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Co-Living Advice

What To Do If My Roommate Has Bed Bugs

Sharing your home with creepy-crawlies probably hasn’t made the top of your wish list. Pesky bed bugs continue to ignite stressful situations for renters across New York City, despite the fact that the council has put measures in place to protect tenants from these insects. 

If you’re noticing unwanted guests popping up between your sheets, in your books, your clothes and just about everywhere else, what can you do? The sad fact is that even if your roommate has bed bugs, it becomes a problem for the entire household, because these pests travel fast – and almost always outstay their welcome…kind of like your roommate’s significant other who never leaves!

Make sure the culprits really are bed bugs

There are a few ways to identify bed bugs, and knowing what you’re working with is the first step to eradicating the problem. Some common signs that you’re dealing with bed bugs are:

  • Your roommate (and possibly yourself) is noticing itchy bites on their body. Bed bugs survive on the blood of humans or animals and, while their bites aren’t dangerous, they can be irritating. You may also notice small spots of blood on your bed sheets.
  • There are red or rusty-colored spots on the mattresses. Bed bugs can sit dormant for months without needing a feed, and some people don’t have a visible reaction to bites. That doesn’t mean these insects aren’t sharing your bed. Small stains or dots on your sheets or mattress could indicate bugs that have been squashed.
  • Small dark spots on sheets (about the size of a standard bullet point) could actually be excrement from bed bugs.
  • You’ve spotted live bed bugs in the wild; they’re usually translucent or dark brown in color, the size of a grain of rice, and oval-shaped with prominent legs.

Inform the landlord 

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has listed bedbugs as a Class B violation. In short, that means that everyone has the right to a bedbug-free environment. 

A Class B violation indicates that bed bugs are considered hazardous, and it is the landlord’s legal duty to eradicate these little pests. If you have conclusive proof that your roommate is suffering from an infestation, it’s time to report the problem. 

By law, landlords have to provide new residential tenants with a one-year bedbug infestation history for units and entire buildings. If they fail to provide this, you can file an official tenant complaint. Otherwise, once you report your bedbug problem, they have 30 days to deal with the issue. 

If the landlord refuses to cooperate, you could consider contacting a tenant lawyer so you can properly understand the options available to you. We don’t recommend staging a protest in the form of refusing to pay rent! Deal with these things properly, and the law will always be on your side.

Do I have to treat my bedroom, too?

So, your roommate or flatmate has somehow introduced bugs into their bedroom – and now it’s become your problem, too. Bed bugs are so tiny that they can travel in minute cracks in walls, easily spreading between rooms in accommodating environments. They also latch onto things like clothes, backpacks and other belongings, so it’s likely that if your roommate has bed bugs, you need to check your own space, too. Ignoring the problem can just worsen it, and you might even suffer sleepless nights that spin from the anxiety of being bitten.

Whether or not you have insect bites, take the following steps to bust any bugs from your room:

  1. Check your bedding and clothing for signs of bed bugs and create a record of your findings (you can share this with a pest control professional, when the time comes)
  2. If you suspect there may be bed bugs on your clothes, wash and dry them on a hot setting, or store them in a sealed plastic bag
  3. Check all cracks and crevices with a flashlight. If you do find any bugs, scoop them out with a knife, crush them and throw them outside
  4. Seal crevices with caulk to prevent more insects from entering your space
  5. Hire a pest control company if your landlord refuses to help. If this occurs, you’re within your rights to file a complaint with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development

Check out this bed bug guide for further information.

Sharing your space with unwanted critters can be stressful – affecting not only your skin, but your day-to-day life. The good news is that the responsibility falls on your landlord and the problem can be fixed! Report the issue as soon as you notice the signs to re-claim your bedroom.