How to Spot Bed Bugs and How to Get Rid of Them

Bedbugs have been packing their bags and heading for the UK, but what does this explosion of infestation mean for landlords and tenants?

In the last month, reports of bed bugs have exploded, with social media crawling with photos and videos of the blood-sucking insects as they apparently pack their bags and head to the UK from Europe. 

  • So, what is really going on?
  • How can you check your home for bed bugs and prevent them from settling in?
  • Who is actually liable for this – landlords or tenants?

Where are the bed bugs coming from?

You may have heard that the bed bugs are hopping across the Channel from Paris. The deputy mayor of the city stood in front of the assembled French media and said, quite severely:

No one is safe.

Just a couple of weeks later, concerns grew over the infestation reaching London, after a video went viral, claiming to show a bed bug on a person’s leg on the Victoria line, followed by an apparent sighting of another bug on a bus in Manchester

Much like Paris’s mayor, London Mayor Sadiq Khan stood before the media and said the issue was:

A real source of concern.

Which doesn’t bode well for an itch-free Olympics in 10 months time and the travel mania it’s likely to excite across Europe…

According to experts, bed bugs have always been an issue, but they died down quite a lot during the pandemic when travel was so severely restricted, meaning the bugs couldn’t spread as they usually do. Now that we’re back to business as usual, so are the bed bugs and so the explosion of infestations is a lot more noticeable!

Something to bear in mind is that bed bugs aren’t actually a sign of a dirty home or poor hygiene. A little like head lice, this is a common misconception. 

So if they really can get anywhere, let’s look at how to spot them, prevent them and get rid of the wee blighters.

How to spot bedbugs

The first sign of bedbugs may be small, itchy bites on your skin, often on your arms or shoulders. Bed bugs tend to leave clusters or straight lines of bites. But for some people, bedbug bites don’t cause any marks or itching. 

To check your home for bed bugs:

  • Start by inspecting your mattress and headboard for signs like small reddish-brown bugs, tiny white eggs, and dark faecal spots
  • Blood spots on your sheets or mattress and a sweet, musty odour around your bed are also signs
  • You can also use bed bug traps and interceptors to monitor their presence so you can take action before it’s too late
  • Hotels often call in bed bug sniffer dogs – so if you’re really worried, that is an option!

If it’s already too late and they’ve already made themselves comfortable, don’t panic! The first step is to isolate the infested area and reduce clutter so they have nowhere to hide. Then, dry your bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water in the highest possible wash and dry setting. If you have un-washable stuff lying around, put it in the dryer and run it on high for 30 minutes or more – if it is safe to do so! Another option is to put things in the freezer for at least 3 days to kill them off (again – only if it’s safe to do so!).

Use a stiff brush to scrub the mattress, vacuum your bed and the area around it daily to remove bedbugs and their eggs. Handheld streamers with high temperature capacity might help in this stage too. After cleaning your bedding, put a tightly woven, zippered cover on your mattress to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bed bugs can live for several months without feeding. So, keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year. 

If your mattress is severely infested and you took all the precautions we discussed but it didn’t work, buy a new mattress and continue taking other precautions for the rest of your home so bed bugs won’t get into your new mattress.

Be careful about using smoke bombs and other suggestions circulating on the internet. Be sure to read all the small print BEFORE you set one off, especially if you have pets or children or if anyone has any respiratory problems like asthma.

If you can’t fight them yourself, hiring a professional exterminator with bed bug experience is usually for the best. If you’re a tenant, be sure to let your landlord know about the situation immediately. 

Who is liable for the infestation?

Usually, a tenancy agreement will state that it’s the landlord’s duty to keep the property in a habitable state, while it is the tenant’s duty to maintain sanitary conditions. This means that you’re going to have to team up to tackle the problem.

As the landlord, you don’t want the bugs to spread, as they’ll be a nightmare when it comes to getting new tenants in. So it’s worth looking into an exterminator, to clear out the property as quickly as possible. You should then talk to your tenant to ensure they’re checking all of their items for signs of infestation and act accordingly.

When it comes to insurance, every policy is different, so we can’t say that your cover will or won’t cover a pest infestation, it also might be dependent on the type of infestation and how it was caused. Be sure to read the small print on your policy to find out.

But, if your insurance DOES cover infestation, it’s worth giving them a call now to see if that includes bed bugs. If it does and the worst happens and you do find them in your property, at least you know you can claim it back on your insurance! 

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