Integrated Pest Management

Take a preventive approach to controlling unwanted visitors.

By Timothy Larson, RS, ACE, Rentokil

Preventing and eliminating pest infestations in multifamily housing is critical for protecting your tenants and your property’s reputation. No one wants to live in a building where there is even a rumor of infestation by roaches, rodents, or other pests. Yet, building management may find it difficult to control individual tenant behavior that exposes the property to infestation.

Pest management programs need to address methods for keeping individual units as pest-free as possible. Putting in place an integrated pest management (IPM) process is a secure strategy that will protect your property against infestations. IPM offers a multi-faceted approach to assessing the areas of a building’s interiors and exteriors in order to prevent pest issues. In multifamily housing an IPM plan would include:

■  Routine inspections by pest management professionals

■  Aggressive treatment strategies when infestations are located

■  Education of building staff and maintenance on infestation identification

■  Opportunities for tenant education of the importance of IPM.

An IPM plan takes a comprehensive approach to pest control, eliminating the lures that can attract pests, such as food or food residue, water, or harborage sites.

Establish an IPM plan 

An initial step in an IPM plan requires the building manager, maintenance personnel, or perhaps even an outside pest control service to first look for evidence of infestation, such as rodent droppings or actual pest sightings. They are usually found in the most likely places—near dumpsters, anywhere moisture collects inside or outside the building, around light fixtures (inside and outside) or wherever food or food residue can accumulate in tough-to-reach places.

It is important to next seal off access points into the facility, such as cracks in the foundation or walls, venting or sewerage systems or deteriorating door sweeps. While sealing the facility from pests goes a long way toward preventing infestation and can reduce the need for pesticides, it is not the whole solution. Where evidence of pests exist, it is important to first identify them—rodents, beetles, flies, etc. The next step is then determining when and how frequently you are finding these specific pests, and in which specific part of the building, in order to analyze how they might be entering the building. You will also need to determine the most effective way to eliminate them, which may include the use of chemical pesticides, bait traps, diligent sanitation or other means.

Once the IPM plan is in place, it must be administered on a consistent basis. This means enlisting the support of your maintenance staff as well as your tenants. It is important to ensure that recommendations for repairs to the physical building and surrounding property are implemented and that your maintenance staff is properly trained in how to use appropriate tools to thoroughly and regularly clean areas vulnerable to infestation by pests. Additionally, the common areas of the building such as laundry, trash areas, community kitchens and lobby areas set the tone for the entire building and must be kept well-maintained and absolutely pest free.

Finally, the effects of the IPM plan need to be monitored, reported—and recorded. Remember that even if one area is clear of pests, infestation may recur, or evidence of pests may be elsewhere in the building. While there are many avenues to use when it comes to eliminating pests, prevention is a better long-term solution, and that requires continuing effort.

Work with tenants

To gain the cooperation of tenants and avoid negative consequences, notify them of your IPM program. Assure them that inspections are routine and preventative, and encourage them to report the visual sighting of insects or rodents as soon as possible between inspections. Create and publicize a general policy for preventing and eliminating infestations by pests of any kind.

For example, advise tenants to seal trash bags and to dispose of trash promptly and only in properly designated areas. Similarly, caution them to avoid leaving food out in their kitchens or in exterior areas, like patios or recreational spaces. Ask them to let you know if they become aware of breaches in the building that can serve as entry points for pests, such as windows or doors left open in public areas, cracks in the foundation, or deteriorating weather stripping. And, as a matter of course, urge tenants to report infestations as soon as possible and to take steps within their own units to help prevent pests from entering the building.

While an infestation in a multifamily building certainly can have a negative impact on owners and managers, unfortunately, it’s the tenants who are most directly affected. With or without an actual infestation, you may find that if you demonstrate to tenants your sincere concern and active efforts to eliminate pests, they will be more than willing to cooperate with you for their own protection.

Timothy Larson is QA manager at Rentokil, the world’s largest commercial pest control company, based in Reading, Pa. 


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