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Ask Habitat: Help! I Think My Neighbor Has Bedbugs

New York City

My Neighbor Might Have Bedbugs
Feb. 23, 2015

HABITAT ANSWERS: Bedbugs are capable of surviving difficult conditions for inordinately long periods of time, and are easily spread: home health aides or cleaning staff can pick them up at a client's or vice versa, children can pass them on at school, relatives can track them between homes, and they can creep into luggage even at the upscale hotels that are struggling to contain them.

The problem is exacerbated when residents throw out infested furniture, such as sofas, instead of addressing the problem through the proper channels — that is, notifying the board, so the board can notify the managing agent and the infestation can be contained.

Boards often have policies in place to deal with these pests, but unfortunately the onus is on building residents to let them know there's a problem. And that doesn't always happen, whether it's because people think they can handle it themselves or because of the huge stigma of having bedbugs.

Which brings us to your issue. Your neighbor could just have been getting rid of his sofa and might not have bedbugs, so you don't want to levy an accusation against him. Likewise, you don't want to wait until you have an infestation in your apartment before doing something. So first, grab a flashlight and check everything. Check for the bugs themselves and their droppings — those small brown spots they leave behind (which will be more evident on the mattress itself). Check your entire bed — mattress, frame, and headboard. If anything, it will either confirm your suspicions or put you a bit at ease.  

Second, choosing your words very carefully, let the board know that you noticed your neighbor getting rid of his sofa at an odd hour, and that you're concerned about the possibility of bedbugs. The board can then investigate the matter.

Boards are typically urged to notify all owners quickly when an infestation occurs, inspect apartments adjacent to an infestation, and perform advance due diligence on exterminators.

If an infestation is to be contained, there's little time to dither when an outbreak occurs. It's good to get them early. The board and management company should also check references on exterminators and have guidelines for how the exterminator must proceed, by treating adjacent rooms and undertaking the tedious job of searching out the pests using a flashlight to peer into every crevice and electrical outlet where they hide. Companies' treatments vary widely, and straight fumigation isn't best, because it can send the bugs to the neighboring apartments.

Good luck!

 

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