Bugger Off!

I’ve officially become the buzzkill of the group.

Whether I’m traveling with friends, going to the movies or getting on the metro, no one is allowed to have any fun until I have performed a proper bed bug inspection.

And I don’t just mean a quick sweeping of the eyes. I’m talking flashlights, magnifying glasses and—as was the case during a recent hiking trip to Utah—headlamps.

This semi-OCD ritual annoys my companions to varying degrees, but I just can’t help myself. I’ve been to one too many seminars and written one too many articles about those nasty critters to look the other way.

I’ve also had an unfortunate run-in with them at an Italian hostel, and can say from personal experience—and lots of money spent on anti-itch crème—that you don’t want to be anywhere near the bugs. So excuse me if I ask you for the ninth time if that tiny speck next to my pillow is a cookie crumb or a bed bug egg.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) seems to share my concern.

HUD has recently issued guidelines on how to prevent and control bed bug infestations for HUD-insured and HUD-assisted multifamily housing properties. The guidelines outline the rights and responsibilities of HUD, apartment owners and managers and residents. They also indentify best practices under an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. They make no mention of headlamps.

Among the key provisions, owners and managers:

1. Cannot deny tenancy to applicants who had a previous bed bug infestation. Welcome news if you’ve stayed at the same hostel that I did in Venice. Bed sheets stored in a communal bin = guaranteed bed bugs.

2. Can voluntarily offer to inspect a resident’s furniture and require non-chemical treatment upon the resident’s move-in. I doubt someone would inspect the seams of my luggage more thoroughly than I, but why not bring in an extra set of eyes?

3. Can offer, but cannot require, inspection or non-chemical treatment of used furniture added after move-in or non-chemical treatment of unpacked luggage when residents return from a trip. Necessary when your father shops at Goodwill on a semi-regular basis.

4. Are required to contact residents within 24 hours of the resident’s report of possible infestation, and, where possible, inspect units within three calendar days of the reports and begin treatments within five days.

5. Cannot charge residents to cover the cost of treatments. The indignity of being covered in red bumps is punishment enough.

6. Are not required to reimburse residents for related expenses, such as buying new furniture or clothing or hiring cleaning services. Or buying Lanacane.

7. Are not required to relocate residents temporarily unless treatments made the apartments uninhabitable.

It’s nice to know that when I flip hotel mattresses with the intensity of a bodybuilder flipping a tire, HUD is on my side.

For more HUD’s bed bug guidelines, check out the October issue of units, which mails Oct. 8.

E-mail bed-bug prevention advice to lauren@naahq.org