The other day a customer asked how to ensure that the new apartment they are moving into doesn’t have bed bugs. That’s an excellent question. How do you make sure you aren’t about to move into your worst nightmare? I’m going to break pest control code and give you free advice about finding and treating for bed bugs when moving into a new apartment or rental home - or even a new home.
You must do your due diligence.
Here are a few steps you should always take when considering or moving into a new place:
1. Request a rental inspection prior to signing a lease and moving in. I cannot express how important this is when moving into a new home or apartment. No, seriously, do it. It can prevent so much inconvenience and save you time and money in the long run.
2. Speak to the building’s management or landlord about any history of bed bug or other pest problems. Also, it’s important to ask if they have a pest control company regularly come out to inspect or treat, maintaining a pest free environment. Don’t take this for granted – even the most expensive, high-end apartments can be susceptible to the creepy crawlies. However, not all landlords will be upfront about previous issues, and they might not yet be aware of a current infestation.
3. Be wary of furnished apartments and bringing used furniture or secondhand items into your home. Especially in situations where you have no idea who has owned the couch or clothing before you. We have seen multiple instances of thrift shopping leading to unintended bed bug infestations. And no matter what Macklemore says, it is most decidedly not awesome.
4. If you use a moving company, ask questions regarding their protocol for protecting your belongings from bedbugs – ensure the truck being used doesn’t have any leftovers from the previous move.
5. Research the property and look at tenant reviews online. More often than not, if the property has had problems with bed bugs, someone will mention it. And they’ll probably mention it in ALL CAPS TO THOROUGHLY EXPRESS THEIR RAGE.
6. While touring the home or apartment, check thoroughly for any of the telltale signs of a bed bug infestation. Check any furniture, especially the mattress seams of any pre-existing beds, for small dark brown spots. Look at the baseboard and electrical outlets. Make sure the upper corners where two walls meet the ceiling are completely clear of anything even remotely resembling a bed bug.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation:
- Bedbug bites which are distinguished from other insects by their orderly rows, likely caused by a single bug.
- Molted skins - typically found along mattress seams, behind head boards, in the corners of walls near the ceiling, and along baseboards
- Fecal spots can be found practically anywhere with a large infestations, but are most likely to be seen in electrical outlets, on the wood frame of box springs, along mattress seams, in corners near the ceiling, and on baseboards.
- Bed bug aggregations - bed bugs usually aggregate after feeding, but these clusters aren't always immediately obvious in smaller infestations. Here you will find live bed bugs in multiple stages, cast skins, fecal spots, and eggs.
Know Your Rights
For the State of Missouri:
In 2012, the Missouri Senate saw a bill that added new provisions to existing tenant laws regarding bed bugs in multifamily residential units.
Senate Bill 846 stated that if a landlord has been informed by his tenants of suspected bed bugs, the landlord must have the unit inspected within seven days of notification. If bed bugs are found, the landlord must also notify the surrounding units of their presence and begin treatment within fourteen days. The tenant must be given twenty-four hours notice prior to an inspection and treatment. If the tenant refuses to grant permission to either the landlord or pest control technician to enter their unit and properly treat the infestation, the landlord is no longer liable for damages and in some cases the tenant “may be found in breach of their lease.” The tenant is held responsible for informing the landlord of the presence of an infestation within seven days of moving in, or the tenant “will be deemed to have acknowledged that the unit is bed bug free. If the infestation is the result of negligence on behalf of the tenant or a guest of the tenant, the landlord is not held liable for damages or the cost of an inspection and treatment. In the case of a landlord being found “grossly negligent” and this negligence resulted in a bed bug infestation, the landlord is then accountable for damages, inspection, and control of the bed bugs.
Unfortunately - this bill died in committee. Surprise, surprise.
However - If you feel you have a plausible claim to file suit, there are several lawyers that take on bed bug cases. Many of these cases are brought up seeking damages and are won in small claims court.
For the State of Kansas:
In Kansas, while there are not yet any laws specifically regulating bed bug infestations in apartments or rental properties, there are laws in place to protect guests of hotels and other lodging establishments. Bed bugs have been officially classified as “an imminent health hazard.” Because of this, lodging establishments are required to cease using areas affected by an imminent health hazard – in this case bed bugs – and must notify the proper authorities of the presence of bed bugs within 12 hours of its discovery. The same law bars licensees from knowingly renting guest rooms that are infested.
More information on the bed bug laws in Kansas can be found here.