They’re small, they’re insidious, and they suck your blood. We’re talking about bedbugs – or as their victims call them, “bloodsuckers from hell.” Boards should have a policy in place for dealing with these little fiends, because once they move in, they can rapidly spread through the walls and soon infest the whole building.
First, educate your residents. Little three-pronged welts are a sign of the bugs, and you can often find them by inspecting your ankles. If anyone suspects he or she has bedbugs, don’t let them take independent action. The law says the search-and-destroy mission is the responsibility of the landlord – that is, the board – and there is good reason for that. You want a coordinated approach; otherwise a bad situation can become worse. At one Manhattan co-op, for instance, a shareholder who suspected he had bedbugs didn’t inform the board and instead hired an exterminator who applied intense heat to the unit. When it got too hot to habitate, the bugs were able to escape by traveling up through the walls to another apartment.
A building-wide approach is needed. Once bedbugs have been reported, the super and/or an exterminator should inspect the infested unit – and also those on either side of and above and below it. If bedbugs are found there – oftentimes with the help of bedbug-sniffing dogs – they should be eliminated; if none are found, you should have preventive spraying done in all the cracks and corners of those apartments, and these should then be sealed, preferably with caulk. Unused electrical outlets should be taped up as well, so the creatures don’t enter through that route. Send a notice to all residents explaining the situation, and then, for good measure, inspect every apartment in the building, sealing up cracks and openings, and also using a preventive spray. Above all, don’t panic. The bloodsuckers from hell can be banished.