Bed Bugs: What are a landlord’s responsibilities?

Bed bugs. Those two words are enough to make many people’s skin crawl. These little parasitic insects are a common problem in cities around the world and British Columbia is no exception. There was a time when bed bugs were virtually eradicated in the developed world, however, over the last two decades there has been a resurgence in their number.

There are many misconceptions regarding bed bugs and how bed bug infestations develop. It is very important for landlords and tenants to note that bed bugs are not necessarily a cleanliness issue. These insects can be brought into the home in a variety of manners, many of which are common day-to-day occurrences. For example, second hand furniture, books, and electronics can carry bed bugs. They can also come in by hitchhiking on visitors who have been in an area with a bed bug infestation; and these infestations are not limited to residential dwellings. Offices, libraries, and hotels have all experienced bed bug infestations.

The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to avoid bringing the bugs into the home in the first place. Vancouver Coastal Health provides tips on bed bug prevention, including washing and drying second hand clothes on a hot setting and when travelling, inspect your sleeping quarters for bed bugs as this will allow you to take additional precautions upon your return home.

Bed bug prevention guides can be found here and are available in English, Vietnamese, and Chinese languages.

What do bed bugs look like and how to spot them?

According to Brent Hampton of 1st Pest Control, “Bed bugs look like tiny beetles and in their earlier stages of development, they can be translucent and milky white/yellowish in colour. As they develop into adults, they darken to a brownish-red colour. At their largest, they are smaller than an apple seed and as flat as a credit card.”

Who is responsible when a bed bug infestation is discovered in a rental unit?

A question LandlordBC is often asked is who is responsible for the treatment of the unit if a bed bug infestation is discovered? The simple answer is that the landlord or property manager is responsible for the treatment of the unit. However, the tenant is responsible for cooperating with the landlord’s efforts to manage the bed bug infestation – such as prepping the unit for treatment, washing and bagging clothing etc.

To treat the bed bug infestation the landlord will, most likely, need to enter the rental unit. Landlords have the right to enter the property to inspect and maintain rental units, however, tenants must be given a proper written notice and the landlord can only enter between the hours of 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. In cases of emergency, such as a flood of fire, the landlord can enter the unit without notice. Treating an apartment for bed bugs is not considered an emergency and therefore, tenants must be given proper notice and adequate time to prepare the units for the application of a pesticide.

What is the solution to control bed bugs?

Early detection is key to addressing an infestation. As noted above, bed bugs can make their way into rental units in a variety of fashions and once they are there they can be tricky to eradicate. There is no fast, inexpensive solution to bed bugs and a licensed pest control operator will be required because if the job is not done properly, the bed bugs will return and continue to spread! This creates a bigger infestation and the costs associated with treatment will increase.

Unfortunately, due to the behaviors of bed bugs, there is often a chance that more than one units will be infested, even if the other tenants have not noticed any bugs or have not experienced any bites. The pest control operator will advise if there is a need to treat neighbouring units. The rules regarding notice of entry will apply to those units as well. The landlord is responsible for the cost of treatment needed to eradicate bug bugs. However, if the treatment is successfully completed and the bed bugs return, the tenant could then be responsible for the cost thereafter.

Preparation is key to a successful bed bug treatment and prevention of further infestation. It is important that landlords are communicating with their tenants regarding what is required of them to ensure that the treatment is effective. For example, clearing out shelves, laundering all clothing and bedding, moving furniture away from walls, and removing clutter. It is important that all parties work together to address this issue, however if for some reason the tenant refuses to properly prepare their unit for treatment the landlord can issue a caution notice which could lead to a 1 month notice to end tenancy.

Are there any new developments or technologies in fighting bed bugs?

Mr. Hampton believes that the newest technology is heat treatment, a method that’s been around for about a decade and has proven to be the most effective method of killing bed bugs, provided the pre-treatment preparation is followed precisely. “It’s worth noting that heat treatments are much more than simply setting up an industrial heater and leaving it on for a set amount of time. These heaters can not only be dangerous, but also destructive to possessions and not effective if the core temperature of every item in the home doesn’t reach the killing temperature,” adds Mr. Hampton. “When dealing with bed bugs, the best option is to call a professional pest control company to resolve the issue. The pest control specialist will guide both the landlord and the tenant on how to prepare for the infestation treatment and tailor an inspection and/or treatment plan according the specific requirements.”