Bed bug bites can be itchy and even somewhat painful, but sometimes what is most painful is the expense and hassle of remediating these pests. There are three types of treatments at the professional level: pesticide, heat and freezing (“cryo”). Pesticide based treatments utilize a combination of a pesticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR), while heating or freezing systems manipulate the ambient temperature in a home. Heat or freezing solutions will still utilize amounts of pesticide, and all three options require a considerable amount of resident compliance in terms of preparation regardless of the treatment system. Typically pesticide-based treatments are the least expensive, as there is considerable expense (and insurance) around the two heat systems.

What can be most frustrating about bed bugs is that they can be easily re-introduced to a home that was just treated, and very few pest control companies offer a warranty on the service due to the reliance on occupant compliance. In multi-family dwellings such as condos, the treatment costs can skyrocket as the bed bugs spread from one unit to the next in search of their next meal. Because of this, it is wise to have a clearly defined bed bug policy in your CC&Rs. This policy should define who is financially responsible for the treatment, but new light is being shed on best practices around this.

In recent news, a family in Everett entered into a legal dispute with their management firm and COA over what type of bed bug treatment would be done at their house. It turns out the property did not have a bed bug policy, so the COA instructed their association manager to move forward with a pesticidebased treatment, as it was the lowest expense. The daughter has a medical condition that led the resident to demand a heat treatment, and a dispute arose when the COA refused to shoulder the added expense. This is the first I’ve heard of this variable arising, where a medical condition mandates a specific pest treatment, but I’m sure it can come up again.

Almost every month we encounter another HOA or COA that doesn’t have a bed bug policy, and ends up shouldering the cost of treatment. Ultimately each COA/HOA needs to make the decision that best meets the budgetary constraints while serving their community. Consult with your pest control company to know in advance what treatment options are available as not every company can offer all options, and have a clear escalation plan that addresses any re-treatment expense or alternate treatment expense.

There are ways that communities can reduce the likelihood of these troublesome pests, and spending time reviewing these tips with residents is time well spent: 

Never pick up any furniture left on the side of the road, as tempting as that leather couch may be.

Any consignment or second-hand clothing should go directly into the wash from the store. 125 degree heat or higher from the dryer kills bed bugs, so that is the most important aspect of the wash cycle. Take note of what articles may shrink in that heat, however; in some cases dry-cleaning may be necessary.

For travelers, thorough inspections of the room prior to unpacking will prevent unwanted hitchhikers in your luggage. Your pest control vendor should be able to provide inspection tips.

Bed bugs can also be introduced by visitors who transport them unknowingly in their clothing or luggage. Once your guests have left, a simple inspection of the bed, including the mattress and box spring, can catch the infestation early on before it spreads.

If you suspect that you have bed bugs, resist the urge to start sleeping in the next room. Bed bugs have a highly tuned sense of heat detection, as well as the ability to locate a human body from the carbon dioxide we exhale. This can provide very short-term relief (one or two nights) but the bed bugs will follow and spread throughout the house.

Raise community awareness that bed bugs are not a pest that can be resolved without professionals. Internet myths abound on how to eliminate bed bugs including mint oil, steam, and even just throwing out the mattress. Calling in a pest control company as soon as it is evident that there is a bed bug problem can save time and money, as typically the more rooms that need treatment the larger the treatment expense.

Invest some time in educating your community and in creating a plan. Having a clear policy that not only spells out financial responsibility but also speaks to any contingencies that require alternative solutions will prevent bed bugs from biting your budgets.

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