How to Prevent a $100,000 Bedbug Lawsuit

Bedbugs—tiny, wingless creatures that can cause tremendous economic and emotional stress for property owners and hotel managers. Under common law, it’s a hotel’s responsibility to provide a safe and habitable residence free from all known and knowable dangers, including pest infestations. Although legislation involving bedbug infestations is often unclear, lawsuits and settlements have cost some hotels over $100,000, proving the subject to be of serious concern within the industry.

Found in urban and rural settings, bedbugs will nest wherever people live and sleep. You can take comfort in the fact that the presence of bedbugs does not mean your property is dirty or unsanitary. Bedbugs arrive in search of food—namely human blood—not garbage or dirt. And while they are a public health concern, bedbugs are not known to carry or transmit diseases, according the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Put a Prevention Plan in Place 

According to the National Pest Management Association, more than 80% of American travelers are worried about bedbugs when they stay in hotels.

With the prevalence of online reviews and travel websites, keeping your property bedbug free is crucial to the success of your property. Implementing staff training and reporting protocols is a crucial step in keeping these pests off your property.

Inspecting for bedbugs

Be sure your staff is actively looking for signs of bedbugs.

Once a proper prevention plan is in place, make sure all staff members are aware so they can properly communicate the plan to guests if asked.

Train Your Staff 

Staff members who regularly handle guest luggage and linens should be trained to look for bedbugs on a daily basis. Images of bedbugs and signs of an infestation should be posted in employee-only common areas to keep it top of mind.

Housekeeping should be trained to look for dark fecal spots under mattresses and behind headboards as part of their regular cleaning routine. Ensure this step is added to the room’s cleaning checklist so it isn’t forgotten. Studies have shown that most bedbugs are found within 15 feet of the bed, so it’s wise to keep your primary checks in that vicinity.

Lastly, provide bedbug prevention training at time of employment and repeat it annually to reinforce key concepts. The best option would be to invite a pest control professional to come to your property and talk to staff. You can also show an informational video.

While inspecting rooms, bag and place linens in a wheeled laundry cart to minimize the movement of bedbugs

While inspecting rooms, bag and place linens in a wheeled laundry cart to minimize the movement of bedbugs.

Set Up a Bedbug Reporting Policy

Once you have a bedbug prevention plan in place, provide a means for staff to promptly report any suspected cases. Decide who in management and facilities maintenance should be informed and stress the importance of timeliness. Immediate attention will help control an infestation and expenses related to abatement and loss of income that could occur.

If bedbugs are suspected, the room should be shuttered, and adjacent rooms should be inspected as well. If possible, try to keep the adjacent rooms unoccupied until the inspection is over. Although this may result in a temporary loss of income, it’s how you can best avoid a potentially costly lawsuit.

While inspecting rooms, bag and place linens in a wheeled laundry cart to minimize the movement of bedbugs. If you even suspect bedbugs, make sure all linens are washed separately and with hot water.

If you find signs of bedbugs, most properties try pesticides first. However, we recommend you call in a pest control company immediately and use pesticides only as a temporary solution until a steam or heat treatment can be performed as these are the best treatments to completely eliminate bedbugs. Steam or heat treatments can be costly but will save you tons of headache in the long run.


Scan the Internet

With new review sites popping up daily, it’s important to regularly scan the internet to see what guests have been saying after staying at your property. For example, the Bedbug Registry is a free online database of user submitted reports across North America. It’s also a good idea to check sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to get clues as to what your customers experience at your hotel. Lastly, set up a free Google Alert to get email notifications when content is published online about your hotel.

Learn more about identifying the signs of bedbugs and find products to help control infestations.

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