A recent article in the online Habitat magazine details the response of a self-managed co-op in New York City after a resident came to the board with concerns about bed bugs. The co-op board realized that under new city guidelines, the co-op would be in violation if it didn’t respond. If the board did nothing, and residents called the city to complain, the co-op could be fined.
Who’s Responsible? If an inspector from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) visits a co-op where a complaint has been made, and the inspector does find bed bug infestations, the inspector will issue a notice of violation requiring the co-op to take the following steps.
1. Hire a professional pest control company to inspect not only the infected unit, but also the units on either side and the units directly above and below. (The HPD requires the pest control specialist to use multiple treatment and prevention strategies—not just pesticides.) 2. Notify all residents that bed bugs have been found in the building if multiple units have bed bug infestations. 3. Formulate a pest management plan if bed bug infestations are in more than one unit, and distribute the plan to all residents of the building. The board members knew that if they didn’t follow these guidelines, they could be forced to appear at a hearing before the city’s Environmental Control Board, which could levy fines against the co-op or even place a lien on the building.
Lessons Learned The board decided that it’s better to be safe than sorry and chose to treat all the units in the building.
First, the board tried to politely ask permission of residents to let pest control specialists inspect and treat their units with preventative spray. But the board got no response, according to the co-op board’s president.
So the board sent out another email—this time informing residents in no uncertain terms that exterminators and the super would be entering every unit for inspection and spraying. In hindsight, the board president wishes the board had been more forceful from the outset. Another lesson the president recounts is the need for common sense and flexibility. One of the residents was pregnant and was worried about the effects of the pesticides on her unborn child. Rather than create a conflict, the board agreed to non-chemical but strict preventative measures.
After the entire process, the co-op board not surprisingly reached the conclusion that it would be a good idea to develop an ongoing program to educate residents about bed bug infestations and how to prevent them!
Photo Credit: Condo