Yesterday I received a call about bed bugs at a Philadelphia rowhouse off of our BugsInMyBed website. The caller rents out seven rooms separately, with all renters sharing one kitchen. The caller had many questions about self-treatment. I had no choice by to refuse to answer most of these questions, especially those about chemicals that he could use on his own. I emphasized how dangerous it would be for him to self-treat, especially a multi-unit building.
I was able to make a few suggestions.
1) he should get estimates from at least three local pest control operators who do bed bug work every day.
2) he should contract with companies that focus on the commercial end of the market, as they would have more experience with bed bugs.
3) be sure to get an in-depth tenant bed bug preparation instruction list and be sure that they follow it.
4) he should not instinctively go with the lowest bid or the highest warranty.
5) he needs to better understand the lifestyle and work environments of each occupant.
6) he should consider bed bug treatments for vehicles.
7) he should inspect the rooms for bed bugs regularly and generate a maintenance plan for bed bug prevention and treatment.
8) he should develop a set of house rules regarding practices that reduce the likelihood of bed bug re-infestation.
The landlord was very grateful for the information provided. My concern was the inherent economic motives of a landlord who has packed seven tenancies in one rowhouse and the inherent financial and social problems of tenants living in such an environment. I wondered: Is it possible to even consider the likelihood of such a low end rowhouse, with what are likely very short tenancies ever being bed bug free? If the bed bug problem will constantly resurface, what is the likelihood that the landlord will 1) give up treating for bed bugs? or 2) ignore advice and conduct dangerous self-treatments with limited effect? or 3) simply call it quits and sell the property?
There will always be a need at the low end of the real estate market to house transients and others with marginal economic means. Are we just to revert to the pre-DDT days and co-exist daily with bed bugs sucking our blood, bit by bit? Pest controllers are not going to get all this business. We are simply too expensive. Perhaps a viable alternative is to provide bed bug training and certifications to landlords that will actually allow them to treat their own properties responsibly? The bed bug epidemic has little chance of ending if those at the lower end of the economic spectrum cannot obtain proper care for bed bug infestations, consistently, reliably and at a regular frequency.
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