Apartments can't get sex diseases, but they can get bed bugs, which are pretty close: Both are a source of embarrassment and discomfort, and both can be concealed to the detriment of the person on top of you.
This weekend the N.Y. Times’ "Ethicist" fielded a question from a co-op owner wondering whether it was necessary to tell the neighbors that his (or her) apartment had been treated for bed bugs.
We cringed when we read that the property management company advised the bed-bugged owner not to tell neighbors “for fear of spreading panic” and, just as bad, that the co-op board left disclosure to the apartment dweller's discretion instead of communicating necessary information to residents itself.
As the Ethicist correctly points out, neighbors can’t take precautions unless they’re aware of the risks.
We would also add that the board and the property management company are not only exposing the building to tremendous financial risk if bed bugs get out of hand, but they are exposing residents to a harrowing and expensive ordeal that could last for months or years and potentially affect property values.
Passing the buck is careless at best as well as arguably a breach of fiduciary duty owed to residents.
Early and proper treatment of bed bugs in any apartment building is critical to preventing an entomological disaster, and only the property manager and the board (or landlord) are in the position to make sure the right steps (there are many, many wrong ones) are being taken within the affected apartment and the building as a whole.
It seems as though this board and property manager are either ignorant of their responsibility to coordinate a response or dangerously apathetic.
In the case at hand, the Ethicist reports, the reader decided not to inform the neighbors, apparently fearing social consequences.
Apartment herpes, anyone?