BY DR. JIM FREDERICKS AND CINDY MANNES
Multi-family housing facilities, including condominiums, are among some of the toughest structures to manage, and especially so when it comes to effectively controlling pests. The close proximity of neighbors often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of an infestation and may even amplify the situation. In many condo facilities, units share walls and floors, and utilities are oftentimes connected between units. The shared nature of multi-family living creates pathways for pests to travel from unit to unit. Common areas, such as lobbies, hallways, community rooms and fitness rooms, can be pest magnets.
It is essential for association board members and residents to join together in keeping pests at bay and for keeping a watchful eye and reporting potential problems. The board and association manager can further protect the property by partnering with a qualified pest professional to establish a pest management program that will ensure success in preventing and controlling infestations.
Understanding your Risk for Pests
Pest problems, such as bed bugs, cockroaches, flies, wasps, rodents and birds can all become problematic for residents in multi-family environments. Understanding an association’s risk for a pest infestation is important for determining what to include in a pest management program.
New and existing residents are often a root cause of many pest infestations. New residents in particular can bring infested items, such as boxes from storage or furniture, into the building when they move in, putting the property at risk for an infestation. Existing residents can provide entry for pests in their day-to-day activities. Pests are sneaky and can enter through open windows or sliding glass doors, through ventilation slats for AC units, under doors lacking door sweeps and around windows lacking weather stripping. They can also find access through expansion joints on the ground-level slab floor, through weep holes, under siding or through gaps in the masonry. Potted plants, mulch beds and landscaping, as well as utility and plumbing conduits can provide additional access for pests.
Travel and deliveries also provide another access point for buildings. Travelers and delivery personnel may bring hitchhiking pests, such as bed bugs into the building, which puts each unit at risk.
Once an infestation is found, no matter the cause, it is the job of the board, association manager, residents and pest professionals to work together to remediate the situation.
Creating a Pest Management Program
While establishing a pest management program may seem like a daunting task, it is very important to be proactive and have a plan in place before a pest infestation strikes. It is also important to realize that pest control is not something to do on the cheap, as this can result in incorrect management of infestations. A proper pest management program will ensure residents and staff are knowledgeable about what to do when they spot pests. Your association’s reputation is on the line.
To help develop a pest management program, work with a professional who can conduct an audit of the buildings and identify vulnerabilities in the structure. An effective program will most likely incorporate a customized Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, which focuses on prevention by eliminating entry point and sources of food, water and shelter. Once the plan is determined, be as specific as possible with procedures and responsibilities. As the support of key staff and residents is essential to the success of the program, consider offering education sessions where they can learn how to recognize and report pest incidents.
Multiple visits by a professional may be required, where they will oftentimes employ a variety of pest control techniques and services. Each pest has its own unique lifecycle, and most have times when they are the most vulnerable. This knowledge and expertise is why partnering with a reputable pest professional is so valuable. It will not only provide you with the peace of mind, but professionals can help you identify which pests the building is at risk for during each time of the year.
Choosing a Pest Professional
Pest problems require quick and effective action. When selecting a company to partner with, there are four main considerations:
- Evaluate pest control companies to ensure the personnel assigned to conduct services are qualified and well trained. Ideally, confirm they are members of national, state or local pest management associations.
- Ensure personnel present a clean, professional image. As much as they will be representing their company, the pest professional will also be representing the community association while on site; it is important they present a clean image.
- Seek out recommendations regarding pest management services. “Word of mouth” references from other board members can provide the most honest evaluations of partner pest professional companies.
- Do your research. Before a board signs an agreement, they should first check online resources to evaluate the company’s reputation and services. They also need to fully understand the services and any guarantees covered in the contract. PestWorld.org is a comprehensive site that addresses all pest-related topics and provides a zip code locator to find qualified and licensed local pest professionals.
Taking steps to prevent pests from infesting a property can save time, money and needless worry. In addition to working with a professional to implement an IPM program, here are just a few pest prevention techniques:
- Dispose of garbage regularly and store in sealed containers
- Keep basements and storage areas well ventilated and dry
- Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the buildings, including entry points for utilities and pipes
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed
- Repair decaying exterior wood as some insects are drawn to it
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows
- Don’t overlook proper drainage at the foundation; install a drainage system, which will channel water away from the building
- Make sure that there is no standing water on flat roofs
- Develop a bed bug protocol for the building. (You will find helpful guidance at: http://www.pestworld.org/media/3288/bbprotocol-apartments.pdf)
- Inspect common areas and furniture for bed bugs regularly
- Respond quickly to resident complaints or reports of pest problems
Developing a pest management program for an association is essential to managing the health and wellbeing of residents, the reputation of the community and for acquiring new residents. Employees, residents and a partner professional pest control company should work together to keep pests at bay.
Dr. Jim Fredericks and Cindy Mannes are with The National Pest Management Association.