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Bed Bugs – who pays in Alberta? Landlords or Tenants?

Your tenant calls: they have bed bugs and want you to fix the problem – who pays in Alberta? The landlord or the tenant?

Bed bugs were unheard of with Alberta landlords 15 – 20  years ago. These days, unfortunately, they’ve become a common occurrence and re-occurrence for many landlords.

What are they?

Beg bugs are tiny insects that live in upholstered areas where you sleep or sit, such as sofas, beds, and chairs. They survive by drinking blood. They track hosts by the heat emanating from bodies and zeroing in on exhaled C02. Once they locate a host, they feed for three to 12 minutes.

Where do they come from?

Bed bugs love traveling and hitchhike rides on purses, backpacks, luggage, or other items on an infested soft/upholstered surface. They replicate quickly, too. A female bed bug can lay approximately 50 eggs in 10 days if she has a mate and food (human blood). 

They’re stealthy visitors and hide in crevices during the day and hunt their prey at night. Although they can’t fly, they can walk three to four feet per minute and travel between rooms in apartment buildings and hotels through electrical switch plates, picture frames, and even wallpaper.

How do you know you have them?

You’ll know you have them if you see bloodstains on your sheets or pillowcases, small dark fecal spots, and eggshells or shed skins in areas where they hide. Often, people become aware of their unwelcome lodgers when they see small red bumps or welts in a zigzag pattern or line surrounded by blisters or hives.

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How do you get rid of them?

Getting rid of bedbugs can be tricky since they can live up to a year without feeding and are resistant to cold. Treatment usually involves a two-step process.

1.      Bedbug Extermination

To eliminate bedbugs, it can take two to four treatment sessions for three to six weeks or longer. Extermination involves:

  • Chemical pesticide spray, dust, or snow treatments (that are safe for humans)
  • Steam and heat treatments with specialized equipment that warm-up rooms between 135 F and 145 F for six to eight hours.

Although heat treatment destroys bedbugs, their eggs, and newborns, chemical treatments are not an instant remedy. Although you are likely to see fewer bedbugs after each treatment.

2.      Extensive Cleaning

To make sure the critters don’t return, tenants need to:

  • Wash and dry (on high heat) all fabrics, including bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing
  • Encase mattresses and box springs in a tightly woven zippered cover for at least a year
  • Repair wallpaper and plaster cracks where bedbugs can hide
  • Removing clutter where bedbugs can hide

Can a landlord evict a tenant for reporting bed bugs?

The short answer is no. Under the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, the landlord is obligated to make sure the rental property complies with health requirements at all times and is free of insect and rodent infestations. However, if the tenant refuses to cooperate with the landlord’s pest treatment procedures, the landlord has the right to evict the tenant with a 14 Day Notice or apply with the Residential Tenancy Dispute Service (RTDRS) for an order to evict.

If the tenant informs the landlord of the beg bugs and the landlord refuses to act, the tenant can call Health Link at 811 and speak to an inspector. Once the inspector investigates and finds beg bugs, they can order the landlord to fix the problem. If the landlord continues to ignore the problem, the tenant can apply to Provincial Court or the RTDRS to end the tenancy or serve the landlord with a 14-day notice to end the tenancy.

Who pays?

Landlords sometimes argue that tenants should pay since there were no bed bugs until the tenants moved into the property. However, the only recourse for landlords is to apply to the RTDRS if the tenant misses a pest control appointment or has not followed the pest control protocol causing the landlord needless expense.

When I lived in Fort McMurray, bed bugs were so prevalent, that many apartment buildings had tenants sign an agreement to store their belongings in heated trailers for eight hours before moving into a rental unit. During my property management days, we encountered tenants who didn’t consider beg bugs enough of an issue to notify management. We discovered that tenants from all over the world and different cultures believed they would be evicted if they complained about any issues. Educating tenants to inform you ASAP if they suspect a beg bug infestation, and that you will work with them to eliminate the problem, are the first steps in eliminating the problem.

Who pays? With considerable time and effort, you may be able to recover some costs incurred by a tenant refusing to cooperate or not following procedures, but for Alberta Landlords, the onus of maintaining a pest-free property rests with you the landlord.

Do you have a bed bug story or tips you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about them [email protected]

To take advantage of helpful tips, tools, and educational resources for DIY landlords, sign up for a membership for Landlord Fundamentals 101. To save even more time and money, combine Landlord Fundamentals 101 with one-on-one coaching to qualify for the Canada Alberta Job Grant. Contact me today to find out how [email protected]

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