Land­lord and ten­ant should work to­gether to re­solve bed­bug sit­u­a­tion


Q: I live in an apart­ment in a walk-up build­ing in Ot­tawa. A few weeks ago I no­ticed bed­bugs in my apart­ment. Ap­par­ently the bed­bugs were brought into the build­ing by an un­savoury ten­ant who moved used fur­ni­ture into their apart­ment. The ten­ant has now left the build­ing, but the bed­bugs are still here. The bed­bug sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse, and I have many bites each night. What should I do?

A: This is an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion all around, and the prob­lem will take at least sev­eral weeks to be solved.

Bed­bugs are a com­mon pest found in many rental units, pri­vate homes and pub­lic spa­ces, like the­atres, hos­pi­tals or doc­tors’ of­fices. Any­one any­where can get bed­bugs. Their pres­ence is not de­ter­mined by the clean­li­ness of liv­ing con­di­tions. They are of­ten brought into a home on used fur­ni­ture and used cloth­ing. But they can be brought into a unit through no fault of a ten­ant, such as in suit­cases af­ter trav­el­ling or by sim­ply sit­ting on an in­fested couch.

For­tu­nately, bed­bugs are not known to spread dis­ease, but their bite can cause itch­ing, al­ler­gic re­ac­tions or a sec­ondary skin in­fec­tion.

If bed­bugs are vis­i­ble, you can help con­tain the sit­u­a­tion by clean­ing them up with a vac­uum cleaner. A HEPA fil­ter will keep the bugs con­tained within the vac­uum cleaner.

You can also make your bed an is­land by putting mat­tress en­case­ments on it, mov­ing it away from the walls and putting traps un­der all the legs. That should al­low you to sleep with­out be­ing bit­ten. Google “Ot­tawa Pub­lic Health bed­bugs” for more in­for­ma­tion.

To get the prob­lem solved, you need to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively and promptly with your land­lord. You should tell your land­lord, both by tele­phone and in some writ­ten form, that you be­lieve your unit has bed­bugs.

It is the land­lord’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain the rental unit so that it is fit for habi­ta­tion, in­clud­ing ar­rang­ing for pest con­trol ser­vices. It is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to co­op­er­ate with the land­lord to help man­age the bed­bug prob­lem.

Your land­lord should bring in a li­censed pest con­trol op­er­a­tor to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and treat the unit. You will need to do some prepa­ra­tion, and you will al­most cer­tainly need to treat your clothes, bed­ding and tow­els.

If you see bed­bugs in the clothes, you will want to wash the clothes, but if you don’t see bugs in the clothes, it is suf­fi­cient to dry the clothes at a high heat with­out wash­ing them first. Re­mem­ber to take the clothes to the laun­dry in one set of bags, and bring them back in new bags to avoid re-in­fes­ta­tion. You need to keep the treated clothes sep­a­rate from un­treated clothes, and keep the treated clothes in sealed con­tain­ers un­til the apart­ment is free of bed­bugs.

Usu­ally two bed­bug spray­ings are re­quired be­cause the ap­proved pes­ti­cides do not have suf­fi­cient resid­ual ef­fect to kill the bed­bug eggs. The goal of the first spray­ing is to kill all the live bed­bugs. Then the pest con­trol op­er­a­tor will wait a few weeks for any eggs to grow into ju­ve­niles, then spray a sec­ond time to kill the ju­ve­niles be­fore they in turn pro­duce more eggs.

If your land­lord does not get a pest con­trol op­er­a­tor in to take ef­fec­tive ac­tion, then your quick­est re­course is to call Ot­tawa By-Law and Reg­u­la­tory Ser­vices at 311.

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