Doom next door: What to do when your neighbor has bed bugs

This might work: a Hazmat suit and a thumbs up. Image via PhotoBucket.

There are two types of bed bug infestations: One marches into your home and takes over the room, while the other crawls into your brain and just won’t leave. It’s the itching when nothing is there, did that piece of lint just move kind of infestation — the paranoia induced by finding out that one of your neighbors has critters. Short of Scotch Guarding  all of your possessions (not recommended, BTW) and sitting alone in a HAZMAT suit, since friends are just walking carriers, what do you do to calm your nerves and protect your residence when bed bugs are discovered next door?

To help you be Gandalf the Grey (“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”), I rang up the bed bug pros at Hill and Sons Pest Management  to find out. First, the bad news: your fear is well-placed. Bed bugs can travel 100 feet an hour, so if you have a fellow tenant with bedbugs, there is actually a good chance you’re next. When they get hungry, say after your neighbor has fled their infested apartment, they go on the hunt, easily finding a new home within the building, squeezing through any opening they can find.

The good news is there are preventative measures that your landlord should be paying for. New guidelines added to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2011 state that landlords who receive complaints of bed bug infestation are responsible for treating the infested unit along with the units next to, above, and below.

A smart landlord will have the whole building checked, performing treatment to those units necessary, and applying insecticides to vulnerable cracks and crevices throughout the building. (If your landlord won’t do it, preventative treatment to a single unit will run you between $100-$300.)

So what can an apartment dweller do?
Make wooden headboards a no go, since the two things bed bugs love are warm places (i.e.: your scalp) and wood. You can buy a product called ClimbUp Insect Interceptor (roughly $16 for a pack of four). These go on the four legs of your bed, or any other furniture in the home, and make it impossible for the bed bugs to climb up or down without getting caught. When using ClimbUps you want your bed and linens to be isolated.

Prevent your bed and bedding from touching the wall, rugs, floor, or furniture ensures that the bugs have no choice but to journey up the leg posts and get trapped. ClimpUps can be used on all furniture, the bed is just usually where if you have bed bugs they are going to be, or move to, since that is where they can snack on you the easiest. Some more prevention tips from our experts: Pick up plastic encasements for both your mattress and box springs, especially one that zips closed tightly with no opening. If you already have bed bugs, they get trapped inside and can’t bite through to snack on you. If you don’t, they won’t be able to get in.

Also, hunt for all openings and cracks at pipes, joints, and molding wide enough for a credit card to fit through. Seal them with silicone sealant (a.k.a caulk) to make it tougher for bed bugs to move from your neighbor’s apartment to your own. Lastly, once a week, vacuum thoroughly your carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture and dispose of the vacuum’s contents carefully, preferably in a sealed bag far from your apartment. Vacuuming and removing the contents outside the home can stop an infestation moving its way in, and is also especially helpful for people who buy thrifted items.

How can you tell if it’s too late?
If you find tiny bloodstains on the sheets from where you’ve been bitten

Remember that poem from childhood? “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, and if they do, beat them with a shoe, and then they’ll be black and blue.”  Too bad that doesn’t actually work.


  1. Instead of buying the Insect Interceptors, you can use double sided tape and it will work just as well. Because bedbugs can’t fly and their only real skill is hiding, they get stuck on the tape trying to climb up your bed’s legs. That way, you won’t get bites AND you’ll know for sure if you have bedbugs or not.

  2. Joey Klimko

    Stanford Court Apts., Dallas, Tx. The neighbor upstairs has had bed bugs for months and will not have them come and spray because he has so much crap that he doesn’t want to move it so he does bombs which have spread them everywhere. Management, Lorana says they can’t do anything unless he calls, They sent all the good neighbors nasty’s saying there’s had to be done immediately. I had to hire movers to put furniture in storage. I thru out $3,000 of antique furniture. 12 ats.that I know of have been infested.

  3. Carrie winkle

    I am told that my apartment complex Where I live That the walls are infested with bed bugs They spray it once a month.Will that keep them out?

    • Nope. I live in a 99 unit complex. I have absolute proof they’re living in the walls and the spray makes them leave for maybe a day or two before they come back just as bad as they were previously.

  4. johnmurphy

    Bed bugs are really hell of a problem and they hinder your lifestyle a lot and I mean a lot. Points made by Katherine in this post are really useful and effective. It is crucial to keep bed, bedding etc. away from wall, rugs, floor, or furniture. I was also in the same place and then I cam across this useful source: I used the facts mentioned in the post to get ride of bedbugs and they were certainly helpful and now my apartment is totally bed bug free.

  5. Hi I wanted to see if anyone can help me out, I actually don’t know if it’s bedbugs or not but you can see these little things around the edges of my living room and kitchen, but none upstairs where the bedrooms are at. None in the beds or anything, just downstairs an we are getting bitten in the middle of the day standing in the middle of the floor it seems like. And by the way this whole apartment complex is brick an cement. Wish I could post a picture for y’allto see. But if they are anybody that has an idea of what they are please let me know, I will take any advice I can get!!! But my main reason for thinking twice about being a bedbug is they are not in my beds at all just in living room and kitchen. Thanks in advance. Cynthia

  6. Veronica Brooks

    Two of my neighbors had bedbugs.
    They told the landlord and was told if they wanted there apartment sprayed, they had to pay $400.
    I am a senior citizen who don’t have that kind of money.
    Is there something else I can do.

  7. Kristen

    I live in pa. Does a landlord have to pay if the apartment building he owns has a bed bug problem and I got a motel tonight cause I just noticed the bed bugs can’t sleep in that yuck. Gonna call the bug guy and landlord tomorrow what else can I do ??

    • Tiffany

      I’m in property management and our lease states we do not cover bed bugs because that is something brought in by residents so no that is not law. If we find a resident is infested and causes other apartments to get them then they are responsible for their treatment as well. For all the comments above that said the landlords know tenants have bed bugs but can’t treat because they won’t let them that is completely bs. You are the landlord. You cannot allow a tenant to live with an infestation that causes issues to any neighboring apartments. That is grounds for eviction at our property.

      • mizzy

        Tiffany, that’s insane and shouldn’t be legal. I’m moving into an affordable building, right now am in the trying to clean everything possible stage. Found my first bed bug yesterday. Came out from under the refrigerator!!!! I do NOT have bed bugs where I’m currently living. So, since the bed bugs obviously were living in the unit (rent free, along with the mice since I found droppings under the stove top), why should I have to pay if the building gets a real exterminator who knows how to get rid of these pests? I have scrubbed, I have bleached, I have vacuumed 3 times in the last 2 days, I have laid down diatomaceous earth (food grade of course) around the entire perimeter walls, in every cabinet and behind the stove and fridge. So I ask again, why should I or any new tenant pay for extermination? Why is it assumed that a new tenant is bringing them in? It’s obvious in my case that they were already there.

        • Eddie

          Okay i live in a two apartment house a upstairs and downstairs about a 3-4 days after my upstairs neighbor moved we find bed bugs never had any bed bugs before the landlord tells us we have to pay is that right I live in Buffalo,New York

        • Ok I live in a two apartment house a upstairs and downstairs my upstairs neighbor moved about 4 days after me and my girlfriend find bed bugs the landlord will not get a professional exterminator keeps buying bombs and says that they will go away and if we want a professional exterminator that we have to pay for it that it’s not for them to pay for is that right I live in Buffalo New York

        • I would like to know this as well since I just moved in my apt last week and u can tell these nasty things have been here a while why is it they can blame new people for these when it’s obviously been a prob for a while I’m in Newark Ohio BTW what’s the laws here

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