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VOLUME IIIBattle of the BedbugsBy Shamontiel L. VaughnFrom the fanciest hotels to the cheapest apartments, bedbugs do not discriminate. Where there is blood, they will follow. From hotel managers to business and leisure travelers to landlords, combating a bedbug problem can be a tough job to fix. It can also be a disservice to the reputations of property owners who ignore these insects because bedbugs certainly won’t pack their bags and leave without reason.If Bedbugs Surface, Is It the Fault of the New Tenant?Female bed bugs lay between one and five eggs each day. If they survive, they can lay one egg per day—in singles and clusters and in tight cracks and crevices. Picture the size of two grains of salt. That’s all the room a bedbug egg needs. And for property owners, that egg is the last thing they need.“If there’s a bedbug problem, it can be fixed much like a plumbing problem or any other kind of issue,” said Tim Payne, the Vice President of Quick Kill Exterminating Co., a 31-year-old extermination company based in the North West suburbs of Chicago. “But fixing this comes down to landlord priority and also tenants. A big problem landlords have are tenants who will not want to be looked down on by the neighbors, so they will try to hide it. But it should be a priority for both landlords and tenants because, one way or another, both of their reputations will suffer.”Unlike mice, bedbugs don’t just wander inside. A new tenant can’t just assume that bedbugs crawled into a moving box or truck any more than a current tenant can believe forgetting to close the door all the way is the problem.“Bedbugs typically move with people,” Payne said. “They’re a host insect, so they need blood meals. It’s rare, but some can last up to a year without a blood meal.”According to Scientific American, this is certainly possible. At about 73 degrees, bedbugs can survive for two to three months without a blood meal. However, these cold-blooded insects have a metabolism that slows down in colder climates, so they may be able to live longer in certain parts of the world.However, they’ll need human beings in order to continue to reproduce and function in the way that they would like to. Although bedbugs are commonly linked to beds, they can easily be found in other areas, including luggage, satchels, backpacks and shoes. One traveling resident can unknowingly bring back the kind of souvenirs no one wants in the building—without them having any idea that they did it.Why the Bedbug Addendum Should Be Mandatory“I encourage all landlords to have a bedbug addendum with their leases,” Payne said. “It should say the tenant is responsible for the bedbug treatment if needed in your unit. The most likely reason that someone gets bedbugs in their unit is they brought them in. Of course, it gets very dicey if there’s light infestation in one unit. Then we inspect other units, and then there’s a huge infestation in the unit next to it.”Incidents like those can evolve into finger-pointing and trying to place blame for extermination expenses on each other. But one thing Payne does insist on is that bedbug infestation is not a matter of a tenant having bad hygiene habits or sanitation issues.“You can stay at a cabin or an Airbnb or stay at a friend’s house, and you don’t know,” Payne said. “It’s not done maliciously. Unfortunate situation happens.”“But when exterminators come out to treat the area, landlords and homeowners associations should be required to tell their tenants or condo owners that all units be inspected that are adjacent to that unit,” Payne continued. “If a tenant calls us and says a landlord won’t take care of the entire building, we can’t really help. We can come out to confirm the problem is there, but I’d need to know what’s going on in all the adjacent ones in order to treat that unit.”When In Doubt, Inspect the BuildingAs is common with new homeowners, Payne recommends that renters inquire about routine inspections with their landlords, especially for multi-unit buildings. While a unit-only inspection will not be the best way to confirm what’s happening on the other side of the wall, at least new tenants or property owners will get an idea of what’s going on in their rentals.Interestingly, with the rise in coronavirus cases, travel bans and eviction moratoriums, people are not moving around as much as usual from 2020 to 2021. So Payne hasn’t heard about nearly as many bedbug reports as Quick Kill Exterminating Co. did before the days of social isolation.“We’re a smaller, family-owned company, so this may not be the case with all extermination companies, but hotel rooms have gone empty over the past year,” Payne said. “Worldwide travel has dwindled down. The weather or the season has nothing to do with when bedbug reports will be reported, but an event like spring break or an uptick in roadside inn stays to Disney World will surely make a difference. When people travel more, the cases increase.”No matter the trip or the location, getting ahead of a bedbug problem is top priority. Prevention tips like laundry room cleaning, bug bombs or mattress covers may work on small jobs, but this could also push the bedbugs to another unit.Investigating how big the bedbug issue is and landlords resolving it overall with a competent inspector can get rid of the problem easier, faster and efficiently.