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Apartment complexes can be very difficult challenges for PMPs. The nice thing about a single family dwelling is there is one client’s perspective or point of view to engage with. There is also only one person often to make executive decisions about services or repairs. With apartments, you have a minimum of four individual tenants or families under one roof, each with their own view points and perspectives. Some people are very concerned about a pest infestation and some people are not concerned at all, and all those people often share a wall. Multiple occupied units also affect each other. Let’s look at German cockroaches, or kitchen roaches, for those not in the pest management industry. Tenants in apartment buildings almost always share kitchen walls. This is where German cockroaches will infest. If you have permission to inspect one unit because of a cockroach complaint, but you don’t get permission to inspect the rest of the building’s units, there is a serious risk that the cockroach problem won’t be resolved. You also have multiple responsible parties to speak with and deliver your evaluation to. You have a property manager that may or may not agree with your evaluation or your recommendations. You also have a building owner who ultimately has the final say about paying for services. All these factors add up to make a cohesive and effective pest treatment plan difficult to execute at times. Let me tell you about a similar situation involving bed bugs and an apartment building.

At the end of October of 2019, we received a request from a property management firm to inspect a reported bed bug problem. One of our technicians goes out and inspects the unit, and this inspection ultimately leads to the inspection of all the units. However, we were not able to inspect one of the units because the tenant wouldn’t allow us access. Per the property management’s request, we moved ahead and submitted are results, which were two units with bed bugs, one of which was much more heavily infested than the other. We treated both units and conducted our follow-up inspections until we were satisfied that we had solved the problem. Then we found out that the property had traded owners, which means they traded property management companies. We were contacted about four months later by the new management firm that there were bed bugs in one of the units we treated and bed bugs in a different unit. Again we went out and inspected all the units, except this time we were able to access the unit that denied us. This what we saw:

I wish the pictures above showed the full scope of how bad this infestation was, but we needed to be more focused on eliminating this infestation instead documenting the problem. Just so I’m clear, we had authorization to take these photos and use them to show the public how bad a bed bug infestation can be. PMPs often photograph their work to present field photographs to pesticide developers, entomologists, property management companies and government bodies. We spent six months working on this unit, and the treatment itself caused the bed bugs to scatter to other units in the building, which we also treated. This brought control of the bed bug problems in this building to almost a year and a half, which could have been no more than six months had we gotten full cooperation of all the tenants and the property management company. We are still checking on the units individually to make sure there are no surviving bed bugs. I’d like the take away from this story to be for anyone out there that lives in an apartment and thinks they may have a bed bug problem. Call your management company and have them send a PMP company out to determine if you do indeed have bed bugs. If you do get a positive confirmation of bed bugs, tell your neighbor tenants. They may have bed bugs as well and be unaware of the problem. Then grow as much support as you can with your fellow neighbors and pressure your management company to have the entire building inspected. I of course understand that finding out that you have bed bugs is embarrassing and disturbing. The last thing you want to do is tell everyone you have bed bugs, but if you live in an apartment, you have a moral obligation to do the right thing and notify your management and notify your neighbors. If you don’t and you leave the problem unaddressed, your infestation will most likely spill over into another neighbors unit, causing them to have the same feelings of embarrassment as you feel. Don’t be the cause of that, be the solution!