Bed Bug Awareness: Educating Vacation Rental Owners

Every vacation rental is at risk of having bed bugs. Most people believe that bed bugs are only found in dirty places, but this is a common bed bug myth. Bed bugs are hitchhikers. They hitch a ride from renter’s homes in backpacks, purses, bags, and luggage.  Which means… every vacation rental is at risk because guests are constantly coming and going… potentially bringing bed bugs with them! 

Have you ever had bed bugs in your Airbnb or Vrbo?  If you answered no, you’ve been pretty lucky so far. What if you find bed bugs next week or a month from now? Do you have a plan? Most owners spend a lot of time and money repairing, maintaining, and cleaning vacation homes. But all that work doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t know how to maintain a bed bug free rental. It only takes one infestation to cost you much more money than you’re ready to spend. The costs add up quickly when you think about bed bug treatment, lost revenue, and potentially negative reviews from unhappy vacationers.

Let us help you make a plan to keep your vacation rental home free of bed bugs and your renters happy to leave 5-star reviews. 

How do I identify bed bugs?

The first thing to do when you find a bed bug or a renter reports bed bugs to you is to correctly identify that it is actually a bed bug. The general public is typically not well educated about bed bugs. So, it is possible to get a report of a bed bug in error.

Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed depending on the life stage. They are oval shaped and can be flat and translucent if they have not recently fed.  If they have had a recent feeding, they can be bright red or a darker reddish brown.  Bed bug eggs are white and about the size of a grain of salt. They are typically clustered together.

Understanding bed bug habits can help when searching for them in your vacation rental. Bed bugs generally feed from 2:00-5:00 a.m. hiding near their feeding source during the day. When checking for bed bugs, be sure to check within five feet of the headboard wall focusing your attention on the headboard itself and around the ribbing of the mattress and box spring. If guests are complaining of an “itchy bed” or bites, these may be signs of needing to do a thorough check of the property.

If you think you have found a bed bug in your rental home or apartment, there are some additional steps you can take to try to identify it correctly. There are a variety of tools that can be used for identification. If you have an Android phone, your camera has a Google Lens that will search Google for a matching image. The same tool can be used on an iPhone by opening the google app. If identification is still an issue, you may want to capture the bug and speak with a pest control professional regarding proper identification. 

Once you have properly identified the bed bug, you will want to investigate the mattresses and bed skirts in each bedroom and the couch. Typically, bed bugs congregate near where you sleep because they are attracted to carbon dioxide, warmth, and blood. This will give you a better understanding of how widespread your infestation may be.  A regular inspection protocol is a must when you own a rental property.  Encourage your renters to communicate with you on any pest problems.  Also be sure to educate your cleaning staff and possibly offer an incentive for early detection. 

What do I do if I find bed bugs in my vacation rental?

Immediately stop renting your property.  The last thing you want to do is open yourself up to liability for spreading bed bugs to someone’s personal residence. There are two paths you can take to eliminate the bed bugs. Call a pest control professional, preferably one who uses and integrated pest management approach that includes heat treatments. Alternatively, you can tackle the issue yourself.

If you choose the DIY path, here are some steps to take.

  • Remove bedding and any clothing in the room by bagging it up and taking it to the laundry room to wash and dry. Heat will kill bed bugs. So, this will eliminate the bugs in the linens.
  • You will need to purchase your own bed bug heater to perform a heat treatment in any infested rooms. If the rental property is small, it’s possible to heat it all at once. For multi-room homes, each room will need to be treated individually. You can find a variety of bed bug heaters to treat different size spaces and that require different volage circuits to power the heater. We would be happy to talk with you about personalized solutions for your specific property. Just call us at 844-364-3281. If each space is heated properly, it will kill bed bugs the first time, every time because bed bugs cannot survive temperatures that exceed their thermal death point.
  • Once the property has been heat treated, clean and vacuum well, including the mattress.
  • We recommend using Lights Out all-natural Bed Bug Spray as a regular part of the maintenance routine. It will kill bed bugs on contact and has a 30-day residual effect. If any new bed bugs are brought in by renters, this spray will act as a preventative measure for infestations.
  • Your property is now ready to be rented out once again!

How do I educate my guests?

Every rental should have a thorough house manual that includes Wi-Fi passcode, parking instructions, entry codes, safety devices (fire extinguishers, smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors, etc.), and emergency contacts.  Typically, this manual also clearly lays out pet rules and regulations.  You may also find a list of local attractions, restaurants, hidden gems, and favorite spots in your area.  Additionally, this manual will include check-in and -out instructions. 

We recommend including a section in your manual that helps your guests know what a bed bug looks like and how they can check for them. It is wise to also include some other common local insects that could be confused for a bed bug. This will cut down on misidentification and unnecessary refunds. It may seem counterproductive to inform your guests about bed bugs, but early detection will help everyone cure the problem as quickly as possible.

What are your legal obligations?

Legal obligations are different in each state. Make sure you are familiar with the requirements and laws in your area.  There may be specific regulations and requirements for landlords and property owners.  In many jurisdictions, it may be required that you disclose the bed bugs to the previous guests.  

Good documentation is a must for fighting litigation. Be sure to keep detailed records of when bed bugs are detected and what treatment has been done.  Photos and videos are necessary proof of the infestation process. Once you have confirmed you have a pest problem, a refund may need to be given to the renters.  Also, a final check-up with a local pest control company for a small fee will be helpful documentation.

In Conclusion:

In order to protect yourself and your rental, a good protocol regarding unwanted pests needs to be in place. This will help to cover your liability and limit your stress. Owning a bed bug heater will allow you to treat rooms quickly after discovering a problem. Bed bug proof mattress encasements will not only help protect your mattress from a variety of unwanted stains and contaminants but also keep bed bugs out of the seams of the mattress and box spring. Bed bug spray with a long-lasting residual effect is a great preventative measure after the rooms have been treated. You don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help you make a good plan.