How to Deal with Bed Bugs at Your Rental Property

Written on April 28, 2015 by , updated on November 3, 2016

bed bugShould the landlord or the tenant deal with bed bugs found on the property?

I’d like to apologize in advance if reading this makes you itchy, but this topic is one that frequently comes up for landlords.

There’s been a bed bug renaissance of sorts across the country because these disgusting critters have become resistant to pesticides.

Most Infested Cities

The cities with the worst bed bug infestations in 2014, according to the number of Terminix service calls (source), were the following:

 

Even if you don’t own property in one of the top 15 cities, your rental property could still get bed bugs in various ways. One common way is your tenant bringing them in after traveling. (Note: travelers can check the Bed Bug Registry before choosing a hotel.)

Bed bugs can attach to your tenant’s clothing, luggage and backpacks and can be transported back to your rental property that way. Because it can be difficult to determine how the bed bugs arrived, especially in an apartment building, you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with that question.

Top 5 Questions About Rentals & Bed Bugs

Ring Ring… I think we have bed bugs!

1. What’s the First Step?

If your tenant calls you in a panic, stating that there are bed bugs, keep calm. The problem might not be bed bugs; it could be fleas or roaches.

Call an exterminator to diagnose the problem. The exterminator should look at all mattresses and bedding in the rental property. He should also look in couches, drawers, closets and shelves.

The first step is to treat the problem before it gets worse. You can always figure out the responsibility later.

Related: How to Kill Roaches in a Rental Property

2. Who is Responsible to Remove the Bed Bugs?

Responsibility should fall on whomever brought them in the house.

An exterminator might be able to tell you how the bed bugs arrived. For example, if a swarm of bed bugs is found in the tenants luggage and he just got back from a business trip, then you certainly could hold the tenant responsible.

But generally speaking, fault is difficult to prove, particularly in an apartment building. In this case, a resident of another unit could have brought in the bed bugs, and those bed bugs could have then traveled from the infested apartment to your rental through floorboards or small cracks in the walls.

The question of who brought in the bed bugs is easier to determine if the rental in question is a single-family house. But even then, a maintenance person, not the tenant, could have brought in the bed bugs.

3. Who Should Pay for the Exterminator?

If the bed bugs were present before your tenant moved in, you need to pay for an exterminator.

If you do nothing about the bed bug infestation, your tenant can take actions against you, such as paying for an exterminator and deducting that amount from the rent or even breaking the lease or suing you for not providing a livable dwelling under the implied warranty of habitability doctrine.

If the tenant brought in the bed bugs, the question of who pays for an exterminator might depend on the state in which you live. As of April 2014, 22 states and one territory have laws addressing bed bugs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

If your state has no regulations and you can prove the tenant brought in the bed bugs, you can charge your tenant for the cost to remove them.

4. What are the Best Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Getting rid of bed bugs is a time-consuming process that your tenant must be on board with. Once your tenant notifies you of the bed bug problem, you need to act immediately. The longer you wait, the worse the problem becomes.

Here are steps to have your tenant take:

  1. Declutter
    Tenant needs to clean up any clutter. Clutter provides a perfect place for bed bugs to hide, and it makes the treatment process more difficult.
  2. Encase or Trash the Mattress
    If bed bugs are in the mattress, enclosing the mattress and box springs in a special bed bug encasement product prevents the bed bugs from coming out. The encasement needs to stay on for a year.
  3. Wash Everything
    Tenant needs to wash all bedding (blankets, sheets, bedspreads) and all clothing that’s been on the floor in a washing machine under hot water and then put the laundry in the dryer under a medium or high setting for at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
  4. Vacuum Everything (twice)
    Tenant should vacuum the rugs, floors, furniture, bed and all cracks found in rooms and then dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in an outdoor garbage bin.

Here’s what the exterminator should do:

  1. Move/Disassemble Furniture
  2. Use High Heat/Steam Treatments
    Exterminators have special equipment that raises the temperature in the bed bug area to 118 F and then maintains that temperature for 70 minutes.
  3. Use Professional-Strength Insecticide
    General over-the-counter insecticides probably won’t work on bed bugs
  4. Seal Furniture
    Infested furniture might need to be sealed in a container until the bed bugs die.

Once the bed bugs are gone, your property can become infested again. Make sure your tenant knows not to bring in mattresses and other furniture found on the street.

You might also wish to share with your tenant some best practices when traveling:

  1. Check the headboard and around the bed.
  2. Inspect luggage stands.
  3. Look at the sheets for fecal spots.
  4. Inspect luggage before bringing it back into the home.

This useful video shows you how professionals get rid of bed bugs.

5. Can my Tenant Terminate the Lease?

Your tenant might be able to break the lease if he or she told you about the bed bug problem and you did nothing about it.

Your tenant needs to give you proper notice (which varies by state) of his or her intention to break the lease and time to fix the problem.

You should never knowingly rent property infested with bed bugs. You could be sued for doing that. If your tenant can prove you knew, you might be ordered to pay damages.

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128 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Paige

    Hi! I moved into a new apartment in March. In the last 2 months my daughter & I have been getting bitten terribly, more so her than I. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what these horrible bites on her were, I was certain it was NOT bedbugs as I purchased all new furniture. Well 2 days ago I found a dead baby bug on our pillow case. She often sleeps in my bed. I started stripping everything & sure enough I found about 15 in the fold of my bedskirt! I have taken all the provided precautions. We are very clean. My manager mentioned to me they’ve had this problem before? What do I do? He says they will only treat my unit & not the surrounding. I have come to find out I have very unsanitary neighboors(his words). I’m so upset

    • Joe cristiano

      Rene, 1st. I am not a lawyer. Depending on where you live laws vary. Like you have done here, look further into what you have to do for your state and county. In the mean time I would suggest a product called “Diatomaceous Earth” It can be bought online, hardware stores, large stores like home depot and wal …… I just can type it out…sorry. Look it up on the web. You will need some sort of powder applicator that you can make or buy. DO NOT buy the kind they use in swimming pools. I would have to say it is rather cheap. Store bought is normally close to or under $10. In my opinion it is better than any pesticide on the market. Remember more is not always better. Clumping of product is a waste. Best wishes.

  • Rene

    My landlord buys and remodels foreclosures. He has a burn sight across my driveway. That is used to burn all the stuff he rips from the homes. Most of which seem to have roaches, because a few times that I threw my trash in to be burned, I seen the pests. Now I have roaches in my home! Its gotten worse over the past year and he still won’t do anything about it. Its nasty, I have lost asleep and worry so much for my kids. What can I do?

    • Joe cristiano

      Rene, 1st. I am not a lawyer. Depending on where you live laws vary. Like you have done here, look further into what you have to do for your state and county. In the mean time I would suggest a product called “Diatomaceous Earth” It can be bought online, hardware stores, large stores like home depot and wal …… I just can type it out…sorry. Look it up on the web. You will need some sort of powder applicator that you can make or buy. DO NOT buy the kind they use in swimming pools. I would have to say it is rather cheap. Store bought is normally close to or under $10. In my opinion it is better than any pesticide on the market. Remember more is not always better. Clumping of product is a waste. Best wishes.

      • Carl

        After saying you’re not a lawyer you should definitely say I’m not an exterminator either
        Heat treatments are not always needed. If you own the property it should always be your responsibility as it’ll always be your investment.

  • Sam gentry

    we have had our 8 adjoining unit for 27 yrs and screen tenants with available resources. Never a problem with any concerning bugs. We had two long term residents in different separated. Units, no common hallway. One of the two long termers, after 15 years and the cleanest and best employed off all 6 units. Then they went through a marriage separation and he rented elsewhere while they worked through the issues. He’d visit often and brought bedbugs from his current room he’d rented. We kept the trash company coming often as they threw most of their belongings in the dumpster and we wanted to prevent others nearby and in the same building from taking their near new stuff in. You have to keep the dumpster emptied often until its over

  • Cortez

    Been at reside for 2 was seen bedbugs what should I do mar says my fault and when I moved in it was over 20 mattresses thrown in pile..

  • Lynda Daggs

    My tenant contacted me about bed bugs. I immediately got a exterminator there that net day. He concluded the bed bugs came from their apartment. They are hoarders. He explained what needed to be done before he could come and treat.I provided a dumpster for them. It has been over a month and their apartment is not ready to exterminate. In the mean time, my upstairs renter got them and she has now moved out. I can’t even show the property until I get the exterminator in. Cn I evict them? Thanks for all your help. We live in Iowa. It is very frustrating. I have tried lighting a fire under them every other day but to no avail.

  • Pam Lassila

    Bed bugs scare me! They are one of those things that if you find them, you have to go through everything and it is a lot of work. Also it just creeps me out thinking about bugs being in my bed and biting me at night. I’m glad there are professionals who know how to get rid of them.

  • Jeanne Barger

    I live in az the first time I noticed them my landlord told me to buy booms and set them off I keep telling him nothing is working 2 days ago I told him he had to do something nothing yet does he have to take care of this I’m 74 years old have no idea how they got here haven’t been to a motel since aug 2016

  • Bobbi

    Hello,

    I was having severe bite reactions to an unknown culprit. Two different doctors told me it was bed bugs. My husband & I informed the owner/landlord of the single family house we’re renting. She immediately said it was our fault and she’d get an exterminator but would tack on the cost of it to our monthly rent payment or if we didn’t want to pay her, we could do it all ourselves. We got an exterminator and paid for it ourselves since we didn’t want to keep debating. He found nothing but I kept getting bit. Now, a month later, we found an actual bed bug itself & the exterminator recommends prompt treatment. Does the landlord have no responsibility in this situation? Do we continue remedying it ourselves?

    Thank you!

  • Tori

    I just replaced everything in the single-family home I rent. The home was like that for three months while repairs were made before brand-new carpet was brought in. I was there for 3 mo & I never saw a single bug of any kind. Now my brand-new tenant that just moved in three days ago is calling me Saying that they are getting eaten alive and that at 2 o’clock in the morning they saw thousands of bedbugs on the walls, windowsills and floor in the hallway of the home. They had mentioned to me in days previous days that they had an infestation at their previous dwelling but had gotten it treated. Would it be reasonable to believe the new bedbugs or brought in by them and their responsibility to exterminate?

  • April

    Just moved into a app in November now I have bed bug do I pay to kill than or my landlord

  • David Swanson

    I Live in a room inside of a house with 6 other tenants that also have a private bedroom which we all share common areas such as living room, kitchen, and bathroom. I am the newest tenant and after 30 days I found out I had bedbugs in my room. I contacted the owner which stated I brought them in the house but after talking to the other tenants one told me he had them in his room prior to me moving in….but landlord won’t take responsibility for this…what damages and what can I sue for? Can I also get my rent back and money for furniture I had to dispose of to this infestation? Who can I contact in the State of Texas because this will continue even if I pay to correct the problem in my room as the whole house should be treated…

    • Jeannette Clark

      My son was living in an apartment for several years he discovered he got bed bugs from a neighbor that brought things in from a dumpster, he paid the rent for the month of August and could not live there for the whole month and half of the month of September because they had not yet done anything about it.. he lost his furniture and bed due to the bed bugs, finally after a few months he received his deposit back I believe he should have received his rent for that month he could not live there he had to go to the doctor because of this!! Just wondering if anybody knows if they should have given him back his August rent as well as the deposit????

  • Sarah

    Hi,

    I live in a 4 unit apartment. I found a bedbug in my bed! My elderly neighbors downstairs had an infestation and didn’t tell anyone and they moved upstairs into my apartment! I am sick… I have antique furniture and am worried about how thorough the treatment will be and whether the elderly man downstairs will alert anyone should the treatment not work. He is only treating 2 of the 4 apartments because nothing was found in the other 2 (very cluttered) apartments. I can’t sleep and its not my fault and I’m having to spend money on airtight containers, trash bags, detergent, my electric bill from the dryer running, and taking of work to prep my apartment for treatment..I’m in ohio please help!

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