Today is another AMA episode – “Ask me anything”.

Reed from Indianapolis asks. 

“One of the things that I don’t like about the class B and C multifamily syndications that I’m in is that it seems like at least somebody is having or has had a problem with cockroaches per google reviews.  Maybe you could do a podcast related to pest control in real estate?  Are cockroaches something one just has to live with at some level or can they be completely eradicated?”

Very few things spark as much fear into both landlords and tenants than the spectre of an insect infestation. 

There have been widely publicized reports of bed bugs in New York to cockroaches in Hong Kong. 

So what do you do if you get that phone call from a tenant reporting a bug problem? 

You have spent considerable time, money and effort to make your property desirable. The occupancy is high. The property has never looked better. 

News of bug problems can spread like wildfire. A bug infestation can cause tenants to abandon a property and break their lease. Things can get unpredictable fast. 

Bug infestations can be incredibly difficult and frustrating for landlords and tenants alike. Some warmer climates are known for having active insect populations, whether its ants, termites, or cockroaches. Termite control is often done proactively with perimeter spraying of buildings on a monthly basis. 

Cockroaches are much more difficult. First of all, a thorough cleaning is essential. The insects need to have their source of food eliminated. This can be a difficult conversation with tenants. Many take offence at having their landlord accuse them of being dirty. 

I recommend having a document for your tenants that describes the process for eliminating the pests, which also details their responsibility in the process. 

Spraying alone to eliminate cockroaches is difficult. They have a way of hiding and avoiding exposure to the insecticides. If you only spray the affected apartment, chances are that the cockroaches will move next door to safety and then come back at a later time. Sometimes the only solution is to notify all residents and perform a coordinated spraying campaign in the entire building. 

Understandably, landlords are reluctant to raise an issue with tenants who have not experienced a problem. In some cases, such a notification can create more of a PR problem than the spraying would solve. 

Bedbugs require a completely different approach to eradication. Bedbugs tend to hide in the stitching of mattresses, sofas, clothing, they tend to hide in the baseboards of a room, or the electrical outlets.

Bedbugs also lay eggs. Getting rid of them requires spraying at specific intervals in order to intercept the reproductive cycle of bedbugs. Here too, you need to spray the affected apartment and the neighbouring apartments on either side, above and below. 

This is not a job for the do it yourself landlord. Always hire a professional and make sure that your tenants are fully on board with the process for getting rid of bedbugs. That means they must give you access to the apartment on a timely basis. They also need to do their part by bagging and washing all of their clothing at a laundromat utilizing hot water, And the heat of the dryer to make sure nothing survives the washing process in their clothing. 

Some apartment buildings and hotels in New York City have earned a reputation for having problems with bedbugs. Once that reputation is embedded in the community the reputation may live long after the bedbugs are gone. It’s your job as a landlord to attack the problem aggressively and proactively. Most importantly, your tenants need to feel as though you are taking action and communicating with them on a regular basis.