Closing Bell: Bed Bugs, From a Landlord’s Perspective


Over on the Red Hook Waterfront blog, Gregory O’Connell Jr. has a post about the scourge of bed bugs from a landlord’s point of view. His point is that while landlords are often/usually/always blamed for infestations, tenant responsibility is typically overlooked. Here’s a snippet: “In 2009, New York City adopted Local Law 14, which created a “Bed Bug Advisory Board” to guide the city in addressing bed bug infestations. This advisory board made “Recommendations for the Management of Bed Bugs in New York City” [PDF] in April of 2010. Please feel free to view this file. The recommendations made throughout seem logical and if implemented would, dare I say, improve this situation which has rendered LANDLORDS defenseless against “Bed Bug” outbreaks within their buildings. …The issues that need to be taken seriously by those with control over the regulation of “Bed Bug” matters are…. what happens when the TENANT is negligent? What happens when the TENANT is uncooperative and does not allow the LANDLORD to properly expedite the issue and treat the problem? What happens if the TENANT never notifies the LANDLORD of the infestation? What if the TENANT does not follow proper procedure in order to remove the infestation? At what point does the LANDLORD stop assuming responsibility? If “Bed Bugs” can infest any area and travel over extreme distances on someone’s person, why is it automatically the LANDLORD’s fault that they exist in that LANDLORD’s building? How can a LANDLORD basically force a TENANT to live a certain way/notify/allow access/throw things out etc. etc. without any sort of consequence or defense?” Any readers who are also landlords care to weigh in?
The “War on Bedbugs”: From the Landlord’s Perspective [Red Hook Waterfront]
Photo by Shira Golding

33 Comment

  • I’ve been in the rare situation where a tenant’s office had a minor infestation, and when he brought one bug home in his clothes his wife panicked and called me immediately asking what to do. Fortunately we did a number of preventative measures and nothing more came of it. It’s best to have tenants who are responsible adults in these situations. At the other end of the tenant spectrum, I recently tried to stop three 20-somethings from carrying a “street find” mattress into their Park Slope building. I pointed-out the large magic marker warning “Cuidado! Chinches!” written right on the mattress, but they practically laughed about it and said it looked fine to them. I felt bad for the other tenants in their building; it was only a matter of time before they were all infested.

  • There is almost always a 95% chance bedbugs will be brought in by tenants mostly through no fault of their own (although, the amount of carelessness practiced by people is astonishing – picking up used furniture on the street etc.)

    However – the law never said it’s the LL’s “fault”, it says – fairly or not, it’s the LL’s responsibility to get rid of them – putting that burden on tenants will ironically make things ten times worst.

  • Was joking with my Doctor recently about bedbugs and she said that she has seen more and more young women coming into her office complaining about small bites that they are convinced are from bedbugs, only the bites are actually from mosquitoes. These women are almost hysterical, in a panic and no matter how hard she tries to reassure them, they can’t be convinced that their apartments are not infested. Many of these women contact exterminators, who without any evidence of BB’s, sell the terrified people expensive treatments and make them throw away perfectly good furniture, clothes,ect.

    • FYI, you can’t tell whether a bite is from a bedbug just by looking at the mark because people react very differently to bites, some with no marks or inflammation at all. The doctor should know this. One of the clues is where the bites are located. It isn’t mosquito season yet, so I’d be concerned if I were getting bites this time of year while sleeping.

  • Yeah, he’s overreacting just A TAD. Bedbugs don’t ruin a building. They’re a minor nuisance at best.

    • And how many multiple-unit residential buildings do you own or manage in NYC? I can’t imagine it being a minor inconvenience when a 16 unit property is fully infested. I’ve had that happen and continue because not all residents would cooperate. There are now multiple vacancies and I do not feel right renting them knowing that the same tenants who have been there for decades will not cooperate and will continue to reinfect the surrounding neighbors.

      • I’ve never owned a building, but that doesn’t matter. Greg states in his post that bedbugs ruin buildings, and that is simply untrue. It’s easy to tell from his writing style- putting “bedbugs” in quotes and capitalizing “landlord” and “tenant” over and over that he’s being dramatic. While it might be frustrating from a landlord’s standpoint, a more thoughtful post would be appreciated.

        This line really gets me: “The stigma of the “Negligent Landlord” is so engrained in NYC Housing Courts and amongst public opinion so it is not much of a surprise that legislation has failed to once again, account for the rights of the building owner.” I would argue that landlords have a bad reputation for good reason. In all my years of renting, I have had two decent landlords. All the rest ignored requests for repairs pretty much as a rule. Same goes for most of my friends.

        There is a tremendous amount of hype regarding bedbugs that is just plain freaking people out. I don’t think Greg’s post is helping one bit. We need some common sense dialogue, in which people understand the true nature of bedbugs. Not a biased post written by a landlord.

        • “I’ve never owned a building, but that doesn’t matter.”

          It most certainly does. You have now established yourself as biased and unwilling to take a holistic view of the issue.

          “Greg states in his post that bedbugs ruin buildings, and that is simply untrue.”

          What evidence did you provide to refute his claim?

          “I don’t think Greg’s post is helping one bit.”

          What have you done to help?

          “Not a biased post written by a landlord.”

          A neither a post by a biased renter.

          “a more thoughtful post would be appreciated.”

      • I’ve never owned a building, but that doesn’t matter. Greg states in his post that bedbugs ruin buildings, and that is simply untrue. It’s easy to tell from his writing style- putting “bedbugs” in quotes and capitalizing “landlord” and “tenant” over and over that he’s being dramatic. While it might be frustrating from a landlord’s standpoint, a more thoughtful post would be appreciated.

        This line really gets me: “The stigma of the “Negligent Landlord” is so engrained in NYC Housing Courts and amongst public opinion so it is not much of a surprise that legislation has failed to once again, account for the rights of the building owner.” I would argue that landlords have a bad reputation for good reason. In all my years of renting, I have had two decent landlords. All the rest ignored requests for repairs pretty much as a rule. Same goes for most of my friends.

        There is a tremendous amount of hype regarding bedbugs that is just plain freaking people out. I don’t think Greg’s post is helping one bit. We need some common sense dialogue, in which people understand the true nature of bedbugs. Not a biased post written by a landlord.

      • I see somebody has resurrected my old “snarkslope” moniker.

    • And how many multiple-unit residential buildings do you own or manage in NYC? I can’t imagine it being a minor inconvenience when a 16 unit property is fully infested. I’ve had that happen and continue because not all residents would cooperate. There are now multiple vacancies and I do not feel right renting them knowing that the same tenants who have been there for decades will not cooperate and will continue to reinfect the surrounding neighbors.

  • Yeah, he’s overreacting just A TAD. Bedbugs don’t ruin a building. They’re a minor nuisance at best.

  • As a landlord who had dealt with bedbugs, it can be a nightmare. I have ended up treating tenants’ apartments multiple times because they are unwilling to go through the extremely onerous process of cleaning necessary to kill every last bug. After a while, people seem to understand that a half-assed effort on their part will negate all the pesticides that are applied.

  • As a landlord who had dealt with bedbugs, it can be a nightmare. I have ended up treating tenants’ apartments multiple times because they are unwilling to go through the extremely onerous process of cleaning necessary to kill every last bug. After a while, people seem to understand that a half-assed effort on their part will negate all the pesticides that are applied.

  • yeahhhh.. Bedbugs.

    How about fleas? Now those things carry disease but you don’t see people wrapping their pets in plastic and freaking the hell out.

    Bedbug hysteria is getting really old. Reality Check.

    Black mold on the other hand is some serious sh*t. I know someone who is currently suffering serious health effects due to the mold embedded deep inside the walls of her place. Hives, respiratory problems that appear to be turning chronic. Struggled for many months trying to get some movement on it.

    Two days ago she was back in the emergency room. More respiratory troubles.

    The Landlord: the O’Connell organization.

    • Bryan – as I am sure you are aware…there are multiple sides to every story. It is unfortunate that you and your business, Everbrite Mercantile Co. would choose to badmouth our business and particular relatives of mine on various public forums. With regard to the case that you have described above, I would ask that you delay passing judgement based on one side of the story and without all of the facts of that particular situation. We try our best to be good Landlords and document everything religiously. If you would like to hear our point of view please feel free to contact me. I cannot give out any personal information but I will do my best to set the record straight and hopefully change your opinion about my family and our business. In terms of bed bugs, I agree that there is hysteria, but, at the same time, it is a very real problem in many buildings in NYC when tenants do not cooperate with extermination and put their neighbors at risk for a constant, recurring infestation.

      • Greg–
        Having a tenant-side practice focused on the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill, I would suggest that some tenants who have issues with bedbug treatment compliance also often have larger issues in their lives. If you a in housing court, ask the judge whether the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) would be appropriate. Sometimes ther are hoarding issues. Sometimes it’s a matter of not being physically or financially able to comply with cleaning requirements. Add to that the general skepticism long-term rent stabilized tenants have with their landlord and you have a recipe for stalemate. There are ways to negotiate this with a tenant. This is the right time for a social work professional and to consider offering to pay for assistance that the tenant will feel safe accepting and will accomplish the overall building health and safety goals. Normal people treat bedbugs, tenant or landlord. People who don’t need special help.

        • Thanks for the reply Robin. I completely agree that some tenants have much larger issues which contribute to their lack of cooperation with bedbug treatment. I would however disagree with your statement that “normal people” treat bedbugs. Overall, it is dependent upon the specific situation and tenant. I am very interested in finding out more about GALs as well as appointing a social work professional who is familiar with this treatment process. If a bed bug infestation were to arise and we were to encounter an uncooperative (intentionally/unintentionally) tenant, I would want to be fully aware of my options in order to expedite the situation and avoid further infestation. Have you seen these methods work before with Bed Bug infestation in particular? I would be interested in hearing more about this. If you have time and are willing to chat, please send me an e-mail at info AT redhookwaterfront DOT com.

      • Greg–
        Having a tenant-side practice focused on the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill, I would suggest that some tenants who have issues with bedbug treatment compliance also often have larger issues in their lives. If you a in housing court, ask the judge whether the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) would be appropriate. Sometimes ther are hoarding issues. Sometimes it’s a matter of not being physically or financially able to comply with cleaning requirements. Add to that the general skepticism long-term rent stabilized tenants have with their landlord and you have a recipe for stalemate. There are ways to negotiate this with a tenant. This is the right time for a social work professional and to consider offering to pay for assistance that the tenant will feel safe accepting and will accomplish the overall building health and safety goals. Normal people treat bedbugs, tenant or landlord. People who don’t need special help.

      • yeah i get a bit crazy and go off some times.

        and by “some” times, i mean “always”.

      • it is always a good read when a couple of delusional, recent Red Hook arrivistes/transplanters try to take on the local kingpin. Everbrite, isnt your five minutes of famous over? Your newly appointed role as neighborhood Vox populi is rather desperate. seriously, in terms of local landlords, Gino or the Amendola family are much worse. trust me, i know from experience.

    • What have you done to aid your ailing acquaintance? Also, is this post your only contact with The O’Connell Organization?

      I do not inquire divisively. I would applaud any effort on your part to help her heal and or facilitate recompense, yet I must ask this question as men are so quick to denigrate others rather than bridge the divide and help.

      Moreover, could you also provide empirical evidence to substantiate your claims and refrain from using expletives as to allow the reading public to consider your discourse more earnestly? Write dialectically, not rhetorically and with prattle lest you seem petulant and unrighteously indignant.

      Simply, qualify yourself.

    • What have you done to aid your ailing acquaintance? Also, is this post your only contact with The O’Connell Organization?

      I do not inquire divisively. I would applaud any effort on your part to help her heal and or facilitate recompense, yet I must ask this question as men are so quick to denigrate others rather than bridge the divide and help.

      Moreover, could you also provide empirical evidence to substantiate your claims and refrain from using expletives as to allow the reading public to consider your discourse more earnestly? Write dialectically, not rhetorically and with prattle lest you seem petulant and unrighteously indignant.

      Simply, qualify yourself.

  • It shouldn’t be all landlords responsibility, if you have a uncooperative tenant, landlord is screwed.

    Disclosure :p i’m a landlord.

    I had a tenant who was very cooperative bedbugs were gone after many treatments and takes time. We haven’t had any in that building for years now.

    Another tenant well had been cooperative but doesn’t seem to like the time issue, it takes time to treat them, they seem to get tired of the prepping. After a almost a month she seems to get tired. I hope she keeps it up. She called once and was like how much longer etc.. This was like the 2nd almost 3rd week in to the treatment. minimum 3 treatments. I was going to do like atleast 4 treatments, but she didn’t like the idea.

    1 treatment every two weeks and wait 3 weeks after last treatment we bring dogs in to see. she was like sooner the better. So i agree to 3 treatments instead. They used to update me on bite status, but after nothing.

    last treatment this week :p and i hope 3 weeks after this the dogs say it is free of bugs.

  • The text of this article reaffirms the patently true, yet perpetually overlooked characteristics of and maladjustments towards both bed bugs and, most importantly, human behavior. I applaud Gabby, as well as Mr. O’Connell, Jr., for reaffirming the humanitarian value of the concept of personal responsibility as it is oft times egocentrically repudiated. Landlords have human rights and codified rights.

  • Oh yes, I just scanned the report. There is an abundance of useful information in it. Greg Jr. would be wise to read it himself.

  • Oh yes, I just scanned the report. There is an abundance of useful information in it. Greg Jr. would be wise to read it himself.