Landlords have a job to do if there are bed bugs present

Bed bugs in rental units require cooperation between landlords and tenants.

Michigan law requires that landlords make a good-faith effort to provide housing that is free from bed bugs. Michigan State University Extension suggests that once the property manager has been made aware of a bed bug infestation, he or she should immediately arrange an inspection of the unit and if necessary, schedule treatment with a pest management professional (PMP). Property managers or their staff may be able to make a preliminary identification of bed bugs, but generally should seek confirmation from a PMP.

Bed bug infestations in multi-family housing units can be challenging to handle. An infestation in one apartment, if not handled properly, can spread to adjacent units or throughout a building and has the potential to affect many people. In order to successfully eliminate a bed bug infestation, it is important that all parties involved work together. Unfortunately, it is all too common for residents and property managers to blame each other. Keep in mind that nobody asks for a bed bug infestation. Regardless of how the infestation started, it was certainly unintentional. Also, no one profits or benefits from a continuing infestation. If there is no cooperation, everyone loses.

In every step of the bed bug management process, property managers and tenants should keep careful records. This is for the protection of all parties involved. Property managers should document inspections and verifications of bed bug infestations, as well as subsequent management decisions. In order for the treatment to be successful, it is important for all parties to cooperate to rid the unit or building of bed bugs. All of the affected units must also be treated at the same time. Ask the PMP to inspect any adjacent units (above, below, beside and across the hall) to determine the extent of the infestation.

Once an infestation in an apartment has been verified, the property manager and resident should meet to discuss a treatment plan. Since there may be a lot of work and expense involved, it may be helpful to sign a treatment agreement. An example of such an agreement can be found in appendix B of the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs. The residence should be scheduled for treatment with a PMP as soon as possible, and the resident should be given written instructions on how to prepare. Preparing for treatment can be a lot of work, and residents may need to get help from family members, community groups and/or the property manager. Without proper preparation, the PMP will not be able to effectively treat the unit.

It may also be necessary for the property manager to notify other residents that bed bugs have been identified in the facility/complex. The notification should include basic information about bed bugs, how they spread and a number for concerned residents to call.

 Property managers have the responsibility and right to require their tenants to cooperate with a treatment plan. A resident’s repeated refusal to cooperate should result in termination of the lease, because the problem will quickly spread if action is not taken, placing other residents at risk.

Many people are uninformed about bed bugs, and don’t understand what must be done to treat them. If you feel that a resident, landlord or property manager isn’t handling the situation properly, consult the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Treatment of Bed Bugs from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). Additional resources may also be found at the MDCH Emerging Disease Issues site.

MSU Extension has partnered with the MDCH to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the MDCH website at www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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