Bed bugs in multiunit

9 Replies

hi have an issue that maybe another landlord has some experience with. I have a 4 unit I owned for over two years with no bed bug issues now I had a resident complain of them I inspected and found it to be true so I immediately called an exterminator but for just two units they want 1500$ and that's for only 3 treatments and I don't want them to move into the other two units. So I bought bed bug sheets and spray and I did it myself and told my resident where it came from was they were bringing used things mattress couch from the trash and such which brought them in since I never had any issues previously. Well being a small time landlord I can't afford that big bill because I would have to do all 4 units to be safe so that's 3000$ that isn't caused by me and never had any bug issues previously. I also can't charge the tenant that started the problem because their on welfare with no money and I have depleted her security deposit of 750$ from other damages. But now I have another resident saying their getting bite and say they saw bed bugs in their apartment. Any suggestions. I told all residents to bag and clean their units but this issue is caused by them bringing them into the building. Thanks

This is a common problem in a growing number of cities.  Unfortunately for you this is probably going to be an expensive lesson.  You need to have these things professionally taken care of (but don't just hire any exterminator and blindly let them do it).  Educate yourself on the treatment protocols like spraying or heat boxing and discuss with whomever you hire how they will do this.  I can tell you if they are not removing all of your outlet and switch covers when they spray, they are probably not doing it right.  The tenant also plays a huge role in this, because if they do not comply with treatment protocols on their belongings, then you will have the problem flare up again within 30 days of completing your treatments.  You have to manage these tenants and make sure they are complying.

You can protect yourself by adding a pest clause/addendum in your lease. Make sure you have it checked by your attorney so it meets your state's requirements.  But essentially, your lease should state you are renting the lessee an apartment that is free of infestation and that any future infestation is the fault of the tenant.  It should reflect damages they can be charged so you can correct the problem (hiring the exterminator) and consequences of not following treatment protocols.  The last thing you want is a tenant that won't comply and you have no recourse to evict and get rid of them so you can properly fix the problem. Also, providing new tenants mattress sleeves at move in is an extra expense, but can be well worth their cost when  problems arise.

You mentioned that this was a low (or no) income resident and they had depleted their security deposit for other damages already.  I really hope you are not allowing a tenant to use the deposit as a credit account while they are still living there.  That deposit should be for unpaid rents and damages if they skip out or move and leave a mess.  If they damage the property while still living there, they should have the charges added to their next months rent bill.  And if they don't pay in full, they should be evicted.  If you do not train these residents this way, they are training you. And what you are left with is a broke tenant who infests your complex and once you finally get rid of them, you are left holding the bag of damages, lost rents, longer vacancy while cleaning the mess, and no deposit to help cover this problem.  Hopefully you can find lots of advice on BP to assist with these issues.  If you are going to be a landlord, you should also continually educate yourself.  Here are some resources beyond BP:

As the owner you'll have to foot the initial cost to get rid of them. Later you can attempt to charge the tenant for your costs if you can prove it was her who brought them in. Problem is your tenant is judgment proof it seems. That is the catch 22 of renting to low income people you really can't collect anything from them. Pests and bedbugs are a part of the biz.

Contact other landlords in your area and ask for referrals to their pest guy. The big pest companies that advertise will take you to the cleaners and unfortunately you probably won't ever solve the problem. This will not be the last time someone in your building brings them in.

thanks for the input some really good advice

bed bug treatment from professional is about 500-1000 per unit. This is your ONLY option. Unfortunately there is no DIY option for bed bugs and your DIY treatment likely caused them to disperse to other units instead of containing them and killing them like a professional would do. Call a few professionals and get some quotes over the phone to confirm for your area but 750 per unit doesn't seem outrageous but if you can find one to do it on the lower end of that range, that might reduce costs.

How about you try paying for professional treatment of 2 affected units and having them inspect the other 2 units same time for infestation for a nominal fee like $50 each typically to see if those need to be treated. at $600 for each unit, you would be out $1200 for 2 units plus $100 in inspecting the 2 other units. Its less expensive than doing all 4. there might be volume discount for 4 units. ask them.

Treatment requires big cooperation of tenant. They have to wash all clothes with hot water and high heat and keep them in garbage bags following washing until unit is fully treated 3 times over a couple of weeks. At the very least, drying them on high heat for 20 minutes then bagging them also kills eggs/ bugs.

I would supply those affected units with 30-40 large garbage bags and rolls of quarters to go to laundromat to dry all their clothes for 20-30 minutes on high heat to facilitate their cleaning, then schedule the treatment once they have completed the cleaning and bagging of clothes in a couple of days. everything will get sprayed after clothes are removed.  encapsulating the mattress is also good but that won't get rid of a place already infested.

If it was clear who started it, then you could bill them with the rent, but you might have facilitated the spread by defering treatment and DIY treatment so you might no longer have any standing to bill that tenant for other units except maybe the treatment cost for that unit where it started originally. not sure...

Good luck!

Having reviews from the locally or neighbourhood is a good idea. I think you should also consider the neighbourhood for the bed bug identification.

some really solid advice here. I have yet to own a rental property but that is how I want to get started.  Thanks for the info, everyone!

Sorry to bring up bad memories @Matt Harris , but what happened with the infestation? 

I've just been made aware that a 6 family house I recently closed on has bed bugs! Not a good way to start, but I guess its part of the territory. 

Do I have to notify all tenants in the building if only one tenant has found the bed bugs?

I'm planning on letting everyone know tomorrow and providing them with lots of information about how to proceed as far as washing/drying all their clothes on HIGH HEAT and inspecting their mattresses and walls for signs.

I also bought these just to use as a testing device for the other units. It seems the other testing products don't work nearly as well.

The problem unit is getting rid of all carpets and mattresses (even their couch) and we are getting an exterminator/fumigator there ASAP.... but only for that one unit for now. Not sure if the other units will test positive as well, but from what I've read, there's a high probability. 

Any advice or thoughts are very appreciated, thanks!

Here is a nice little write up on reddit about a landlord doing a DIY treatment on bedbugs. Excuse the language, but it seems that these bugs are quite frustrating.

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