The 4-Step Bed Bug Action Plan for Property Managers
I’ll be blunt: It’s not a question of if you’re going to experience bed bugs on your apartment property, but when. There is no way to avoid this pest. But you’re not helpless when it comes to dealing with bed bugs. You have the ability to maintain a level of control by how you prepare for and respond to a bed bug infestation.
Based on my experience, I’ve developed a four-step bed-bug preparedness action plan so that apartment communities and property managers can hold the upper hand when it comes to bed bugs.
The goal is to limit exposure to bed bugs while minimizing the impact of an infestation. If you can keep an infestation to around five percent of the unit total on a property, you’re doing a really good job.
There is a catch: I call this an action plan for a reason. You have to actively follow it for it to be effective. If you’re not constantly taking action, there’s a good chance that your residents won’t be either. And bed bugs are active whether you are or not.
- Electronic and print newsletters, as well as emails or website posts on resident-only pages, are good vehicles for educating your residents about bed bugs.
- Develop an action plan in advance to deal with bed bug infestations. Know beforehand the steps your staff and residents need to follow as well as which exterminator you’re going to call.
- Staff members and employees need ongoing training to identify potential problem areas for bed bugs and maintain proper and accurate documentation.
- Add bed bug addendums to lease agreements that outline responsibilities of the property management company and residents, as well who is responsible for which costs
- Destroy discarded furniture so that it’s not brought back into apartment units or offices. Household furnishings that wind up in the dumpster can be infested with bed bugs.
- Bag/wrap discarded items – Electronics are a favorite hiding place for bed bugs because they are warm. Clocks, radios, computers, tables … anything that’s discarded should be wrapped or bagged.
- Do not pick up used or discarded furniture – That sofa at a garage sale may be a deal, but if it came from a bed bug-infested home, then you’ve got problems. If it’s a must-have, used or discarded furniture should be thoroughly inspected before taken inside.
- Inspect rental furniture – While the rental flat screen you’re getting for the big game may be new, bed bugs could migrate to it from another item on the truck that was picked up at a prior stop.
- Reduce clutter – Bed bugs like cluttered areas, so organize or throw out junk.
- Fix it, seal it – Seal all cracks and crevices and fix broken or damaged sheet rock. Bed bugs can penetrate walls through gaps in flooring and electrical outlets.
- Don’t use cove base – Bed bugs can get around cove base, which is a rubber or vinyl barrier installed along the base of an interior wall where the wall meets the floor
- Move-in / Move-out inspections – Property owners may want to contract an independent third party to ensure that units are “bed-bug free” before being offered to new residents. Completing check lists and questionnaires prior to move-in – residents and property managers – can potentially head off or minimize liability.
- Periodic Inspections – Develop a plan to inspect common areas of the complex. This can be as simple as a two- or three-item checklist that hits the high points. Inspections should be done by onsite staff and/or pest professionals
- Ask questions – Having bed bugs can be perceived as a social issue, and most people don’t want to talk about them. But visiting with residents or office staff about such issues can reveal information that otherwise would not be uncovered until a bigger problem exists.
- Visually inspect – Bed bugs don’t bite, contrary to popular belief. With their mouths shaped for piercing and sucking, they latch onto the skin. Intrusions are usually not felt but leave behind large red spots. Like most pests, they leave behind blood and fecal stains, which can be seen on infested areas.
- Include all adjacent units – If an infestation is identified in one unit, it’s important to inspect adjacent dwellings. Bed bugs can travel next door through walls, electrical outlets, floor joists and cracks in floors.
- Insecticides – Insecticides are the most common direct-application treatment and are effective when an infestation is isolated. Insecticides, however, leave no residual and won’t remedy the problem if bed bugs don’t receive direct treatment.
- Freezing (Cryonite) – Using a wand, Cryonite is sprayed directly on bed bugs, freezing the pests.
- Steam – Like freezing, steam is blasted through a wand directly on bed bugs. This treatment is often favored over freezing.
- Heat – Infested areas are heated to 122 degrees or higher to completely eradicate infestations regardless if they are behind walls or in furniture. Very popular and effective.
- Fumigation – While this often requires removing some furnishings from the infested area, fumigation is effective but will not treat bed bugs in areas where the chemical cannot penetrate
By following this four-step plan, property managers can begin to minimize the impact of bed bugs. And by keeping an open line of communication with staff and residents, there’s a good chance that bed bugs won’t, well, bug anybody.
What’s in your bed bug action plan? Share your best practices in the comments below.