City hopes new policy will help control bedbugs

Landlords and hotel/motel operators soon will be fighting a new city-ordered battle: One against bedbugs.

Lawrence city commissioners are set at Tuesday’s meeting to approve a new policy that will require more record-keeping, and, at times, mandatory inspections to control the hard-to-kill pest.

The details:

• Hotel and motels operators who receive a bedbug complaint must respond immediately by relocating guests. Landlords have 48 hours to respond to a complaint from a tenant.

• Both landlords and hotel/motel operators must have a licensed exterminator on the property within 72 hours of receiving a complaint.

• In addition to the living unit that generated the complaint, any unit that shares a wall with that living unit must also be inspected. For example, if one apartment is found to have bedbugs, the adjacent apartments also must be inspected.

• Generally, tenants and property managers won’t be allowed to remove items from a room suspected of having bedbugs until after the room has been treated. Clothes removed from the unit will be required to be immediately washed and dried with high heat.

• Property owners or property managers will be required to keep a written record of all bedbug complaints and documentation of treatments from licensed exterminators. Under the proposed policy, property owners will have to turn those records over to the city when requested to do so.

• Property owners and managers will be encouraged to develop a training program for their employees on how to spot signs of bedbugs and how to prevent infestations.

Tim Ogden, a manager with Kansas City-based SOS Pest Control, which specializes in bedbug treatments, said he wishes more communities would take the steps Lawrence is taking.

“I think most communities still have their heads in the sand on the issue,” Ogden said.

But property owners who are required to eradicate bedbugs under the new policy soon will discover the process can be expensive. Ogden said a treatment often runs between $900 to $2,000, with a typical two-bedroom apartment costing a little more than $1,000.

City officials, though, said they’ve seen an increase in the number of bedbug complaints, especially in apartment complexes. Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department officials weren’t available for comment on Friday, but last summer they said they were receiving about 12 to 15 bedbug complaints per year. Before 2010, it was rare to receive a bedbug report.

Bedbugs cause skin irritations by biting and sucking their victims’ blood.

“There definitely has been a resurgence of them nationwide,” said Ogden, who said many people have speculated bedbugs have re-emerged as several chemicals that were used to kill them have been outlawed.

Ogden said a heat treatment of an infested room is the most common method of killing the pests. Air temperatures in a room often reach 140 to 160 degrees as part of the process, he said.