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Working with the Exterminator

Produced by Massachusetts Justice Project
Created September 2010

Prepare for the inspection and fumigation. Clean your home, including closets, and remove clutter. Push furniture to the center of the room, empty dressers, and pack up as much as you can in plastic bags. (See below on laundering and cleaning). At least two pesticide applications, two weeks apart, are needed to break the bedbugs' reproductive cycle. Bedbugs are difficult to destroy.

Based on the inspection, the exterminator will decide if your furniture can be treated or should be replaced. Discarded furniture should be sealed or broken up so that no one is tempted to take it home and spread bugs.

The exterminator should write and follow an "Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan" that describes the extent of the infestation and the steps to control and monitor it. You should get a copy of this plan. Everybody involved, tenant, landlord, and exterminator, should be clear on what he or she has to do under the plan.

Treating neighboring apartments and common areas like halls and basements might be recommended, depending on the level of infestation and the condition of the building. The landlord may need to repair cracks in walls and ceilings. He will need to seal gaps where water, wires and heating pipes come through the walls or floors. And he should fill gaps in wooden floors should be filled with wood-filler. This work is the landlord's responsibility. The landlord may also have to remove wall-to-wall carpeting.

Remember that pesticides can be dangerous if they are not properly used or managed.

A good exterminator will...

  1. Wait to proceed with treatment until it is clear that the problem is bedbugs, and not an infestation with similar symptoms.
  2. Provide a detailed list of preparations that the tenant and the landlord are responsible for before extermination, and proceed with treatment upon completion of these steps.
  3. Use an extermination plan that requires multiple treatments, as 68% of infestations require three or more treatments for successful results.
  4. Recognize that there may be items in the infested unit that cannot be treated effectively and must be thrown out.
  5. Be thorough in the extermination plan, making sure to treat all the nooks and crevices throughout the house where bedbugs may hide.

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