Managing a multifamily property is a difficult and demanding job, and with new regulations imposed to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 as managers head into the spring and summer seasons, new responsibilities arise. Changes in weather coupled with more people practicing social distancing and ordered to shelter in place lead to changes in environment, more active pests, and new property issues. Pest control, while a year-round responsibility, is already a critical component of property upkeep during this time of year, and changes to daily life make it even more imperative for managers to take the proper steps to prevent an infestation and prepare to promptly handle issues when they do arise.
A pest infestation is not a small issue to manage, especially in a multifamily residence, as they are more difficult to control and treat than those in a single-family home. Connected walls and shared communal areas like lobbies and hallways make it easy for pests to spread from one area to another. Not to mention, treatment for a pest issue can be more costly in a larger, more complex space.
When handling pest control for a property, it is important to work with a qualified pest control professional with experience in commercial properties to help inspect, identify, and treat problems promptly to provide the best living environment for tenants. According to the Fair Housing Act, tenants have the right to livable conditions, and an infestation that is not addressed could land owners and management in legal trouble. Understanding what pests to look out for and taking the proper precautions to keep them out is imperative. Working with a pest control professional to implement an integrated pest management plan (IPM), a pest control practice that focuses on eliminating pests’ needs like food, water, and shelter, can help reduce headaches when issues arise.
There are certain pests that are attracted to the shelter and food that multifamily properties provide. Due to the closeness of units, some pests become an issue more quickly than others as they can travel through outlets, walls, and ventilation systems. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a nonprofit committed to the protection of public health, food, and property from the diseases and dangers of pests, is sharing information about the common invaders property managers may encounter this time of year. These pests can contribute to both health and structural concerns and should be top of mind for property managers.
A common household pest, rodents can spread disease and cause extensive property damage. They typically move indoors in search of food and shelter. The most common rodent species are house mice, deer mice, Norway rats, and roof rats. Rodents can carry up to 200 human pathogens. These species can transmit Salmonella, tapeworm, the plague, Hantavirus, and more, putting residents’ health at risk for a multitude of issues. Aside from the health concerns they pose, rodents can also cause major structural damage. Mice eat 15 to 20 times per day and have been known to chew through drywall and even wires. Chewed wires lead to electrical fires, which would be devastating to any multifamily residence.
The 2018 Bugs Without Borders research conducted by NPMA found that 89% of pest professionals listed apartments and condominiums in the top three places they encountered bedbugs. Bedbugs are excellent hitchhikers, meaning close environments and connected walls in these type of properties make it extremely difficult to remediate a bedbug problem once it begins. The bugs can move from unit to unit through electrical outlets and ventilation systems. Bedbugs will also hide just about anywhere, including inside suitcases, boxes, shoes, baseboards, and even picture frames, in addition to the bed. Bedbugs are attracted to warm-blooded animals, specifically humans, that can provide a blood meal. Although they do not transmit disease, these pests typically feed on humans during the night, leaving itchy red welts where they bite. These stealthy pests are known to spread rapidly and can become a serious issue for property managers.
Cockroaches are extremely difficult to control, and these disgust-inducing pests are a serious health risk. Cockroach feces, saliva, and body parts can trigger asthma symptoms and cause allergic reactions. These reactions are especially common in children. These pests can also spread 33 different kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, six types of parasitic worms, and seven kinds of human pathogens. Cockroaches move indoors in search of food and shelter. They are attracted to garbage and warm, dark environments. They can enter your property through holes or cracks in windows and siding, the sewer system by crawling up drains into bathrooms and kitchens, or belongings like packages and bags.
Prevention and Treatment
Multifamily property managers need to take proper precautionary measures to keep residents safe from common pests. The NPMA recommends property managers partner with a pest control professional that will help implement an IPM. An IPM is a commonsense way for addressing pest problems by focusing on three basic techniques: inspecting for pests, identifying pests, and treatment by pest control professionals. When working with a pest control professional, they can make specific recommendations according to your property’s environment and unique needs.
The NPMA recommends the following prevention tips for property managers and residents to help stop pests before they become an issue:
- Dispose of garbage regularly in sealed containers, and schedule regular garbage pickup.
- Look for rodent droppings, especially in undisturbed areas, including closets, stairwells, and along floorboards, which indicate a pest problem.
- Seal cracks and gaps in walls, floors, openings around or inside cabinets, around plumbing, wall outlets, and switch plates.
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the building.
- Replace weather-stripping, and repair loose mortar around the building’s foundation and windows.
- Ensure your property has proper drainage at the foundation; install gutters or diverts, which will channel water away from the building.
- Keep food sealed and stored properly, and clean food prep areas regularly.
- Clean high-volume communal areas daily, such as lobbies, fitness centers, and entertainment rooms where trash is more likely to build up.
- Partner with a qualified pest control company with experience working with commercial properties to help identify vulnerabilities, survey for, and control issues using an IPM approach.
Pests are in constant search of water, shelter, and food, and problems may become more prevalent during warm weather when pest pressure increases. In order to keep your property protected and pest-free, prevention and maintenance are key. Professional pest control is deemed an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and multiple states allowing many pest control companies to continue their valuable work to ensure your property and residents are able to live in a healthy and pest-free environment.