A Guide to Management’s Peskier Pest Dilemmas
It’s the management elephant in the room. Or according to New York City Code Subchapter 2, Article 4 it’s the housefly, louse, cockroach, moth, silverfish, beetle, bed bug, ant, termite, hornet, mosquito, wasp, spider, mite, tick, centipede, or wood louse in the room. Regardless of the physical form that it assumes, pests and infestations are an issue that no manager wants to talk about, let alone deal with in the context of his or her own building.
However, in the case of co-ops, the responsibility typically falls on the board. According to New York City’s Warranty of Habitability Law 235b, in every lease or rental agreement the landlord must ensure that the residential premises remains “fit for human habitation” and that occupants not be subjected to any conditions that may negatively impact their health, life, or safety. And since a pest-infested unit or building is typically not considered “fit for human habitation,” landlords—or in the case of co-ops, the board—must take action to purge a unit of its pestilence.
There are few exceptions to this responsibility, if any. If the tenant/shareholder in question very clearly and evidentially caused the infestation themselves, then the board need not call their local pest control specialist on the resident’s behalf. The only other exceptional circumstance would be if a lease specifically states that the resident in question must be responsible for extermination costs—however, this is not the conventional verbiage in most proprietary leases. Condominiums, on the other hand, are not subject to the Warranty of Habitability, therefore they are not bound by law to amend a given pest crisis.
No matter who is tasked with the unenviable chore, it’s paramount that someone steps up to the plate (or in this case, the phone) and calls the local exterminator, especially in the case of bed bugs or wood lice that can very easily spread and infest an entire building. Certain exterminators, like Jove Pest Control, actually specialize in condo/co-op extermination scenarios.
Jove exterminates all of the tri-state’s least wanted—from mosquitos and snakes to termites and bats. The company also emphasizes its ongoing service packages, beyond its obvious emergency services for the bed bug and anxiety-ridden property manager. Jove also features a bug of the month section—a column that allows managers and boards to zero in on a particularly nasty tenant every month via Jove’s tailored resources.
“The biggest pest control issue that we see in public and multifamily housing is probably bed bugs,” John Caldwell, president of Jove Pest Control told The Cooperator. “What we’re trying to do is not only treat the problem, but educate the consumer so they understand how their bed bugs can be prevented, and what signs to look for early on.”
So what are some of the best proactive measures for some of property management’s most repulsive residents? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you eliminate some of the pest world’s best and brightest before they rear their ugly heads.
Caldwell’s aforementioned No. 1 offender, bed bugs are a nuisance that is incredibly difficult to exterminate once they are loose in a building. Residents must ensure that their beds and sheets are clean, continuously checking for telltale bloodspots as they do so. In addition, using proper precautions when purchasing secondhand furniture, especially in the Craigslist era, is imperative to restrict the transfer of bed bugs from one home to another.
Hotels are also frequent hotbeds for the insect, so it’s a good idea for individuals to vacuum suitcases when they return home from vacation. Even keeping a suitcase in a plastic bag while staying at a hotel is recommended, despite the fact that such a seemingly ridiculous measure seems like overkill.
Mattress safe covers, bed bug ClimbUp Monitors, and regular cleaning are also quick and easy ways to make sure bed bugs don’t make their way into your building.
Regardless, because the spread of bed bugs is such an epidemic one, an exterminator should be called at the very first inkling of infestation.
Some of the pest world’s most tenacious citizens, rodents are a particularly constant issue in New York City, especially in the colder months. The easiest way to prevent rodent infiltration is surveillance—keeping a constant eye on any potential holes or entryways in your building. Once you have identified drains, doorways, or windows through which a mouse or rat might make its first floor co-op debut, it’s best to install door sweeps, window screens, and drain screens to prevent entry.
“No matter what you’re doing, mice always find new and innovative ways to get into a building,” said Michael Kelly of Magic Pest Management. “We really try and focus on the exclusion work to keep them out of homes.”
So to combat these crafty innovators, it’s best to let them know they’re not welcome from the get go.
Ants are foragers at heart, and human food is altogether ripe for the foraging in their minds. In order to keep ants from infiltrating your building, residents must maintain a space where food is not left idle and where standing water is not left to stew. If ants realize that there is a food supply in a building they will create a colony or nest there, which can become a huge headache for managers and residents to remove. If ants do infest in a building, identifying their species is key to a successful extermination.
Upholding these proactive measures can save precious time and money for co-op boards and condominiums. Not to mention that residents will probably sleep better at night knowing that the bed bugs won’t bite.