I have two quick side notes before I get to today’s post:
- First, I want to give thanks for all the relief efforts that are being made to help those who are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
- Second, I want to highlight the sample resident newsletter articles that I have posted in the past. Read them all at: http://stoppests.typepad.com/ipminmultifamilyhousing/newsletter-article/. With Thanksgiving fast-approaching, you may want to revisit the first one: “What to do with fat, oil, and grease.”
Now on to the post!
Resident turnover is a fact of life in multifamily housing. Property managers have systems in place for dealing with abandoned units, making apartments ready for rental, and bringing new residents in. Pest management professionals (PMPs), maintenance staff, and property managers must work together to get rid of pests in an empty unit. If left untended, pests may continue to breed, go dormant waiting for the next resident, or move to adjacent homes. In short, you want to get the unit pest-free (as confirmed by monitoring) before putting it back on the market. Do not use total release aerosol foggers and be aware of the laws in your state about who can apply pesticides on your property (even in a vacant unit).
Today I want to go over options for moving new residents in.
Bed bugs are the motivating factor behind many of the requests I get for help with revising resident move-in procedures. I encourage you to read the applicable notice for your housing portfolio. Each contains specific information about rights and responsibilities.
- HUD Office of Housing's Notice on Bed Bugs, and
- HUD Office of Public and Indian Housing Notice on Bed Bugs
Mice and cockroaches are great hitchhikers too, so procedures should focus on allpests, not just bed bugs. A realistic and measurable objective is to have the home pest-free within 3 months of move in. This gives sufficient time for the resident, PMP, and housing management to do their parts. If the effort starts on day-one and the PMP and residents avoid repellent pesticides like foggers, the infestation is unlikely to ever grow or spread to neighboring units.
It is nearly impossible to prevent pests from coming in the doors, but you can have a system that controls any pest problems and avoids any high-level of infestations in the homes of new residents. I recommend you allocate your time and resources toward monitoring and inspection rather than treating residents’ belongings outside of the home in fear of a few pests dropping onto a hallway floor during transport.
Offer all residents the training they need to use proven, non-chemical control methods like vacuuming with a HEPA filter and good housekeeping. These, along with an IPM program that includes regular monitoring and inspection by trained staff or a PMP should prevent an infestation from getting out of hand.
At a minimum:
- Have monitors in place for cockroaches and bed bugs before the resident moves in.
- At move-in, educate
the resident about pests and effective strategies for keeping them at-bay, the
pest control policies in place, the monitoring and inspection schedule, and the
importance of reporting pest sightings. Give the resident the opportunity to
discuss his or her previous experience with pests and offer any recommendations
or resources that the housing agency can provide.
The StopPests residents briefing video and printable resources can help. Set the tone that is so well done on this poster developed by Home Forward in Portland, OR.
- After the resident has had a chance to settle in, but within 60 days, conduct a housekeeping inspection. During this inspection, check sticky traps and bed bug monitors and use a flashlight to look for signs of pests. In addition to pest signs, you are looking for pest-conducive-conditions: food, water, and shelter for pests or ways the pests could get in the home.
- If housekeeping practices do not meet the standard, follow your violation procedures that ideally involve a housekeeping class. If you see early signs of hoarding, reach out to a local service provider.
- If you see signs of pests, follow IPM: identify, scale response to level of infestation, take control measures, and evaluate the success of the effort through more inspection and monitoring. Mark the home as a focus unit and call a PMP. Have housing staff visit the unit at least every month and allocate time and resources to it until the pests and their evidence is gone.
Other options that are more time and resource-intensive and may not be necessary/practical:
- In a legal and sensitive way, ask applicants to self-report that their previous home was infested and offer them available solutions. If they do self-report, at a minimum, recommend the resident vacuums weekly, launders bedding on high heat as part of the move in process, and have a PMP inspect. If deemed necessary, the PMP may treat the unit with pesticides within a week or two of move-in.
- Encase the residents’ mattress and box spring before bringing it in the building. Use a rip-resistant and snug-fitting encasement on each. Note: the box spring has the most bed bug hiding spots, so it should take priority over the mattress.
- Steam resident belongings and suspected harborages.
- Do a whole-unit heat treatment after the resident moves in followed by monitoring and inspection. Note: If done correctly, heat treatments will kill all life stages of both cockroaches and bed bugs.
- Heat-treat or fumigate (NOT fog) residents’ belongings outside of the building. To me, this seems like a logistical nightmare, but I’ve heard of a few housing authorities that have taken units offline to create a “bug sauna” or have retro-fitted a moving truck to be a heat box.
Controversial topics: disposing of furniture, scent detecting canines and prophylactic pesticide application. You may note the absence of these topics. There are many reasons based on financial burden, efficacy, risk of pesticide exposure, and practicality that I won’t go into here. Each control option has it’s place, but not in a practical standard resident move-in procedure.
Want to share your strategies?
Comment below or join the conversation on StopPests in Housing Facebook page.