One of the biggest problems I hear about is property owners that use Bed Bug Addendums to try to get out of paying for bed bug treatments. Not that addendums are a bad thing – it’s how they are written that I have a problem with.
Even though I have received many calls like this over the years, this story is based on the most recent call I received: (names, location and unit numbers have been changed to protect confidentiality of my caller)
Ms. Stacy rents apartment 1552. On Sunday afternoon, she goes into the leasing office to sign her paperwork. As she is sitting at the desk, a Bed Bug Addendum is slid across the desk with a few paragraphs about bed bugs on another sheet of paper. The leasing agent did not take the time to explain that with bed bugs on the rise, it was an important document to read.
Since the stack of papers is reasonably thick and her moving van is showing up any moment, she feels pressured and signs it along with the stack of other documents that no one ever reads. Eighteen pages of size 9 fonts written in legal terms that unless you’re an attorney you wouldn’t understand – she is thinking to herself, I never had bed bugs; don’t have bed bugs, so it is not applicable to me.
She moves into the apartment. Boxes are stacked high as she unpacks a couple of boxes with her clothing for work the next day. Her mattress and box springs are neatly stacked on the frame with no sheets as she crawls into bed with only a pillow and single blanket to cover her.
8 hours later
The following morning she wakes exhausted from the previous days move and stumbles to the bathroom scratching her neck and upper arm. She jumps into a hot shower and prepares herself for work. All during the day, she is scratching herself assuming that with her sensitive skin and often acquired allergies that she had hives from the stress of the move.
She returns home from work and proceeds to unpack boxes and arrange her apartment. Late that night she jumps into a hot bath and retires for the evening.
Another 8 hours later
The following morning she wakes again with more red itchy marks on her body. She goes to work and two other employees notice the marks on her neck. Blowing it off she remarks, I’ve been a nervous wreck with the move and all, I think I have hives.
Several more days pass and she is seriously looking forward to finishing her unpacking and getting her apartment settled over the weekend.
Day 6 residing in apartment
Saturday morning she woke once again with even more red itchy marks on her body. This time, they were on the side of her face and along her side all the way down to her waist. Since the real stress of the move was behind her, she couldn’t understand why she would still be getting hives.
With the majority of her apartment put together, she decided to go and lay out at the pool to relax. While lying there, a woman from the next building introduced herself to Ms. Williams. “Hi, I’m Suzy and live in building 3 are you new here?”
“Yes, I moved in last Sunday. How long have you lived here?”
“I’ve been here for three months but am getting ready to move the hell out of here!”
“The place is full of bed bugs everywhere”, she exclaimed. “By the looks of your skin they’ve already gotten to you too!”
“I thought it was hives from me stressing so much over the move!”
“Well, if you go to the office, be prepared. They will say you should have notified them within 48 hours or you get to pay to get rid of them! Like we even know what the stupid things are.”
“What?” “Ya, didn’t you read the addendum?”
“No, I thought it didn’t pertain to me, I’ve never had bed bugs”.
“Well sweetie, you basically agreed that if you didn’t find bed bugs within 48 hours of you moving in and you should discover them any time after that, you get to flip the bill to get rid of them. AND, if a unit surrounding you complains after you do, you get to flip the bill for them too!”
“Don’t beat yourself up girl, I fell for it to!”
Consider this a lesson learned. However, it gets worse.
Being handed an addendum stating you (a layperson who is not trained in insects) have to do an inspection for insects that you have no clue what they are or look like, or signs of and advise management of any bed bugs in the unit within 48 hours is not even possible for a tenant and here’s why:
The owner is asking a tenant (layperson) to do an inspection that in most states requires a license to do so. In many states, a home inspector can’t perform an inspection for termites and other pests unless he or she has a license to do so.
In states that don’t require inspectors to be licensed, you still need to make certain that the inspector you choose has some education, training, or experience in dealing with insects and pests in multi-unit properties.
Yes, you heard it right. A tenant (layperson) is not qualified to inspect, so how would they expect or hold a tenant responsible to inspect when anyone that does inspections requires either an education or a professional license?
Second, the unit (in most situations) has been cleaned, painted or new carpet installed. Any leftover signs of bed bugs have been scrubbed or painted over and “if” there were bed bugs in the unit, they now have hidden themselves in, behind or in inaccessible areas where even a professional could not find signs of them.
These types of cases are hitting the courts and unfortunately for owners, they are losing and the tenants are winning.
I just received another call from a woman who resides in an apartment complex who just discovered bed bugs. She refuses to tell the landlord she has seen bed bugs because she signed a Bed Bug Addendum and is fully aware that will hold her responsible to pay for treatment. I asked her how she knew the bed bugs weren’t coming in from a surrounding unit and she replied, “I don’t care where they are coming from, I just want them gone!”
Even after me advising her to contact her landlord or property management group immediately because they may be coming in from a surrounding unit; she stated, “I’m not playing that game with them, I am going to the store and is doing it myself. All she wanted to know from me was what worked and what didn’t when it comes to getting rid of bed bugs. I basically told her to get out her steamer and go to work.
This type of situation is so much more common than not. Hundreds of tenants across the nation are self-treating with the thought in mind, that a spray here and there is going to get rid of bed bugs. AGAIN – non educated laypersons DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The very same people that the landlord is holding responsible for “inspecting” for bed bugs when they move in.
Yet another backfire for the landlord. Bed bugs will threaten the structural integrity of the whole building not by “eating their way through like other insects like Termites”, but by filling the wall voids, cracks and crevices with hundreds and thousands of eggs (which eventually hatch and seek out a blood meal).
She will continue to force them into the wall voids and further spread them throughout the building. When others complain, the owner will run around trying to hold someone else responsible when in essence, the “building” will have a problem which is ultimately the owner responsibility with or without tenants.
You can see why it is ridicules to hold a tenant responsible; it will always backfire. So property owners, what are you doing out there? Without doing your due diligence of regular professional inspections using scent detection dog teams and educating your tenants, you lose every time.
I know because it is YOUR TENANTS that are calling me.
I’ve even received calls from landlords that literally walked away from their buildings because the cost for remediation of structural bed bug problems were greater than they could afford and the bank took it back.
Even though there is no law requiring you to get an insect inspection, it’s just the smart thing to do, considering the investment in the building. I believe in the future, banks and mortgage lenders will require regular bed bug inspections to protect its interest.
Reach out – we are here to help!
www.ibbra.org 888-966-2332 888-9NOBEDBUGS
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136462 M-r-r technique and the use of pitfall-style interceptors are effective methods for studying bed bug movement under field conditions and to estimate bed bug populations. Nymphs and adult bed bugs of both sexes are very mobile and travel extensively throughout apartments. Bed bugs have the ability to disperse from occupied and vacant apartments to neighboring apartments. Bed bugs can survive at least 4.5 months of starvation at field conditions. These findings have important implications on bed bug management and eradication programs. Movement of bed bugs away from predictable locations such as beds and upholstered furniture within apartments may complicate control efforts, making it more difficult to eradicate bed bugs and determine when infestations have been eliminated. The active dispersal of bed bugs between apartments suggests inspecting surrounding units, including apartments across the hallway from known infestations, is necessary.