New Orleans–They are exactly the kind of tenant multifamily property owners and mangers do not want: bed bugs. The presence of these microscopic creepy, reddish-brown crawlers is on the rise, as representatives of pest control company Orkin the IPM Institute of North America noted in a presentation at this year’s National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) conference in New Orleans.
From Class C communities to upscale Class A locations, no apartment property type is immune to bed bugs, which are officially known as Cimex lectularius L. and are generally approximately 0.5 centimeters in length. As per a recent survey conducted by NAAEI and Orkin, 80 percent of the participating property managers reported that they have encountered a beg bug problem, and 37 percent noted that they have received six or more complaints about the pests from residents. It’s a relatively new concern; as the majority of participants noted, their bed bug problems began to appear within the last two years.
The drawbacks for tenants are obvious. While, according to Orkin, the flat, oval pests do not carry disease, they certainly cause tenants a great deal of distress and discomfort. The insects feed on human blood, leaving behind itchy welts on occupants and rust-colored smears on sheets and mattresses. As for property owners and managers, they may not feel the physical bite, but they are certainly vulnerable to experiencing quite a financial bite. The price of eradicating an infestation pales in comparison to the potential monetary cost of a lawsuit, and such legal action is hardly rare these days. Approximately 15 percent of the survey participants reported that they have been subjected to litigation regarding bed bug matters. Potential financial issues do not stop there. There is the long-term cost that can be exacted by damage to a property’s or a brand’s reputation.
The problem, though it is literally multiplying, is not insurmountable. At the NAAEI conference, Orkin and IPM Institute shared a list of tips for dealing with bed bugs. The two recommend that property managers consult pest management providers to put a preventative strategy in place, after which they should regularly monitor and document bed bug issues. Additionally, experts suggest that property managers incorporate tenants in the fight by presenting a bed bug policy upon move-in and maintaining communications via resident bulletin boards and newsletters. Another important step is educating tenants about bed bugs to counter widely held myths that the creatures will coat the skin and hair of pets and that chemical treatments poison the residence. Furthermore, transparency and communication, Orkin and IPM Institute assert, are key. Residents should be encouraged to report any signs of bed bugs and assured that the problem will be addressed immediately.
While bed bugs, like most other pests, can certainly be exterminated, they cannot always be prevented from taking up residence—no matter where the property is located. According to studies by Orkin, bed bugs have no geographical preferences; they can be found in every one of the 50 states. On Orkin’s recently released list of the top 50 bed bug cities, Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, lead the pack, followed by Chicago, Denver, Detroit and Washington, D.C.