Q. I rent in a condo building and I just found out that an apartment down the hall has bed bugs. What can I do to keep them out of my apartment? What should the condo board be doing? And who pays?
A. When a condo board learns that one apartment has a bed bug problem, it should bring in an experienced bed bug exterminator to help get rid of those bugs as well as check for any cross-infestation, says BrickTank Expert and real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich.
The standard protocol is for an exterminator to inspect all apartments vertically or horizontally connected to the infested one.
“If any test positive, then the exterminator continues to inspect vertically and horizontally connected apartments until that exercise results in a negative result for all apartments tested,” says property manager Dan Wurtzel.
Pest control expert Gil Bloom says if the bed bugs are down the hall only, you may still be able to sleep at night.
“It poses little threat to you unless in the process of preparing for their treatment, items are placed in the common hall or moved through the hall unwrapped while being discarded,” says Bloom.
Items that need to be discarded should be “shrink wrapped, bagged or otherwise contained,” says Bloom, and not stored in the building or held for recycling. Afterward, hallways should vacuumed or steamed.
“The next question is how much social interaction you have with the apartment down the hall,” says Bloom. “Do you visit each other, do your children or their nannies?”
Here are Bloom’s tips for keeping your apartment bed bug free:
- Isolate it as much as possible by using a sealant (not simple caulk) to seal gaps under moldings and around wires, pipes and service lines. Before sealing you might want to apply a pesticide-grade diatomaceous earth dust to “assist in nixing any travelers”
- Place passive insect monitors in closets, under beds and radiators or HVACs. You could also put interceptor traps under bed legs.
- Be careful about bringing in any pre-owned items that might carry bed bugs
As for the cost of taking proactive measures, many condo bylaws allow the board to bill the unit owner responsible for the infestation, if the source can be established, notes Reich. But that should take a far backseat to containing the bed bug problem to begin with.
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