What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs at Your Short-Term Rental Property

Property Manager Tips
What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs at Your Short-Term Rental Property

Short-term rental properties welcome guests from all over the world. Many of these properties, however, have to contend with the most unwelcome of all guests: bed bugs.

These minuscule pests aren’t just the scourge of visitors dealing with the itching and rashes they leave behind. They’re also the bane of property managers taking care of infested mattresses and bedding. Such care comes at a cost that can hurt the company’s bottom line.

This article will give you some tips on how to get rid of bed bugs, what insurance covers bed bugs, and what’s included in your bed bug insurance cost.

What Are Bed Bugs?

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) measures between four and five millimeters, about the size of an apple seed. It’s a flat, oval-shaped, russet-colored insect with no wings. Despite its tiny size, it can be visible to the naked eye.

Bed bugs somewhat ghoulishly feed off the blood of humans and animals. They generally attack when their prey is asleep—hence the name bed bugs —and can live for almost a year without a single meal. They are quite resilient.

Unlike mosquitos, ticks, and fleas, bed bugs do not transmit disease, and their bites are never fatal. However, the bites are extremely itchy and irritating, causing red welts, rashes, and potential swelling. 

How Bed Bugs Spread

Bed bugs are the hitchhikers of the annoying insect world. They are commonly spread by travelers, who transport them in or on baggage, clothing, and personal belongings. Used furniture is another bed bug favorite.

True to their name, bed bugs accomplish most of their work as their victims are asleep. They hide in the seams of bed mattresses, box springs, bedding, rugs, upholstery, and even wood headboards.

Bed bugs take any opening they can get. They easily adapt to different environments and weather conditions, making them hard to get rid of. Female bed bugs can lay anywhere between 200 and 500 eggs in their lifetime, so they can pay the infestation forward.

How Much Bed Bug Damage Costs the Hospitality Industry

According to the latest available data from 2017, the average cost that a hotel or short-term rental property pays for each bed bug event is about $6,383 per bed. About $1,700 of that figure represents the cost of lost business, meaning the property cannot be rented or used during the time it takes to clean and disinfect. The numbers show that 68% of all hotels, motels, and rental units reported bed bug events, trailing only single-family homes and apartments.

Orkin Pest Control says a hotel averages around 7.1 bed bug incidents over five years. That adds up to $45,319 in remediation costs alone — it doesn’t include any potential litigation or penalty fees, which could drive the cost higher.

Bed bugs can be just as costly in short-term rentals. Extermination for a single infestation can run between $1,750 and $3,250. Some severe cases can cost upward of $5,000. Short-term rental managers who don’t have the same revenue as hotels may feel the financial pain. This makes it necessary to know what insurance covers bed bugs.

How to Combat Bed Bugs

Now that you know your enemy, you’ll want to take measures to eliminate your bed bug issues and prevent them from coming up in the future. Here is how to get rid of bed bugs and keep them from coming back.

Protect Your Mattress and Box Springs

Mattresses and box springs are the primary places where bed bugs are likely to lie in wait, so they’re the areas to target first. The simplest fix (though not the only fix) is to purchase a zippered encasement protector that permanently fits around the entire mattress. Make sure the seal is air-tight and leaves no space for bugs to crawl into.

Bed bugs also like hanging out in the center of box springs. A box spring encasement serves as a barrier, covering the entire unit with water-resistant material.

Set Up a Cleaning Checklist

If you already have a list of to-do items during cleaning routines, add a step for checking for bed bugs, stains, and eggs. If the problem becomes serious enough to call in an exterminator, put a checkbox down for their visit. Make sure your entire housekeeping staff is aware of the checklist.

Regularly Replace Your Bedding Materials

Short-term rental home managers would be wise to replace their mattresses every two years to combat bed bugs and for the overall health of your rental. You may be able to wait another year if your mattress is of the highest quality, but if it’s less durable than that, biannual replacements are advised. It’s also a good idea to replace blankets, top sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding materials every year.

Schedule Inspections

Your local pest exterminator can inspect your mattress for signs of bed bug infestation that you might overlook. They look for common signs of bed bugs, including excrement, shed skins, and egg shells. Ask the inspector any questions you may have.

Does Short-Term Rental Insurance Cover Bed Bugs?

Short-term rental managers can get bed bug insurance coverage for their rooms. Safely’s short-term rental bed bug insurance can mitigate your expenses as long as your policy includes liability coverage. If it does, you’ll be covered up to the limits dictated in your policy.

How Safely Handles Bed Bug Coverage

Safely’s bed bug insurance coverage kicks in at the time bed bugs are discovered and ends when treatment is complete. It covers the loss of income or use experienced during that specific time frame. The length of that time frame varies according to the extent of the treatment required.

Sometimes pest control companies can wrap up the problem with one treatment, so the time of lost income is restricted to just a day or so. Others may need more time and treatments to solve the problem and may schedule future inspections to ensure the bed bugs are gone. That entire time — from identifying the bed bugs to the final inspection — counts toward a single event of loss of use or income.

The timeframe should not stretch to a month or two. Typically, it should take no more than a week to resolve the issue. Standard Safely coverage includes the cost of the treatment plus replacement costs for damaged items, like headboards, up to the specified coverage limits.

Learn More About Safely’s Bed Bug Coverage

If you’re a short-term rental manager with ten or more homes, Safely can help you get liability coverage that includes bed bug coverage, too. . To find out more, contact us online or call (855) 723-3598.

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Amber is the Claims Leader at Safely and has been with the company for over four years. She manages a team of claims adjusters, working with company leadership to improve processes, maintain accurate documentation and educate team members across various departments on best practices. Before joining Safely, Amber worked as a GAP Adjuster Supervisor. Her early career includes serving as a customer service representative and unit manager at Assurant Specialty Properties as well as business operations manager at Farmers Insurance. Amber was born in Dayton, Ohio and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance.

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