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University of Minnesota Extension

Bed bug control for property owners and managers

Quick facts

  • Communicate with your residents.
  • Encourage reporting.
  • Do not punish residents for reporting bed bugs.
  • Train maintenance staff to identify bed bugs.
  • DO NOT use over-the-counter insecticides.
  • Hire a reputable pest management company to treat bed bug infestations.
  • Track infestations.
  • Work with residents to ensure proper preparation for treatments.

Bed bugs are a difficult problem for apartments and multi-family units. It can be very expensive to treat an infested property. But not addressing the problem will only make the infestation worse and more costly for you. One of the most important things property owners and managers can do is to educate their residents about bed bugs.

Communicate with residents

Talk to your residents about how to prevent bed bugs from entering the building. See How to prevent bed bugs from entering your home for more information.

Encourage your residents to immediately report any problems with bed bugs, or suspected bed bugs. Make information on how to identify bed bugs readily available to your residents. Remember that the person reporting the bed bug issue may not have been responsible if they picked up bed bugs from somewhere in the building or the bed bugs dispersed from an unreported infestation. Consider having an amnesty program for individuals who report bed bugs.

If residents are afraid to report bed bug infestations, or are held financially liable, then they may try to treat the infestation themselves, just live with the pest, or break the lease and move to another location. This will cause the infestation to spread and become more difficult and more expensive to treat. Worse, residents may take control measures themselves that can leave you with a damaged apartment or cleanup costs that are substantially more than a proper control procedure would have cost.

Train your maintenance personnel to actively check for signs of bed bugs and other pests when they enter apartments for routine maintenance issues.

Tip: Discourage scavenging of furniture from off the curb or from the trash.

Bed bug treatment

When dealing with bed bugs you should contract with a pest management professional experienced in working with bed bug infestations.

Using over-the-counter insecticides will not solve a bed bug problem. Surviving infestations will become worse, spreading into other rooms or units.

The first step in bed bug treatment is a thorough inspection by the pest management professional. When a resident reports bed bugs you should have the professional inspect not only their apartment but also all neighboring apartments including those above, below and across the hall. If one resident has bed bugs it is possible that others do as well. The earlier you can catch and treat an infestation the easier and less expensive it will be for you.

The pest management professional should not only control an infestation, but should also provide you with a plan for preventing and managing bed bugs in the entire facility. If you continually encounter infestations in the building, you should consider inspecting every unit as there may be other unreported infestations.

Regularly inspect common areas such as lounge areas and laundry facilities. For more information on treatments, see Understanding bed bug treatments.

Keep records of bed bug infestations and treatments. This will allow you to see if the rate of infestation is changing and patterns of infestation within the apartment complex. Having this information will help you and your pest management professional treat infestations and prevent future infestations.

What residents need to do

Depending on the type of treatment you choose there will be different steps the residents have to take before treatment begins. It is important that you work closely with your residents to make sure they understand and follow the instructions provided by the pest management professional. Treatment will not be successful unless these instructions are closely followed.

These steps include:

  • Launder clothing and linens.
  • Clean and organize to reduce clutter and simplify the area that needs to be treated.
  • Use pest-proof covers on mattresses and box springs.
  • Move furniture and other items so all the edges of the room are accessible.
  • Empty closets, bedside tables and dressers.

What NOT to do when you have bed bugs

  • Do not Panic. You can control bed bugs with careful inspection and by using proper control methods.
  • Do not try to kill bed bugs by using agricultural or garden pesticides. Using outdoor pesticides to control bed bugs can make you or your family very sick.
  • Do not use products that appear to be “homemade” or “custom formulated.” Homemade products could be dangerous and they might make the problem worse.
  • Do not use products that have labels in a non-English language.
  • Do not apply pesticides directly to your body. This could make you very sick.
  • Do not use rubbing alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. These chemicals may cause fires
  • Do not throw away your furniture. Beds and other furniture can be treated for bed bugs. Throwing away your furniture can spread the bugs and you have to buy new furniture.
  • Do not store things under the bed. Storing stuff under the bed gives bed bugs many new places to hide. This makes it more difficult to get rid of bed bugs.
  • Do not move things from room to room. Moving your things from the room with bed bugs to another room in your house may spread the bed bugs.
  • Do not wrap items in black plastic and place in the sun. It will not get hot enough to kill all the bugs.

Authors: Stephen Kells, Extension entomologist, and Amelia Shindelar

Content originally appeared as materials for "Let's Beat the Bug: A bed bug information campaign to better prevent and control bed bugs," from the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. 

Reviewed in 2023

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