04 Nov Condos and bed bugs

The news programs have recently identified apartment blocks as having more difficulty with bed bugs than other types of dwellings. There is some truth to these claims as apartment blocks have a high degree of transient populations and the potential to spread the bugs to other suites is high due tenant panic and error (raid spraying, mattress dragging, inappropriate laundry). Condominiums generally have less risk for bed bugs because the level of transience is much lower. But if bed bugs are introduced to a condominium the risks of transmitting those bugs to other suites is similar to that of apartment blocks.

I recently received a call from a Condo owner who had bed bugs in his suite. The owner had rented the suite to another person that promptly moved out of the building when bed bugs were noticed. The owner contacted the Condo board and was advised that bed bugs are the owner’s responsibility and the owner would have to address his own bugs. An exterminator (not me) suggested that the owner contact neighbouring owners and give them little triangle shaped glue board monitors to ensure there were not bed bugs elsewhere. Personally, given the poor response from the condo board, I feel the potential for bed bug disaster in this building is very high.

Firstly the empty suite will be very difficult to treat because most of the bugs are activated by host cues causing them to remain hidden in the baseboards until a new resident moves in. Some of the bugs will wander looking for a new host, particularly across the hall, and will cross only one chemical line before exiting the suite. A single crossing, depending on the level of resistance, will not be adequate to kill the bugs.

Secondly the tenant that moved out of the condo dragged all his infested furniture down the hall, into the elevator, and out the back door potentially infesting many other suites. And if the infested furniture was dumped outside a door or window some of the bugs would just climb right back into the building

Thirdly, if the infested tenant attempted any self treatments with products like RAID many bugs may have escaped to neighbouring suites – especially to the suites below.

Fourth, many tenants, especially as they get older, do not react to bed bug bites and are therefore less likely to report them until the problem becomes very severe. In my own experience of inspecting apartment blocks about 80% of tenants do not realize they had bed bugs. Sometimes a tenant will not admit to having bed bugs due to shame or fear. Relying on condo owners to accurately assess whether they have bed bugs is a serious error.

Fifth, neighbouring tenants were given little triangle glue boards as a tool to assess the presence of bed bugs. Those little glue boards are very ineffective. Once you notice a bug in those traps the infestation is already very advanced making eradication more difficult.

And finally, if there was a centralized laundry area the suites surrounding the laundry room are at elevated risk of bed bugs.

The risks outlined above need to be carefully handled and contained and the response of the condo board mentioned earlier toward that end was counter productive. The condo board needs to have clear guidelines and plans of action in the event a bed bug infestation is noted. Leaving bed bug eradication to the condo owners is a recipe for disaster.

Personally, given my experience in multi family apartment complexes, it would be difficult to convince me to purchase a condo unless I was convinced the board was proactive. I suspect there are very few proactive condo boards so I would rather rent a high end rental suite. Landlords in high end rental realize the tenants will move out immediately if concerns are not addressed and therefore act quickly and decisively out of self interest. If I lived in a high end rental suite and the landlord refused to address bed bugs adequately I would heat sterilize my belongings and move out in a heartbeat. A condo owner is stuck trying to sell an infested unit or one likely to be infested due to inadequate bed bug prevention protocols.