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These days, Alex Kuffel treats the warning he first heard as a child very seriously: “We used to say, ‘Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.’ Bed bugs are a critical problem.”
We’ve all heard that before. We’ve also heard that boards and management must be proactive, and that they must wage an ongoing education campaign to be certain the residents know about bed bugs and how to cope with them. But Kuffel, president of Pride Property Management, is trying something that he thinks is fairly unusual: a move-in/move-out policy that meets the bed bug issue head on.
“A non-refundable $300 fee must... be given to the superintendent to have the apartment inspected by a certified bed bug inspector, for the presence of bed bugs within the apartment,” the April 2010 policy for the 120-unit Manhattan building says. “The apartment will be inspected prior to the move-in and then again after the residents’ contents have been moved into the apartment. In the event bed bugs are found after the resident moves into the apartment, the resident is solely responsible for all costs incurred with abating the bed bugs....”
The idea has proved so popular that another building Kuffel manages drafted its own bed bug rules – prior to Kuffel’s arrival there. (The management executive suspects that the new rules are based on his April 2010 requirements. The reason? The two buildings share the same sponsor, who could have brought the idea from one property to the other.)
“In order to ensure that you are moving into an apartment that will offer you maximum cleanliness, protection and future peace of mind,” these rules say, “you are required to provide the inspection and treatment of your new apartment by a qualified exterminator. This is in order to ensure that the entire apartment is completely free of infestation by any vermin, specifically including but not limited to bed bugs, roaches, ants and termites.”
Although Kuffel’s original policy is vague about who pays for the exterminator (“It’s up to the board to decide that,” he explains), the newer policy is explicit: “You are required to engage the services of an exterminator approved by the management, and bear all costs associated with the inspection and any extermination that may prove necessary.” It also notes that “a certificate from the exterminator must be provided to management specifically stating that the apartment is free of the specific vermin mentioned above, before permission to move in will be granted.”
Even though these rules deal only with new residents, the manager believes that preventive medicine is always a good thing. And then there’s the “sleepless nights” question. “I had one resident come to me and say, ‘What are you doing about bed bugs?’” says Kuffel, who explained to her all the preventive and educational procedures that he and the board had put into place, including the move-in/move-out policy. That did the trick. “It gave her peace of mind,” he notes. “That’s what it’s there for.”