The most recent bout of calls that I have been receiving is from tenants dealing with bed bug issues and landlords not responding well.

I’m already seeing eyes roll back in heads. Sure, there are those tenants that are just horrible and I get that. Nevertheless, there are those who are not and don’t deserve the treatment they are getting.

If they do respond to a bed bug complaint, the landlord sends in a maintenance worker, employee or friend that sprays the baseboards with who knows what.

In one case, the landlord handed the tenant a one gallon sprayer with Phantom (which he uses every time someone moves) and told them to spray it whenever they see a bug and when they run out to call him and he will fill it up again. On top of it, he was never told not to use it on his bed or couch. And we wonder why there are resistance issues with bed bugs?

Another tenant told me the prep sheet he received from his landlord was from a small company on the other side of the US. So what they’re doing is finding whatever they can on the net, printing it out and using it for their tenants.

I had a call from a resident who resided in a complex that had been throwing up and experiencing headaches since the landlord sprayed for bed bugs two weeks ago. He said he literally soaked his apartment, the apartment next door and upstairs and all the hallways and elevator. The fumes were so pungent that he got sick. I ask him to check the material safety data sheet (MSDS), and tell me what chemicals or products were used and his reply was, “I didn’t get any paperwork”. He thought he had the flu but wasn’t getting any better. I suggested he went to the doctor and also request a chemical sheet.

Active public bed bug education is one of the most important aspects of owning rental property yet many owners, either ignore the facts or hide from it. This sheer ignorance is running rampant. Starting with examining the relationship between bed bugs and dwelling conditions, many owners cover-up the fact that bed bugs existed in a unit when re-leasing to a new tenant.

People – More is not better!

As I’ve written about before, the average human mentality is that if one is good – more is better. It’s often thought that soaking baseboards with a pesticide with a residual in an empty unit will do the trick of eliminating them, when in essence; because it also can work as a repellant, it can force them deeper into wall voids and spreads them to adjacent or surrounding units. If you can see a bed bug – you can kill the bed bug – problem is – they hide where most cannot see.

The bed bugs survival is blood, and they will always forage for their next meal, and if a unit is empty, they will move through the wall voids or where ever they can to obtain a blood meal in a human occupied unit.

With all the resistance issues with commonly used pesticides nowadays, and the fact that it does nothing to the eggs, it a wonder that any of the bed bugs are killed at all.

Frequently, bed bugs spread throughout whole buildings before management is finally forced to pay attention. Either a group of tenants gets together and goes to community housing directors or a lawsuit may be filled.

Having answered thousands of Bed Bug Hotline calls, I’m continually presented with the struggles tenants have when approaching their property owners with a possible bed bug problem. Immediate blame and shame is placed on the tenant who is suffering in an attempt to get them to pay for remediation.

Fear of eviction leads to hiding ineffective attempts of self-treatment by the tenant while the bed bugs are taken to work or anywhere the tenant may go, spread to adjoining units and throughout whole buildings.

Some tenants tell me that their landlord just doesn’t take it serious.

I’m sent pictures of and am told of piles of bedbug soiled mattresses and used furniture are leaned up against buildings as people attempt to rid themselves of bed bugs by throwing away items. This remains a fruitless effort as the bed bugs crawl off and back into the building to infiltrate yet another innocent victim’s apartment. Before long, there isn’t an apartment that hasn’t a bed bug problem.

Just because you can’t see it – it doesn’t mean that it is not happening

Most of the landlords are absentee owners who depend upon a management group or a relative to run things for them. It’s all about the end of the year returns that they are interested in and refuse to apply proper elimination and prevention techniques because of the cost.

Yet, they will pay each time they have a breakout. It never did make any sense to me that a small amount up front would make a significant difference in controlling future outbreaks.

In my professional opinion, none these chemicals should be sold to anyone who does not have a hold a professional license!

Tenants are left powerless to control bed bugs!

Helping tenants get past the thought that bed bugs are a sanitation issue and it is always their fault isn’t easy. Because such guilt and shame is ladled upon them, they often hide the fact they have them and attempt                  self-treatments.

It’s hard enough for a professional to contain a bed bug problem in multi-unit properties better yet shaming, guilting or leaving it up to a non-professional lay person.

Licensed to find bed bugs

I have to laugh at the stupidity of the bed bug addendums out there. Especially, the ones here in the state of Texas. It states that the tenant has 48 hours to let the management know whether there are bed bugs in the unit they are moving into. After that point, if you call with a bed bug complaint, the tenant has to pay for elimination. And get this: if bed bugs are found in surrounding units – you have to pay for them as well.

How stupid is this!

The law is – anyone that identifies bugs for a living has to have a professional license to do so. This also includes scent detection dog teams in many states.

Now tell me, how can a landlord or property management group insist that an uneducated, unprofessional tenant find bed bugs as a lay person, would they not need a license to do so?

How can they possibly be held responsible? Most tenants don’t even know what a bed bug is!

I hope there are plenty of property owners and management groups reading this blog. It is time you all wake up, take action and be responsible in the case of bed bugs in your properties. Whether you like it or not, bed bugs are here to stay and dumping blame on anyone for getting bed bugs is shameful when you too can fall victim to them. Maybe you should move into your bed bug ridden property yourself and live with it for a while to see exactly what your tenants have to go through. Quality of life and stress of bed bugs can make a normal person crazy!

How can we as a nation, cope with this growing crisis if property owners and management are not educating tenants, having regular professional inspections and following up to make sure your tenants and building is safe? If you are not doing these things to protect your property and your tenants, you’re a sorry example of a landlord and the finger of blame can be pointed directly to you for failing to do what is required to control bed bug outbreaks in your community.

It is YOUR tenants that are taking bed bugs attached to their personal items back into the community, to work, others homes and anywhere they should go.

We’re here to help!