Gail Getty—Bed Bugs Lawsuit & Pest Management Professional
Bed Bug University—Pest World Conference
Gail Getty was another speaker in the 2013 conference. She has over 18 years of experience in the insect world, her list of accomplishments are too many to list. She talked about how bed bug lawsuits get started in our industry.
She said a single unit or multi-unit complex has someone complain about bed bugs to the management. Tenants are often told, “straight out of the gate”, that they brought them in and it will be their responsibility to pay for eradication and treatment.
Home Remedy for Bed Bugs
Then management will call their PMP (pest management professional) or whomever they use to treat for insects. They will watch to see what the pesticide company uses and then there is often a lot of management that will begin self treating.
Chemicals to Kill Bed Bugs
It is very common for Gail to walk into a unit and see chemicals and sticky traps lying all around. Some tenants have told her that management comes around each evening to spray their mattress down with chemicals.
Basically some management companies have begun to self treat based on what they have seen the PMP do. In addition they may go online to buy actual chemicals or buy from the Home Depot. If management is putting chemicals on mattresses which are not labeled for mattress use then they are breaking the law.
At some point they are not getting rid of the bed bugs and so management will then go and hire a new PMP, often calling around for the cheapest quote on bed bug eradication. Problems may continue. The new PMP may be told about 5 units which have bed bugs when in reality there are 25 or 30 units. She said it is very common to see this happen in low housing situations.
The old tenants begin to move out and new tenants move in without being told of the bedbug infestation. Tenants begin to talk to each other and eventually someone calls the public health department. The health department may only give a citation and require that the landlord hire a professional to correct the problem. Eventually some brave person goes to a lawyer to file a suit.
Getting Serious about Getting Rid of Bed Bugs
It is at this point that the property management company gets serious and acts proactively by hiring a PMP to inspect, eradicate and monitor for problems. It is not uncommon for a new PMP to get brought into a lawsuit being as someone involved in the problem.
Pest Management Professional
Often it is at this point that the new PMP sees the deposition and learns how long the problem has been going on and how many other PMP’s are involved. It is for this reason that all PMP (pest management professionals) being called into a multi-unit dwelling ask for a copy of the floor plan so they can see what is happening and they can begin putting down all the facts and documenting the situation in case of a lawsuit. PMP should ask the client how many other PMPs are working in the building(s), how long the problem has been going on, if the client keeps records of bedbug complaints or problems, and basically get the whole story in case it goes to court.
Documentation should be standardized and highlight areas that must be filled in even when the answer is sometimes N/A. Forms must have a place for the date, the unit #, Why they were called to site, What they did about it, If they found an issue did they request to inspect unit above, below and on either side and did client agree to this or refuse?, Final thoughts on dwelling. Court cases can take a long time to get to court and by the time you find out your being called it you only have your documentation to protect you. As for employers, you should be sure that you give your PMP time to do their paperwork at the end of each day.
Documentation is critical! If a property management company is self treating in a non-chemical way ask them what they are doing. Example: They say they are doing steam cleaning. Ask them to demonstrate and document how they do it. They may be going over items too quickly or too far away and blowing eggs around. If you do get called into court have your documentation and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”, be sure that you are going beyond the expected standards of care in your industry. Just by attending education classes and conferences you are keeping ahead of the curve. She states that she has a large 3 ring binder and each time she attends a conference, classes, or continuing education she places the brochure inside the binder in order of the date she has attended and this helps to build her CV.
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