Paula Chin in Building Operations on December 10, 2020
When it comes to Local Law 69, Dennis DePaola likes to stay ahead of the curve. The law requires all multi-family residential buildings, including co-ops and condos, to file an annual bedbug history with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31. With the deadline looming, DePaola, an executive vice president and the director of compliance at Orsid Realty, already has all his paperwork in order.
The Annual Bedbug Report must detail any units that had infestations during the previous 12 months, which ones took “eradication methods,” such as calling an exterminator, and whether those efforts were successful. “We keep all of those records for our properties throughout the year, log it on a spreadsheet and send out reminders that it needs to be kept up to date,” DePaola says. That way, when December rolls around, “the team in our compliance department simply goes over each building and files the report electronically by the deadline.”
That review and filing process is just the culmination of Orsid’s bedbug-fighting protocol. “Anytime there are reports of bugs, we typically work with the building’s super and resident manager and bring in a testing party right away,” DePaola says. His inspector of choice? Specially trained canines, who can sniff out live bedbugs and viable eggs hiding in tiny nooks and crannies in beds, sofas, wooden furniture and behind walls, which no mere human can easily find. Out of an abundance of caution, Orsid takes an aggressive approach by testing units adjacent to the affected apartment as well as the ones above and below it. “If we do 3B, we’ll also do 3A, 3C, 4B and 2B,” he explains. “We call it our cloverleaf approach.”
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If an infestation is discovered, “we immediately do remediation, because the last thing you want is for the problem to spread,” DePaola says. The law requires that buildings use a pest-management professional who is registered and certified by the state. “We have several companies that we work with,” DePaola says, “since we don’t want to be pigeon-holed with just one outfit. Several years ago, when bedbugs became a real issue in New York City, virtually all of our buildings passed policies on remediation. Most of them specify that the cost of regular testing and extermination will fall on the building.”
After the annual report is submitted, the information is posted on HPD Online, which lists a building’s bedbug history along with information about complaints and litigation, violations and charges. Local Law 69 also requires that the history must be posted in a prominent place within the building or given to residents when signing or renewing their leases.
If a building fails to file an annual report, it’s still not clear what the penalty will be. “It’s more likely to be analogous to failing to file a property registration,” DePaola says, “which has a $250 to $500 civil penalty.”
The good news for co-op and condo boards is that the law, which was enacted in 2018, does not appear to have had a chilling effect on apartment sales. “Yes, bedbug histories are now publicly available online, but the legal obligation to disclose that information has been around for years,” DePaola says. “And we haven’t found that infestations affect sales. We thought people would be backing out, but extermination is very effective these days. We’ve immediately eradicated bedbugs in every reported case except one building, where we had to chase them around for a while. But we got them in the end.”
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