign, they place their signature across the bottom and go on to the next paper without reading them.
What they didn’t read was while you were Slipping a Bed Bug Addendum in front of them with boxes already “checked” to sign was (“if they don’t report a bed bug problem in the chosen unit within 48 hours they are responsible for payment on treatment”)
What? Even a professional bed bug pest inspector wouldn’t be able to find evidence of bed bugs right after a place has been freshly painted, carpet shampooed or replaced and cleaned. Now, if you had bed bug scent detection dogs scan the apartment right before the prior person moved out and before the cleaning, that would be a different story.
So let’s suppose someone had bed bugs, their lease was up and they moved out. The crew came in and prepared the unit for a new tenant and 30 days later, you have a new tenant who just signed your Bed Bug Addendum. The new tenant moves in and has boxes stacked everywhere as they unpack. Five days (120 hours) later, the bed bugs find their way out from under the carpet tacks, inside the electrical plates, behind the baseboards or wherever they were hiding and the new tenant starts to be bitten.
They come to you and say “something’s” biting me. You send in your pest person and they discover nothing. Of course they wouldn’t, the bed bugs went back to their hiding place.
Two weeks pass (336 hours) and your new tenant comes to you once again with bites head to toe. You immediately turn to them and say, “Seems like bed bugs to me – You must have brought them with you – We will send in pest control but since you didn’t notify us within 48 hours like you agreed to on the Bed Bug Addendum – you have to pay”.
Of course, your tenant is standing there with a blank stare. They have never had bed bugs and certainly don’t feel it’s fair that they should be paying for it. Now, their mad. You have no idea how many good lessors relationships break down because of this type of situation.
Now, you get a notice that the tenants upstairs are getting bites. (Of course, when the last tenant moved out the bed bugs got hungry and made it to surrounding units before the new tenant moved in and the eggs that were left behind downstairs are now hatching)
Do you see where I am going with this picture?
(“If it is found that the tenant is the cause of the bed bug infestation, they have to pay for surrounding units”) is a sneaky way to bully someone into paying for a possible existing bed bug problem in the unit or building.
You blame your new tenant for the occurrence upstairs as well.
Now let’s take it up a notch.
Your new tenant now talks to another tenant on the same floor but across the hall and asked if they had experienced bed bugs in the building and they reply “Oh yes, we see mattresses piled up in the dumpster often and pest control is here spraying every other week, someone always has them! I don’t tell them anymore because they charged me $800 dollars last time; I just go get Raid or Hotshot and spray myself”.
Do you smell a law suit? I do. In court you had better be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt there were no bed bugs in that unit or building. Because of you can’t – you lose.
All of this is completely YOUR FAULT as an owner, especially if you use that type of Bed Bug Addendum.
NEXT WEEK – PART TWO – Pre-screening Bed Buggy Tenants
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