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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bed Bugs and Rental Properties ~ IBBRA ~ Denise Donovan


Watch out for Bed Bug Savvy Landlords!




Karen was considering moving into a new complex and has never experienced bed bugs in her life. From recent news articles and apartment horror stories she had read, she had many questions about bed bugs. After a lengthy call, I explained to her what happens in many multi-unit complexes. She needed to know how bed bugs spread, what questions to ask and what to watch out for when it comes to management.
She sat at the leasing agents’ desk and asked to see the paperwork she would be required to sign. She read page after page when she came across “THE BED BUG ADDENDUM” of which we spoke.
She stopped and carefully read a maze of questions, comments and what ifs and a paragraph that was already checked for her that read:
INSPECTION: You agree that you: (check one)
(This one was already checked) Have inspected the dwelling prior to move-in or signing this addendum and that you did not observe any evidence of bed bugs or bed bugs infestation;
OR
Will inspect the dwelling within 48 hours after move-in or signing of this addendum and will notify us of any bed bugs or infestation.
She thought to herself, hum, if I were to sign this Addendum, it says I have already inspected the dwelling and I did not find any signs of bed bugs. I’ve only seen the model and I don’t even have the keys to the apartment I am moving into!
This is a warning sign!
Then again, what if I don’t agree with the one they pre-checked and check the other one saying I will inspect the dwelling within 48 hours? After a unit has been cleaned, even a top-notch professional would have a hard time finding bed bugs unless they have a scent dog.
This causes a dilemma for most.
48 hours? Where does that leave me as far as being responsible? What exactly is a bed bug? What do they look like? Where do they hide? What are the signs of bed bugs? How would I know, I am no expert in bed bugs! What if maintenance cleaned up all the signs and they are hiding in the walls? What if the people upstairs, downstairs, or next-door have bed bugs? What happens if they start moving through the walls and I get them?
This happens every day when the new tenant is sitting in the leasing office signing papers as the moving truck sits outside patiently waiting and charging by the hour. Pressure is on! People sign away under this pressure not realizing what they just did.
I warned Karen before she went in to sign her lease of the types of addendums that are out there and to be careful before she signs away.
Most of the time, property management will clean a place and prepare it for a new tenant without having a proper inspection for bed bugs. And, because of the cryptic nature of bed bugs, they will find a place well-hidden where they can’t be easily found by a simple visual inspection.
Karen stopped and asked the pertinent questions of the leasing agent about bed bugs in their particular property and asked to see their report to ensure her that the apartment and the building had been inspected for bed bugs before she moved in. She also wanted to be assured her new apartment was clear of any bed bugs whatsoever. Of course, they refused any help in that matter and stated they had not received any “reports” from any of their tenants before.
Karen knew that there are people not affected by the bites of bed bugs and can have them for many months without anyone knowing. What if the person that lives above the apartment she is proposing to move into has them and the management doesn’t know? It would only be a matter of time, when she would get them as well. What then happens if she should complain of a problem? Is she automatically held financially responsible?
Karen was one of the smarter lessors that got up and walked away from signing. It was obvious to her that the property owner wasn’t educated enough about bed bugs and she did not want to deal with a possible problem with them in the future. She also spent time online and found several complaints from tenants telling their stories about bed bugs found in their apartments and how the property owner responded which was not good. Several people threw away their belongings, lost their security deposits and had to move.
These property owners and management wonder why people attempt self-treatments!
Face it, moving is an emotional task that when working full time leaves you little to no time on the weekend to move, unpack and be ready for work on Monday morning. Not many people have their apartment completely unpacked and everything in its place before returning to work. It may take weeks, meanwhile bed bugs or their eggs may be hidden in the walls ready to hatch or build up an appetite.
Last night I received a call from a man who was moving into a sight unseen home in another state because of a corporate transfer. All he had seen is pictures, which he said looked good.
He did a search online to see if there were any bed bugs issues and found a report stating there were bed bugs when the last tenant moved in. Of course, when the man brought up the article to the new property owner, the property owner replied it was a disgruntled tenant that doesn’t know what he is talking about.
The man wanted to know whether to believe the new property owner or the report stating there were bed bugs in the dwelling.
When bed bugs are not addressed appropriately upfront, these scenarios are common.
Let’s think about the “what if’s”
What if, the man believed the property owner and took him at his word and after a week, his family began to receive bites. If the property owner were then approached, he would say, “You must have brought them with you, not my problem” and would hold the new tenant responsible. Know that when renting a single-family residence most of the time the tenant is responsible for pest control. This gets the property owner off the hook for a previous problem unless of course the tenant can prove that the bed bugs were there before they moved in.
Like life isn’t hard enough.
Listen up folks, if you are considering moving into an apartment or a single-family dwelling, have a long conversation about bed bugs with your new property owner BEFORE you make the decision to move into that complex or home. Get a history, if they are ignorant or make excuses, won’t discuss or hand you an addendum that isn’t equally fair, run! (Of course unless they are willing to learn, and then send them to me or an IBBRA member)
Seek out properties that have proactive bed bug protocols in place with plenty of educational materials to show you their policies, procedures, concern and understanding. Find those who have regular dog scent detection and inspections so that infestations are outdated.
You never know what's lurking behind those baseboards or walls!
Stay away from “savvy” property owners that ignore the problem and try to pass it on to the next victim.
We are always here to help!
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