4 Reasons Your Tenants Aren’t Telling You They Have Bed Bugs

4 Reasons Your Tenants Aren’t Telling You They Have Bed Bugs

“The toilet handle is too wobbly. The shower isn’t staying warm long enough. And oh yeah, I turned the heat off while I was gone for winter break and now there’s water everywhere.”

Residents love to tell us what’s going wrong with their apartment.

Usually, landlords and maintenance managers can expect a call right away when anything is out of sorts in a unit. 

So why is it that residents might not want to tell their landlords and maintenance managers about one of the most serious problems of them all… Bed bugs?

I’ll get to that in a second here…

But first, you may or may not know that bed bugs can cause thousands of dollars in damages, and can displace residents from their homes for weeks. And the longer it takes to identify, the more serious the problem. Identifying bed bugs early is the only surefire way to stop the problem from spreading to other units. 

And still, many residents don’t report bed bugs as soon as they suspect they might have them. Why is that? Here’s 4 reasons why residents might not be telling you they have bed bugs.

They Are Embarrassed

There is a belief that bed bugs only infest in dirty spaces, and that “fancier” apartments, homes and hotels are less likely to get them. But according to Susan Jones, an entomologist at Ohio State, that simply isn’t true. 

Bed bugs do not discriminate. They’ll live anywhere they can feast on a host, and picking up bed bugs doesn’t mean that your home is dirty.

Still, the OHA (Oregon Health Association) claims that most people report shame and embarrassment after finding out they have bed bugs.

If tenants believe that their bed bugs were a result of their own lack of hygiene, there’s a good chance they’ll be too embarrassed to report it right away.

They’re Worried They’ll Get in Trouble

Bed bug laws are kind of weird, and they can vary from state to state. When bed bugs hit a rented unit, most tenants don’t know who’s held responsible.

In most states, landlords are legally required to offer hospitable living conditions. And since bed bugs aren’t the most hospitable of roommates, it’s usually the landlord’s responsibility to get rid of them.

Many states have a legal requirement that tenants promptly notify their landlords, so by not saying anything, tenants might unknowingly be getting themselves into trouble. 

But if residents don’t know their rights, they might assume they are saving costs by not reporting it and trying to handle the situation on their own. And while they’re trying to eliminate the bugs with DIY tips from the internet, the pests could be spreading around the entire building. 

They Think They Can Get Rid of Bed Bugs Themselves

We live in a world where the answers to all of our questions is just a Google search away.

That’s why when people get bed bugs, the internet is usually the first place they turn. When you type in “how to get rid of…” on google, “bed bugs” is one of the first recommendations. 

The internet gives a lot of advice on how to tackle bed bug infestations yourself, some of which are even supported by the EPA. And this leads many residents to think, “What my landlord doesn’t know won’t hurt them, right?”

While DIY methods can sometimes work, there’s a big problem in trying to take on bedbugs on your own – they travel fast. If you don’t eliminate them ASAP, you run a big risk of them spreading to other units.

Some at-home treatments can irritate the bugs without actually killing them, which pushes them deeper into their crevices, and makes them more difficult for professionals to deal with down the line. 

They Wait to See if the Problem Will Go Away on Its Own

What you can’t see can’t hurt you, right?

Well, no. Bed bugs still bite, even if you pretend they aren’t there.

Ignoring bed bugs is not considered an effective treatment method, and waiting for them to go away on their own will only make the problem worse. 100% of the time, and I say that with certainty. 

Still, some residents might be willfully ignorant of bed bug infestations, or think the problem will go away in due time. Or they might be close to the end of their lease, and want to try and ride the problem out until they leave.

How To Get Your Tenants to Tell You if They Think They Have Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can be a single unit issue that costs hundreds of dollars and takes days to resolve. Or, it can be a multi-unit nightmare that costs tens of thousands in damages. And? They can displaces residents for weeks.

Early detection of bed bugs can help eliminate the cost of the infestation and any reputational damage. That’s why prompt resident reporting is the most important factor in managing bed bugs. Here are some tips on getting residents to report bed bugs early.

Destigmatize Bed Bugs

What’s the best way to let your tenants know you won’t judge them about having bed bugs? 

Tell them you won’t judge them for having bed bugs.

Have a brief conversation with new tenants about bed bugs, and letting them know that it can happen to anyone. This will make them feel more comfortable reporting it if the situation ever occurs. 

Sharing myth-busting information like this can also help break the bed bug stigma

Educate Them About Bed Bugs

Many tenants don’t know much about bed bugs, and are unsure of what to do if they get them.

Offering information about the early signs of bed bugs, prevention of spread, and their legal responsibilities, will help them understand bed bugs better. 

Have a Bed Bug Addendum in the Lease

An addendum in the lease for bed bugs will make everyone’s life easier by eliminating many legal ambiguities. 

It’s a way of sorting everything out ahead of time. This way, if bed bugs do show up? Both parties know what their responsibilities are, and who’s liable for what. 


Have a Notification System in Place

At the end of the day, having residents who are willing to report bed bugs will only go so far. Even if residents report them as soon as they know they’re there, the bed bugs may have already been in the unit for 4-6 weeks.

That’s why Pest Notify is the best way for landlords to stay on top of bed bugs. With Pest Notify, all you have to do is place the traps in units and have residents email or text the photos to Pest Notify. After that, you’ll receive daily emails about the status of all of your units.

Pest Notify makes early detection easy, and helps residents report bed bugs. With Pest Notify, landlords can put out fires quickly, and save thousands of dollars and weeks of headaches.

Start your free trial today and see how we can make your life as a landlord a little bit easier. And