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.