I recently had lunch with an experienced property manager of a class A-commercial office building located in the Chicago suburbs. I was looking forward to catching up with my client on the usual items including, family, work, upcoming vacations, etc. However, within minutes of meeting at the restaurant I realized this would be a much different meeting. One of my additional goals for this particular meeting was to discuss a proactive bed bug inspection program for this manager’s office building. Unfortunately, we were already too late for a proactive approach as my client informed me…”Andy, our building has bed bugs!”
There are very few words in the pest control world that receive a reaction like the two words, “Bed” and “Bug”. Yet, when these two words are spoken together, most property managers I meet with joke that they are already starting to itch as we continue to discuss this ever-growing pest. Nevertheless, this uncomfortable response pales in comparison to the common reactions of their tenants, customers and even asset managers.
The next 72 hours following my client lunch included my providing a proposal for an emergency bed bug inspection using four trained canine teams, reviewing and approving contracts and COI’s, gathering the necessary floor plans, and scheduling a Saturday morning inspection with the property manager and two building engineers that will be paid overtime. But, according to our client, that was the easy part! In addition to the routine executing of contracts and planning for service operations, the property manager explained that they basically played the role of a psychiatrist to countless tenants over the next three days. The rumor mill was in full swing as the word spread of bed bugs in the building and some tenants were even using the word “infestation”, which in this case was not true. This was the first time in the 20+ years of property management that this manager had ever experienced anything like the situation at hand. By Saturday afternoon, this manager was waving her white flag.
We did in fact complete the bed bug inspection that Saturday morning and it was a successful visit. Not because we found more bed bugs, but because we were able to isolate two additional incidents which allowed the property manager to have their pest control provider treat only the areas where bed bugs were present. Our canine team’s detected bed bugs in two additional places on the property. One in a chair at a cubicle and one on a winter coat hanging on a coat rack. After locating the owner of the coat, we learned this employee takes public transportation to work and we suspect this may be where the bed bugs decided to hitch hike to their workplace.
Overall, this week was one that this property manager would like to probably forget, but I don’t think that will be possible given what took place. It’s also not over. We will be coming back in 30 days following the bed bug treatments by the pest control company and we are scheduling proactive bed bug inspections to the highest risk areas throughout the remainder of the year. The good news is that the proactive inspections cost less than emergency inspections. Also, the property manager now has an idea of how to budget for these costs for the next fiscal year.
In addition, if your property receives an OSHA complaint related to bed bugs, there are certain steps that need to be taken to prove your company/tenant is maintaining a workplace that is free from recognized hazards, known as the “General Duty Clause.” Receiving regular bed bug inspections and producing a bed bug report can assist you responding to these types of OSHA claims.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of this business we are not at liberty to disclose the name of the property or management company that we recently serviced. As you know, bed bugs are one of those taboo issues that property managers don’t like to share with their peers in fear of receiving bad publicity or negative impacts on leasing of their property. That is exactly why we are discreet and professional with our canine inspection services from start to finish. Ultimately, we hope that sharing stories like this will help prepare property professionals that may be faced with bed bug issues at their properties.
Think you have Bed Bugs? Here are three Do’s that we recommend:
- DO save any bugs you find to show to your inspection team and pest control company so they can be correctly identified. We recommend using a clear packing tape and tape to an index card or put into a clear sealed bag.
- DO call a canine inspection company to provide an inspection BEFORE you treat any affected areas. A reputable inspection team can isolate the areas where bed bugs are present saving you on the cost and preventing unneeded harsh chemicals that may be applied.
- DO provide education to your tenants explaining how bed bugs make into office buildings and what can be done to decrease the likelihood of bringing in this pest.