Left untreated, bed bugs can spread quickly in multi-dwelling housing. Both the housing and health codes require that property owners address infestations promptly. The surest strategies to keep bed bugs from spreading are prevention, early detection and rapid treatment. As a tenant, the first action you should take if you believe that you have bed bugs is to notify your landlord. As a landlord, the first action you should take is to conduct an inspection of the reported condition. Knowing what to look for is key!
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Bed Bug Website at http://nyc.gov/bedbugs provides detailed information for tenants, property owners/agents and homeowners on how bed bugs thrive, how to recognize and inspect for their presence, steps to take to prevent them from infesting a home, how to safely rid an area of bed bugs if they do occur, and how to select and work with a pest management professional. You can also go to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) e-learning on bedbugs, which provides information on the above topics through an interactive format, using an audio/ visual format.
New York State law requires that property owners provide tenants upon lease commencement with a one-year bed bug infestation history. A copy of the form to be used can be found here.
Bed Bug Complaints: Enforcement Protocol
Here is how the City’s enforcement protocols work:
You can file a complaint about bed bugs by calling 311 or using 311ONLINE. When a complaint is made to 311 about bed bugs in a residential building, HPD attempts to notify a property owner/representative at the registered phone number about the complaint (For more information on registration, click here.) A housing inspector from HPD may conduct an inspection. The inspector examines places where bed bugs are commonly found, such as on and around mattresses, beds and head boards, as well as other potentially infested areas as directed by the tenant.
HPD Code Enforcement has two beagles, Mickey and Nemo, that are available to assist a team of four Code Enforcement Inspectors who have been trained to work with the dogs. The dogs will respond to bed bug complaints where the 311 operator has confirmed that the tenant would like to have the inspection performed by a dog; not every complaint where someone indicates that they are available for a dog will get such an inspection. The dogs were trained at an accredited facility to alert by sitting when they detect live bed bugs or viable eggs. The dogs’ findings will be confirmed by visual inspection before a violation is issued. Although the dogs cannot respond to all bed bug complaints in residential properties, they will serve as a valuable resource in detecting bed bugs in places that are difficult for people to detect, and in cases where there are a small amount of bed bugs or the bed bugs have not yet matured. For more information on the Bed Bug Canine inspections, click here.
If the HPD inspector finds bed bugs, the property owner is issued an HPD Notice of Violation (NOV) (see Sample A) ordering that the condition be addressed.
When a NOV is issued by HPD, the property owner also receives a DOHMH Order of the Commissioner (see Sample B). The Commissioner’s order tells property owners in more detail what the requirements for addressing the bed bug problem are, including:
Inspect the apartment(s) cited for bed bugs.
If you find a bed bug infestation in the apartment(s), inspect all units adjacent to, above and below the infested units, as well as all common areas; and retain the services of a pest management professional certified and registered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take all measures necessary to remove bed bug infestation where found.
Keep a record of all actions taken in compliance with the Order.
Certification of HPD’s NOV is the only required notification back to the City that the condition has been corrected as instructed. There is no response directly to the DOHMH. The HPD NOV Certification of Correction requires a sworn statement that the above corrective actions have been taken, in compliance with the DOH Commissioner’s Order.
HPD’s violation(s) can be viewed at nyc.gov/HPD if you have not yet received the NOV. For information about completing your certification documents for HPD, you can contact your borough HPD- Division of Code Enforcement Office. HPD also has eCertification available to owners, which is an electronic certification process for all HPD violations.
Enforcement for Persistent Problems
Beginning in 2011, to better support the prevention and control of bed bugs, New York City will take a stronger approach to enforcement by expanding what it requires of property owners who persistently fail to comply with housing and health codes. Where bed bugs persist, or occur in multiple apartments in the same building, the DOHMH will issue an Order of the Commissioner requiring that property owners take several additional steps. For more information on the required steps, go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/html/info/enforcement.shtml.
Owners that fail to comply with the DOHMH Order will be issued a Notice of Violation and will have to appear at a hearing before the City’s Environmental Control Board where fines may be levied
U.S. EPA Bed Bug Web Page Available
In addition to HPD's e-learning class on bed bug identification and management, we encourage you to look at EPA's bed bug Web page, which provides information on chemical and integrated pest management techniques for managing bed bugs, current research efforts, links to educational materials developed by reputable sources, and other information that will be helpful for the public suffering from bed bugs and professionals on the front lines of this battle. Visit the EPA bed bug page at Controlling Bed Bugs.