Estimated read time: 3 minutes
Bed bugs have become “a real cause for concern” in the UK, according to news reports.
They’ve appeared on public transport, in hospitals, and undoubtedly in the home.
But don't fret - their bites can be itchy and uncomfortable, but do not usually cause any other health problems.
What matters most is being practical to get rid of them, and knowing whose responsibility that is.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are “nuisance pests” that average between 5 and 7 millimetres long.
Due to their size, they can easily go unnoticed until there is a full infestation.
While they don’t spread any harmful diseases, they can be extremely uncomfortable to live with.
Bed bugs are notoriously hard to remove.
How to tell if you have bed bugs?
Bed bugs often live in soft furnishings such as beddings and furniture.
They are only active at night, which combined with their small size can make them hard to spot.
In many cases, it may be easier to spot the signs of bed bugs, than the bugs themselves.
According to the NHS, signs of bed bugs are:
- Bites - often on skin that is exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
- Spots of blood on your beddings - from bites or squashing a bed bug
- Small brown spots on bedding or furniture - bed bug excrement
Who is responsible for bed bugs?
This is a slightly grey area as responsibility will vary from case to case.
Ultimately, a landlord is responsible for ensuring that their property is habitable.
If a property is rented out with existing bed bugs, then the tenant has every right to ask that the landlord remove and resolve the issue.
As highlighted by Shelter, infestations are also an issue for landlords to rectify if the pests in question are entering the property due to a structural issue, such as broken pipes, vents or roof tiles.
If the landlord is responsible then they should carry out all necessary repairs and contact pest control.
Tenants should seek further advice from their council if the landlord does not provide a solution.
When is a tenant responsible?
If bed bugs are a new issue within a long standing tenancy then it is likely that they have been introduced by the tenant.
No matter how the bugs may have accidentally entered the property, it will likely fall as the tenant’s responsibility for their removal.
In any case, the landlord should be notified as soon as possible in order to assess the problem fully and discuss their removal.
How can tenants help to prevent an infestation?
The NHS recommends the following dos and don'ts in order to protect yourself from these pests.
It is good for landlords and agents to communicate these with tenants to keep both them and the property safe.
We would also suggest sending out reminders to tenants if there is ever a peak in bed bug complaints in the local area.
- wash affected bedding and clothing on a hot wash (60C) and tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes
- put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for 3 or 4 days
- clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early
- do not keep clutter around your bed
- do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first
- do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs