Changing attitudes toward bed bugs

Seven years ago in Winnipeg’s inner city bed bugs were, except for Manitoba Housing, still rare. When inner city folks noticed a case of bed bugs there was a lot of fear and shame associated with that event. Massive amounts of furniture ended up in the alley as the tenants attempted to rid themselves of the bugs. But as bed bugs became more common the fear and shame lessened and the amount of furniture in the alley declined as well. Today many folks in low end housing just ignore the bugs and continue living as if they did not have bed bugs.

The consequences of the sea change in attitudes has not been positive. The transfer of bed bugs, via infested clothing, to neighbour’ houses, friend’s homes, and public areas has skyrocketed. In some cases I patiently explain the process of taking bed bug precautions (always wearing sterlized clothing when leaving the home) and am promptly ignored. The tenant, even with the education, promptly marches to his friend’s apartment with zero precautions.

For landlords this new attitude is a disaster. I recently began working with a non profit housing organization that operates roughly 50 suites and has spent $20,000 a year on bed bugs for the last 4 years. That would be $80,000 in costs and when I inspected the building I found that 25% of the suites still had active bed bugs that were not being addressed. Wow!!

I personally educated one tenant in this building and subsequently noted her taking zero precautions the next week as she spent time in an infested neighbouring suite. Very discouraging.

As such when tenants apply for a suite in my own apartment building I take into account these new realities and select tenants that are more likely to comply with prevention protocols. A tenant who refuses to abide by prevention protocols and has numerous friends nonchalantly living with bugs is a disaster waiting to happen.

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