Landlord / Tenant Q&A: LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. I think I found bedbugs in my apartment. What should I do now? Who is responsible for treating this?
A. Oh no! Just saying the word “bedbug” makes people itchy and I’m sure is causing you a great deal of distress. The good news is, though they could cause allergic reactions in some people, they are not known to transmit disease.
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. They have a musty sweet odor. The eggs are white and about 1 mm in size. Look for them along the seams of mattresses and box springs, under buttons, staples and tacks, in the folds of the material, inside rips or tears, under the mattress and in the frame.
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 should notify your landlord immediately if you suspect you have bedbugs. If you fail to report the bedbugs and they travel to adjacent units, you can be held liable for treatments for those units, so report this as soon as you can. The landlord should send in a professional exterminator who will examine your unit, and may also try to map out the source of the problem.
It is usually 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 travelled, bedbugs may have hitchhiked in your luggage. If there is a bedbug infestation in another unit near you, the bedbugs may have travelled 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.
Determining who pays for treatment depends on how the bedbugs got in. If you brought in a used mattress right before your problem started, and the exterminator found the mattress infested with bedbugs, you would probably have to pay for the treatment. If other units are affected and it isn’t clear where the problem started, the landlord will likely have to pay for the treatment of all the affected units. If you are a long-term tenant living in a single-family home, you would most likely have to pay the costs yourself.
No matter who pays, bedbug extermination should be done quickly to avoid an even bigger problem. You can’t just use “bug bombs”, as they do not penetrate the cracks and crevices where bedbugs hide. There are some products available “over the counter” that may work for a few bedbugs (make sure to read and follow the directions carefully), but a heavy infestation requires a professional exterminator and can be expensive.
Here are some things to know and do to reduce the likelihood of bedbugs becoming a problem again. Reduce household clutter where bedbugs can hide. 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. Encase mattresses and box springs in plastic. To kill bedbugs on small cushions and pillows, put them into the dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes. Vacuum often and seal the vacuum cleaner bag in plastic bags and dispose of the contents outside. Inspect suitcases and other belongings before bringing them back into your home. Destroy or dispose of any items that can’t be treated, such as mattresses, but put a sign on them that says “bedbugs” so that someone else doesn’t take them off the street and put them in their own home.
Good luck to you. With quick and proper treatment and a lot of vigilance on your part, your bedbug problem will hopefully be a thing of the past.