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Landlord Tenant Q&A

Lui & Young Realty, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I think I found bedbugs in the property I am renting. Who is responsible for treating this? I don’t know how I got them…I keep the unit neat and clean.

A. What a nightmare! This is a problem that has increased in recent years for a variety of reasons. The good news is that bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, but I know they are unwelcome in your home and probably are causing you a great deal of distress.

First, you need to find out if these are really bedbugs. Bedbugs range from poppy seed to apple seed size. They may leave rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses. They may leave dark spots from their excrement. The eggs are white and about 1 mm in size. Look along the seams of mattresses and box springs, under the mattress, in the frame and even under buttons, staples, and tacks, in the folds of the material and inside rips or tears. Depending on the level of infestation, bedbugs can also be found in cushions, electronics, walls, outlets, lights, hinges, door latches, under loose wallpaper, in carpets, behind pictures or paintings…in short anywhere.

You need to call an exterminator to determine if you do have bedbugs and what they recommend. Let your landlord know as soon as possible if you suspect bedbugs. Bedbug infestations can spread to adjacent units or those above or below, so treatment should begin as soon as possible.

If you are in an apartment, it is sometimes difficult to figure out where the bedbugs came from. You may have brought home used furniture, mattresses, or other items that had bedbugs in them. If you traveled, bedbugs may have hitchhiked in your luggage. If there is a bedbug infestation in another unit near you, the bedbugs may have traveled through the walls and into your unit. The landlord or exterminator will have to inspect several units around you to find the origin of the problem. If none of the other units are affected and you have been in your unit for a while, he may require that you pay for the treatment.

The cost of bedbug extermination is expensive but necessary. You cannot just use “bug bombs,” as they do not penetrate the cracks and crevices where bedbugs hide. Should the infestation spread to other units because you failed to report the problem or treat your unit, you may be liable to treat other units too. If the origin of the problem cannot be determined, you will have to work with your landlord to determine who should pay for the treatment or if you should both share in the cost.

There are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of bedbugs becoming a problem again. Reduce the household clutter where bedbugs can hide. Furniture choices make a difference too. Do not use wicker furniture, which provides infinite hiding places that are difficult to reach. Bedbugs prefer paper and wood over metal and plastic. White furniture makes it easier to spot bedbugs. Small cushions and pillows can be put into the dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes, if needed. Encase mattresses and box springs. Vacuum often and inspect suitcases and other belongings before bringing them back into your home.

Good luck. Hopefully, you will soon be able to sleep tight without bedbug bites.

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