Portland has 95. Chicago, 485. And the Denver area– 518. What do these numbers represent? Bedbug sightings in rental properties.
In 2006, a writer and computer programmer was bitten by bedbugs at a San Francisco hotel. That prompted him to set up a bedbug registry to warn others who may share the same spaces. He says he did it out of vengeance– but not against property owners. The registry was his revenge against the bugs.
Currently, there are over 20,000 reports on this registry, listing specific addresses of rental properties and hotels throughout the U.S. and Canada where the bugs have purportedly been sighted.
New rental applicants can simply plug in a property address and find out if former tenants have seen or heard about bedbugs there.
Anyone can post an entry on the registry, which includes an address of a rental property or hotel and a short narrative. The author can remain anonymous, although they are instructed that if they name a specific property manager or landlord, they should include their own name as well. Authors are encouraged to post positive information about the landlord if they were responsive to the bedbug invasion.
Some reports do follow these guidelines. For instance, in Des Moines, Iowa, a tenant reports that the bedbug infestation got worse because some tenants failed to notify management when the bugs first appeared. This tenant did tell the manager, and the unit was treated at no cost to the tenant. But in neighboring Cedar Rapids, a family who discovered bedbugs on New Year’s Eve asked a local news station to broadcast their story.
Bedbugregistry.com does not verify the truthfulness of the entries. In fact, the site administrator acknowledges that information could have been provided by “malicious tenants, evil competitors, and hypochondriacs.” Nevertheless, the entries will remain in place for two years after the last bedbug sighting, or until the author asks for it to be taken down. The site offers a dispute process if a landlord feels the report is false or unfair. Those entries will be marked for new readers as disputed, but they will not be taken off the site without the permission of the author.
Viewers can search for matching addresses, view a list of properties in the area with bedbug sightings, and compare statistics across the country.
The site provides email alerts that notify subscribers of any new postings within a mile of a specified address.
Although bedbugs can appear literally anywhere, there is still some stigma attached to an infestation, as though the property was not well kept. It is difficult, if not impossible, to discern whether the bugs were dormant in a rental unit before a tenant moved in, or whether they came in with the new tenant’s belongings. Yet, landlords who are targeted on a list such as this could experience a slowdown in rental applications.
With the bedbug pandemic in full swing and the ever-expanding reach of social media, the bedbug registry stands to gain in popularity.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.