Whether they’re in your home or your hotel, bed bugs are a seriously unwanted pest. Early detection is important to ensure the bugs do not spread to other parts of your rental property.
Bed bugs don’t usually carry disease, but this doesn’t make them any less painful or distressing, particularly if victims suffer from allergic reactions. These bugs can live for months without a feed so can sit dormant for a long time without you knowing they’ve moved in.
Know your enemy
Bed bugs are typically 5-6mm in length before a blood meal. They extend to about 7mm when fully engorged with blood. Bed bugs are oval and flattened from back to underside with well-developed legs and wings absent.
You might have a bed bug problem if…
You find small blood spots on your bed sheets, fecal pellets, a distinctive smell or, of course, the live insects. Bed bugs are a pain because they bite and move around easily. If not treated professionally, they can quickly reach epidemic levels.
Steps to take against bed bugs
It’s generally not recommended that you try to remove bed bugs on your own. Where possible, seek professional help.
Are landlords or tenants responsible for bed bugs?
The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 does not say who is responsible for dealing with a bed bug infestation in a rental property. That in mind, if your lease does not define responsibility, who pays for exterminating or removing these pests may depend on whether:
- the bed bugs were a problem when you (as the tenant) moved in. If the problem starts a few months after you move into a place, the infestation could have been there previously;
- a problem with the property you live in has allowed the bed bugs to enter. did you rent a furnished property with an existing mattress? Bed bugs can hide in the seams and crevices of mattresses and box springs, bed frames, headboards, upholstery and old furniture. A particularly heavy infestation would have needed some time to build up;
- you (the tenant) contributed to the problem. Have you or a roommate brought second-hand furniture, clothing, luggage or bedding into the property?
In an ideal world, a bed bug infestation should be dealt with immediately by the landlord. However, this won’t always be the case. Some landlords may ask tenants to bear the cost.
Because bed bugs live for so long and can move from property to property, it can be really difficult to prove how an infestation started.
If in doubt, speak to your landlord/property manager early on to resolve the issue in the most amicable way. If you and your landlord cannot agree on who should pay for exterminating or removing the bed bugs, either of you can apply for a determination from your state Civil and Administrative Tribunal (i.e. VCAT in Victoria).