Bedbugs, an HMO landlords story

Bedbugs, an HMO landlords story

12:59 PM, 25th January 2012, About 12 years ago 10

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AAaargggh, the very word ‘bedbug’ still sends a chill right through me and here is why…

We had an HMO property where we provided the furniture. A new tenant moved in to one of the rooms and within 24 hours complained she had been bitten and that she thought it was bedbugs. I contacted our local council who were happy to do an inspection, however they were unable to get in the tenants room and she wouldn’t let them for a further month. By this stage two other tenants were complaining of being bitten.

On inspection three of the five bedrooms were infested with bedbugs, the majority being in the original girls bedroom. The council thought that the girls would have been chatting on each others beds and spread them that way.

I was not too worried about the cost of treating the bedbugs as it was around £50 for the whole treatment, however all the beds would have to be destroyed and all soft items such as clothes would also need to be treated. They would need to be boil washed or placed in a freezer for 24 hours. In addition, whilst the treatment took place we would need to provide the tenants with blow-up mattresses so that any new beds provided were not affected whilst the treatment took place. Surprisingly the tenants were ok with this, even though the council would treat once a week for 4 weeks, gosh this was going to take a while to put right!

As we provided furniture for the tenants and we could not say how the bedbugs got there, it was our responsibility to pay to fix the problem and our insurance company did not cover it. We bought the tenants a chest freezer so that they could put all their belongings in it for 24 hours and set up an area in the conservatory where they could store their belongings whilst the treatment took place.

Four weeks later we got the all clear and provided the tenants with brand new beds. We used wooden frames so if the problem ever arose again we would only need to replace the mattress and not the divan.

One week later, tenant number four moved out and bedbugs were visible on his bed too. The treatment had to begin in his room, bed destroyed etc. In addition we felt it wrong to show prospective tenants his room whist the treatment took place and we lost out on rent.

After getting the all clear we were informed again that a tenant had been bitten all up her leg. The bedbugs were back!!

I discovered that they really can be a nightmare to eradicate completely, they can hide in a crack the size of the thickness of paper. The treatment began all over again and this time we provided a refrigerated van so all the belongings could go in at once which drastically sped up this process.

The girl who originally reported the bedbugs within 24 hours handed in her notice. It emerged that the property she had moved from also had bebugs but we will never know if she bought them with her.

The council were very good. They visited other properties where our tenants frequented to see if the bed bugs had spread there too, they never charged extra for the additional treatments.

When we thought the problem was finally resolved, our adjoining neighbour reported us to environmental health to say that her bedroom, (which did not adjoin our house) had bedbugs in and they were coming through the wall to her house. By this stage I was a bit fed up with the whole thing, as were our tenants. We not only sent the council back, we sent a private company too and environmental health all to inspect together. The neighbours property was found to have bedbugs in her room, however in our property there was just one bedbug found in one bed, which although it’s not good to have any, it was a relief. Due to our history with the council we were able to show to environmental health exactly what we had done to sort the problem and we were not found at fault.

This cost us thousands to resolve, in lost rent and replacement furniture. If it happens to you don’t take any short cuts; get on to your council right away and good luck!!

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13:13 PM, 25th January 2012, About 12 years ago

Excellent column, thanks Helen.  I dread the word "bedbug" and the ensuing damage they cause.  I wonder if it's legal to hose down new tenants and freeze all their belongings before moving in?!  Just a thought...

Mary Latham

20:50 PM, 25th January 2012, About 12 years ago

Over the past 3 years or so many landlords have told me that they have bedbugs in their properties.  I wonder why these creatures have sprung up I thought that they were a thing of the early part of the last century.

Helen has given really good advice do not cut corners because if they are not all removed they will reinvest very quickly and the problem will go on and on. It is also worth checking with owners of properties that share your walls because these little creatures find it very easy to go from one property to another

Hmolandlady - Perhaps we should ask all our new tenants to spend their first night sleeping in a freezer with all their belongings in the interest of health and safety hahahahahaha

16:06 PM, 26th January 2012, About 12 years ago

I also had these critters in one of my multilets
Cost me a fortune! Tip - use a private company with a guarantee to
Come back if problem not fixed. Remember it is not the landlords fault
I did not need to throw away any beds or freeze anything

16:59 PM, 26th January 2012, About 12 years ago

Thanks for the comments. I was very surprised how hard it was to get rid of the little pests thankfully we have been clear of bedbugs for a good 6 months now, let's hope is stays that way!
I was so paranoid about them getting on my clothes and spreading to my car and own home after any visit to the affected property that I carried some special spray and would spray myself, clothes and car after any visit.
HMO landlady and Mary: what a great idea to freeze all tenants belongings before moving in!!

Mary Latham

19:22 PM, 26th January 2012, About 12 years ago

Can you give us details of the company that you used pleased.  I would really like to be able to pass this on to landlords.

I always tell landlords to use specialists to remove investations of any kind for the very reasons you mention

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

20:09 PM, 26th January 2012, About 12 years ago

Just after I left the office one of my team took a call from a chap who works for the worlds foremost experts on bedbugs called David Cain. I have been asked to contact him and will do so in the morning.

Apparently the industry are expecting an influx of superbugs with the Olympics.

Rest assured I will be asking Mr Cain to comment here and even write some blogs on the subject. In the meantime, his website is

chris howells

20:11 PM, 26th January 2012, About 12 years ago

proir to group of students moving in one of the parents alleged that the were bed bugs in the house in all different stages of developemnt.
I knew there were none and  I had already arranged for environmenal health to attend they did not find anything but the alegations still persisted.
It was an a nightmare, made worse as I was away at the time even though there were people who were monitoring the situation. Because of his allegations it spolit any relationship I would have had with them.
The parent concerned had other issues , but he did not have the decency to apologise for his unjust comments

12:43 PM, 27th January 2012, About 12 years ago

We had a problem with a type of ant in one of our flats.  It was a Pharoah's Ant.This ant, which is one of the two main ants in the UK are small in size, approx 2mm in length, these ants can feed and live in drains and sewerage systems before entering your home and the health risks associated with these ants is much greater than the more common garden ant. To tell the difference, a garden ant is approx 5mm in length and has a black segmented body, whilst the Pharoah's ant is smaller and yellow in color. They are a real hazard and have to be got rid of.  They infected the entire block.  Luckily the management company dealt with it but it was a right pain to contact all the tenants to get access to their flats to treat them, and it took ages to do (by all accounts).  Our tenants were constantly ringing to say that there were ants in their flat, but we had to wait for the specialist to deal with them.Pharoah's Ants live in hospitals and get transferred by hospital workers to private residences. They also live in cardboard boxes that people use for moving belongings, and they can get transferred that way as well.I am wondering if, on the inventory check in, there should be a box that the incoming tenant ticks confirming that the property/room is pest free.The outgoing tenant can tick a box confirming that they did not get bitten while living in the property/room.Then it would be clear who was to blame for the infestation. 

Mary Latham

19:51 PM, 27th January 2012, About 12 years ago

I didn't know that there were two types of ants Vanessa - I learn something new every day.  I do know that the best way to get rid of ants is to put down a bleach powder that crosses their marching route - this is especially useful in food preparation areas because it is a kitchen product and therefore safe to use. 

The other common pest, particularly in Vic terraces, is slugs and you won't see them but you will find the horrid slimy mess that they leave behind them.  I cure this by putting salt all around the edges of the room and vacuuming it up leaving the residue between the carpet and the skirting board.  The slugs live here during the day and it will kill them.  I replenish it every year or at the turn of every tenancy.

Landlords have a legal obligtion to ensure that there are no infestations present at the start of each tenancy and we should therefore all include this on our inspections and inventories which are then signed by the tenant as you have suggested

21:37 PM, 27th January 2012, About 12 years ago

I'm booking my seat for the U.K's first bedbug Olympics! Tim Fawcett

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