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Don't let the Bed bugs bite into your NOI: outsmart this small but powerful enemy in the properties you manage.

Bed bugs have made a comeback since the early twentieth century, and as a real estate manager, you've probably come into contact with--or at least heard stories of--the damage caused by these small pests. Contrary to popular myth, bed bugs aren't necessarily the result of dirty or unsanitary conditions--they are equal opportunity pests, finding their way from place to place by latching onto pets, furniture, clothing, luggage and other items with dark hiding spaces and nooks and crannies.

Their prevalence in hotels, dormitories, single- and multifamily homes, airplanes, hospitals and other places where people live, work and shop, is widespread. When you consider how easily they can spread from place to place and the cost of remediation--along with the bad press associated with their presence--bed bugs can quickly become time- and money-consuming and ultimately impact the NOI of the properties you manage.

Bed Bug Basics

Sometimes prevention is the best medicine. Implementing varying bed bug procedures will allow you to respond before it's too late.

The following are seven suggestions for developing a bed bug protocol:

1: Time is of the essence. Rapid response is the most important rule of thumb in containing and eliminating bed bugs, regardless of the size of an infestation. If left untreated, bed bugs can spread to a large number of units and/or other areas in your property.

2: Divide and conquer. Educate employees, staff, contractors and occupants about bed bugs. 'The more information you make available to all the players in your property, the easier it is to identify bed bugs, or at least isolate an infestation before it worsens. It is paramount that staff is trained to identify bed bugs to supplement the professional exterminator's opinion.

3: Confirm your suspicions. If an occupant mentions being bitten, appears to have bite marks and/or tells you they've seen a little insect looking similar to a baby roach, these arc common signs that your property has been hit by bed bugs.

4: Take a look for yourself--then call in the experts. "Bed" bugs get their name for a reason. When inside the unit, take a look at the bed, which is one of the most common places for them to hide. Small, dark stains in the seams of mattresses and on sheets provide evidence that bed bugs have recently been feeding in those areas. Once you have inspected the unit that you believe to be the source, move on to neighboring units. Every contiguous unit to the bed bug infestation is vulnerable to bed bugs. Use a "clover leafing" technique to check above, below and on each side of the infestation.

5: They're real: time to develop and implement a bed bug treatment checklist for each unit, like this one:

* Send preparation letter to occupant;

* Have unit treated for bed bugs;

* Record level of preparation and sanitation in unit;

* Send 10-day cure notice to occupant whose unit is unprepared and/or displays poor sanitation;

* Have unit treated bi-weekly until the pest control company reports that it is free of bed bugs;

* Confirm successful treatment via a canine walk-through

* Continue a bi-weekly inspection until unit has been cleared for 60 days.

6: Record keeping is a must. Even the best prevention and treatment program will fall short of its goals if it fails to assign specific responsibilities and create individual accountability. Up-to-date and accurate records of bed bug issues serve as a historical reference for future infestations. Capture and document all information applicable to bed bug issues---such as occupancy and vacancy numbers, treatment preparation service dates and costs, bed bug activity, sanitation conditions and any other additional comments--to efficiently organize and mobilize prevention and treatment efforts.

7: Ease the burden of costs and responsibility. While it is the owner's responsibility under the lease to provide pest-free housing, there should be a means to charge back pest control expenses to the occupant--particularly in cases where the unit has not been properly prepared for extermination, and when re-infestation occurs after treatment efforts.

There is little in the way of bed bug case law, so use judgment with riders or forms and consider having them reviewed by an attorney to determine feasibility. Bed bugs are a local or state issue and legislation pertaining to your area should be reviewed. Almost every state has some form of bed bug control legislation under consideration or already in place.

BROACHING THE BED BUG DISCUSSION

A commonly held belief is that cleanliness often results in a bed bug-free environment, and vice versa. Occupants tend to incorrectly believe that a quality building with clean occupants doesn't have the potential to have a bed bug infestation, and discussing the subject of bed bugs with occupants is rarely recommended in a marketing plan.

There are two distinct players in bed bug discussions: 1) The occupant whose unit is the source of the nest and from where the bed bugs emanated; and 2) The occupant(s) in the vicinity of the source, who were second-hand victims of the expanding infestation.

If only one unit has bed bugs, remediation is relatively straightforward. If more than one unit has bed bugs, it's best to find out where the heaviest concentration is and identify it as the source. You might wish to inspect each vacant unit--either by a professional inspector or a canine detector--to certify that it is bed-bug free. The inspection can also help you deduce whether bed bugs were brought in from the outside, or whether they crawled in from another unit.

REMEDIATION RESPONSIBILITY

Although the occupant responsible for the bed bug outbreak is obligated to fully cooperate with the exterminating service during and after inspections/treatments, as a real estate manager, you will be faced with working alongside the occupant in order to successfully eliminate bed bugs and monitor their spread to the rest of the property. Start by educating the occupant on what bed bugs look like, where they are likely to hide and methods of eliminating them. By delegating responsibility to the occupant(s) to bear the costs associated with re-infestation, you are also incentivizing them to be vigilant about proactively treating the problem.

While being firm about the parameters of treatment, also keep in mind that a bed bug infestation is invasive and time consuming for the occupant, and also has a negative psychological connotation. To ease their sense of fear, you could consider mentioning their unit may have gotten bed bugs from an outside source, such as a friend's/relative's house, hotel or caregiver.

To read a related article on bed bugs by Greg Martin, view the Nov/Dec 2009 JPM[R] article entitled "Don't let the Bed Bugs Bite" online at www.jpm-ditital.org.

Visit www.bedbuginstitute.com to learn more about preventative tips, or to find a pest management professional near you.

RELATED ARTICLE: BED BUGS: BITING BACK

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Permission given by Claire Gesalman of the EPA

Identifying Bed Bugs

Bed bug adults are reddish brown, wingless and the size of an apple seed, but younger bed bugs are white or translucent yellow and can be so small, they're almost invisible. Learning to recognize the signs of eggs, molted skins and fecal spots can help identifying bed bugs when you can't see them.

Preventing Bed Bugs

Bed bugs love to hide. To the extent possible, remove clutter, seal cracks to eliminate their habitat, encase mattresses and box springs and check luggage when returning from a trip. When inspecting a space, look for the tell-tale signs of bed bugs (which can look like mold from a distance) by checking curtain rods, inside baseboard heaters and behind chipped paint or loose wallpaper for fecal spots, cast skins and/or live or hatched eggs.

Treating Bed Bugs

Vacuuming (and removing the vacuum bag after); steam treatment to fabrics; C02 freeze treatment; superheating for at least 90 minutes (at the "kill-temperature" of 114-118 degrees Fahrenheit); and/or using contact, residue or growth-regulating pesticides approved by the U.S. EPA will help to eventually eliminate bed bugs.

For more information on bed bugs, visit www.epa.gov/bedbugs.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY MUST BE INHOSPITABLE TO BED BUGS

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Permission given by BASF Pest Control Solutions

Use the Following Tips to Identify and Eliminate Bed Bugs In Hotels:

* Inspect luggage to prevent the spread of bed bugs to the new room. If found, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene advises hotels to wash and dry all bedding, curtains, rugs, towels and bathrobes on the hottest cycle.

* Immediately move guests to another, non-adjacent room and close it off to other guests. If possible, close off adjacent rooms so they can be inspected as well.

* Call a pest management professional (PMP), who will be trained to thoroughly inspect the premises, prescribe the right treatment option and carry out the work.

* Ask your PMP questions such as what products are being used, what your role is in follow up and how you can prevent infestations from occurring.

* A PMP may do the following to prepare the room(s) for treatment:

* Remove pictures and other wall hangings

* Detach wall fixtures

* Remove electrical face plates Remove drawers from cabinets and dressers Remove headboards

* Lift and turn box springs and bed platforms over for a thorough inspection

* Carefully inspect upholstered furniture

* Examine wheels, casters, posts and legs of alt furniture

* Pull carpet back from the wall to carefully inspect

* Remove curtains to be heat-treated in a dryer, steam cleaned or spot-treated with product

Greg L. Martin, CPM Emeritus (marting@draperandkramer.com), is vice president of Draper and Kramer, Inc. [left]

John L. Bieg, CPM (biegj@draperandkrarner.com), is an assistant vice president of Draper and Kramer, Inc. [right]

Draper and Kramer, Inc., is a property and financial services firm in Chicago.
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Title Annotation:net operating income
Comment:Don't let the Bed bugs bite into your NOI: outsmart this small but powerful enemy in the properties you manage.(net operating income)
Author:Martin, Greg L.; Bieg, John L.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Words:1628
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