Bed Bugs – FAQ

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs prefer human blood, but can also feed on pets if people aren’t present.

Are bed bugs disease carriers?
There isn’t any medical evidence that bed bugs pose any sort of health risk. Some people do, however, experience mild reactions to their bites. It is also possible for the bites to result in secondary infections if scratched.

How did I get bed bugs?
A bed bug infestation is not an indicator of a lack of cleanliness. Bed bugs feed on blood and are attracted to CO2. They may have hitchhiked onto your belongings and into your home or, if you live in a multi-unit building, they may have traveled from an adjacent unit.

So, there really isn’t any link between bed bugs and sanitation?
None. Bed bugs are not attracted to filth nor do they feed on it. However, reducing clutter is extremely important as clutter can provide hiding space for bed bugs. Bed bugs will thrive in cluttered environments because the effectiveness of your pest control plan will be limited.

I have a bed bug infestation. What do I do?
Around the House

-Reduce clutter in the home. These are safe havens for bed bugs.
-Vacuum frequently.
-Wash clothes in hot water and dry in high heat for a minimum of 20 minutes.
-Do not apply pesticides on your own. Applying pesticides should be left to licensed pest control professionals.
-Never use bug bombs or total release foggers. These can worsen the infestation and are extremely harmful to your health.

Beds and Furniture
-Steam clean your bed and other furniture at a heat of 120 degrees or more.
-Encase your mattress and box spring with bed bug proof mattress protectors.
-Do not apply pesticides to your bed or other furniture. Pesticides are often harmful to people.
-Do not throw away your furniture until a pest control professional tells you that it can’t be salvaged.
-If you must throw away your bed or other furniture, please dispose responsibly. Render the furniture unusable by slashing all sides or spray paint “bed bugs” in large letters.

Remember, bed bugs and their eggs absolutely cannot survive temperatures higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is my landlord responsible for ridding my unit of bed bugs?
On June 5, 2013 Chicago alderman passed an ordinance on bed bug control.  The ordinance requires eradication to be performed by a pest control professtional as many times as necessary to eliminate the reported problem.  Click here to read the full ordinance.  

The City of Chicago has recently been named the nation’s #1 city infested with bed bugs.  Everyday MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline receives calls from renters throughout the City and suburbs dealing with the pesky pests.  Bed bugs are not unique to Chicago.  They are undoubtedly a nuisance and hard to control.  Controlling bed bugs requires tenants and landlords working together. There are key components of the ordinance that all renters should know.  Let’s start with landlord responsibilities:

  • To supply a tenant starting or renewing a lease with an informational brochure
  • To maintain a written record of bed bug control efforts
  • To send a written notice to the tenant explaining their responsibilities before the inspection
  • To provide pest control services when bed bugs are found by a pest management professional as many times as necessary to eliminate the problem
  • To inspect within 10 days and treat if necessary the two units on either side as well as the two units above and below of the infested unit

The ordinance also outlines what tenants’ responsibilities are to help eliminate bed bugs.  Please note that this section of the ordinance does not apply to tenants living in assisted living or a shared housing establishment, when the establishment provides assistance with daily living activities.  According to the ordinance, tenant responsibilities include:

  • To notify the landlord in writing of any suspected or known infestation in the tenants’ unit, clothing, furniture or personal property within 5 days
  • To notify the landlord in writing of any recurring or unexplained bites, stings or sores suspected to be caused by bed bugs
  • To cooperate with the landlord in the control, treatment, and eradication of bed bugs including
  • To grant access at reasonable times upon reasonable notice for inspections and treatments/to not interfere
  • To prepare unit prior to treatment including:  cleaning, dusting, vacuuming
  • To properly dispose of personal property that cannot be treated or cleaned before the pest control services

The Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance also mandates the disposal of bedding, clothing, furnishings or other infested materials.  For example, you may not place, discard or dispose of any bedding, clothing or furnishings infested on the public way (i.e. dumpsters, sidewalks, hallways).  To get rid of infested items, you must enclose the item in a plastic bag and label it as infested.  Doing so should prevent neighbors from bringing to their home infested items, therefore stalling the spread of bed bugs.

The ordinance will be enforced by the Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health.  If any person is found violating the ordinancethat person may be fined $300.00 to $1,000 per day for each offense.  By complying with the ordinance, these fees can be avoided.   The full ordinance can be found atwww.cityofchicago.org.  You can make a request for a City inspector here.

My landlord won’t accept responsibility. What should I do?

You can call MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline to speak with a hotline counselor about your situation. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 1pm – 5pm. If you live in a building with 12 or more units and other renters in the building are living with bed bugs, you may also request a visit from an organizer who can assist you in getting your requests met by your landlord.

Learn more about tenant remedies for pest infestation here

Have bed bugs in your apartment building? What is your landlord doing about it?