It is no secret that bed bugs are a nuisance that can spread quickly and can be a pain to get rid of. However, they can also pose a serious threat to your health.
They leave behind itchy, red welts that can cause rashes and permanent scarring. In fact, some people may even have an allergic reaction to them. Since bed bugs can spread very quickly and can harm you, many states have passed laws regarding these bugs.
Education and preventative measures are the best ways to avoid bed bugs. However, it is still good to know your rights as a hotel guest and the obligations owed to you by hotels if a bed bug problem should arise.
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Although no federal law regarding bed bugs exists, some states have passed their own laws regarding bed bugs and hotels. In particular, many states have laws that address a hotel’s obligation to keep you safe and to prevent these pests from staying the night in these hotels.
Unfortunately, most of these laws use the word “known,” which means that a hotel can’t put you in a room in which there is a known bed bug issue. However, that can be avoided by feigning ignorance.
Additionally, even though some states have laws in place that require hotels to address bed bug problems, the laws generally do not outline punishments or methods of enforcement.
Only about 23 states have state laws pertaining to bed bugs in some capacity and only about five of them have state laws directed specifically towards hotels. Those states include Kansas, Nevada, Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia.
Of those states, only Kansas, Nevada and West Virginia require that the hotel have the room fumigated and the bed bug infestation exterminated before using that room again. Nonetheless, having laws in place is important because your health should be a priority.
A few noteworthy state laws include Nevada and the city of Chicago in Illinois. According to Nevada’s state law, a hotel with a known infestation must not only fumigate and disinfect a room, but also completely renovate it until the bed bug infestation is entirely eradicated.
Chicago, a city that topped the charts four years in a row for having the most documented bed bug infestations, requires all of their city’s licensed businesses to provide pest-control services any time a bed bug problem occurs.
The city has also made multilingual fact sheets available for the general public, which offers guidelines for being aware of bed bugs.
Common law dictates that hotel managers must be responsible and use reasonable measures to promote the safety of guests. Reasonable measures would include the general cleanliness of the room as well as a proper response to a known bed bug infestation.
This would include fumigation of the room, extermination of the bed bug infestation and the restriction of the rental of that hotel room until the problem has been taken care of. However, promoting one’s safety is different from ensuring one’s safety.
Promoting safety simply means that the hotel keeps the rooms reasonably clean and that they take appropriate measures to handle a known bed bug infestation.
However, hotels are not responsible for using bed bug prevention measures, or for fumigating the room on a regular basis to ensure that no critters have taken up residence there.
They really only need to act once they have been made aware of a problem, or once that problem affects a guest. In addition to that, hotel managers are not responsible for new infestations or for infestations that they are not aware of.
Because of the lasting psychological effects, such as embarrassment or shame and physical effects, like permanent scarring, the law takes hotel bed bug bites and infestations very seriously.
If you or someone you know has been affected by bed bugs through a hotel stay, there are legal actions that can be taken.
Before you begin any legal path of action, make sure you document everything, including what hotel you stayed in, when you stayed and what room number you were in. Not only that, be sure to take pictures of the bed bugs (if you can) as well as the bites.
You will also want to keep a record and copy of all of the documentation involved when taking legal action. One place to start is by contacting the local health department, which will lead them to inspect the room you stayed in. Then, they can give you a copy of the report.
You can then proceed to file a formal complaint with the hotel manager to get all the necessary contact information. Should you seek medical attention, you will need to document and make copies of any files from your doctor’s visit.
You can also even save any receipts from having to get your luggage fumigated. If you ended up carrying bed bugs home, you can keep documentation of any expenses accrued due to exterminator fees as well.
Keeping careful track of the documentation will help you down the road if you should ever have to file a lawsuit. This is an option for you if the injuries or expenses are serious enough.
Even if you do not take the official legal route and just want to be compensated for the cost of your hotel room and any other minor expenses that you have incurred as a result of bed bugs from their hotel, there are a few simple measures you can take.
If you are still in the hotel room and manage to find a live bed bug, try to bag it and show hit to the manager. You can also ask the hotel manager to come see the bed bug evidence in your room, such as the molted bed bug shells, empty eggs, or dried blood spots, or feces.
That would probably be convincing enough, but you could always offer to leave a negative review on common travel sites, which will more than likely prompt a refund of your hotel costs.
The most that hotels can do to protect you from bed bugs is to stay on top of cleanliness. They keep the rooms clean by regularly changing sheets and washing linens, fumigating the room if bed bug infestation occurs and disinfecting once-known infestation areas.
However, cleanliness alone will not always help. This means that the rest of the bed bug prevention is up to you.
First of all, make sure you read the reviews when choosing a hotel to stay in. Hotels themselves won’t tell you if they suffer from frequent bed bugs, but previous guests will. Keep searching until you find the cleanest place that still aligns with your budget.
Inspect Your Room
Before settling into your room, check the mattress, sheets and pillows for any red, black, or brown stains.
These stains could hint at a previous or current bed bug infestation. That redness betrays the fact that bed bugs may have been crushed there and black spots may indicate bed bug waste. Bed bugs can also lay up to 500 eggs at a time, which are slightly yellow in color.
Other places to check are the curtains, around chairs and around outlets. Bed bugs also like to dwell amongst clothing or within luggage, so make sure you don’t bring the infestation with you when you go home.
Check everything thoroughly before leaving your house and soon after you arrive at your destination. Also, try to keep your luggage, purses and suitcases off of the floor. Hang them in the closet, put them on top of the dresser, or on any place that is elevated.
This is because your items are more accessible to bed bugs on the floor. If you see the tell-tale signs that you have a bed bug infestation on your clothing, seal these clothes right away in a garbage bag and exterminate the bugs with extreme heat.
You can do this by either washing the clothing in high temperatures, or by putting the garbage bag full of infested clothes in a freezer. Report any infestations to the front desk or other hotel employees.
As mentioned before, hotel management can be held accountable if you suffer bed bug bites while staying at a hotel.
Unfortunately, hotel bed bug infestations seem to steadily be on the rise. There are many theories as to why this is the case. Some factors we can consider is the rise in the rate of travel.
These days, people have the ability and the resources to travel across great distances in less than 24 hours. Especially in the summer months when travel is at its peak, bed bugs can easily be carried from one destination to another.
The considerable rise in the reporting of these bugs may also have to do with the growing knowledge that people are obtaining about these bugs and knowing what to look for.
Since people now know that bed bugs are a risk – to a degree – as well as a nuisance, they now know to be on the lookout when people may simply have just been less aware before. People have reported seeing the critters more prominently than even five to ten years ago.
Five of the most infested cities seem to be:
- New York, New York
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Detroit, Michigan
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Chicago, Illinois
From this list, it seems that bed bugs are more attracted to busy, Metropolitan cities more than countryside areas. It’s easy to assume that this is due to population size, since bed bugs love to feed on humans.
Bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases, but bites from these critters can cause redness, itching, swelling and allergic reactions. Most people think of hotels when they think of where bed bugs are most easily or most likely found, but they can be anywhere.
In fact, they’re reported to be found in apartments and the homes of families 95% of the time. Besides those places, they can also be found in stranger areas like caskets and in vents.
What Hotels Should Know
With the increasing news of bed bugs, it can feel overwhelming and impossible to completely eliminate the pests from your business. However, protection is possible with care and plenty of knowledge and training.
Here are some things you can do in order to make sure that your hotel is safe from bed bugs as well as any possible lawsuits:
- Know your laws and regulations
- Know what to look for and teach staff what to look for
- Get to know and hire pest control professionals in your area to ensure that your property is safe
- Create a protocol to follow if guests report bed bugs to ensure a timely and effective pest removal procedure
Know How to Respond
When a guest complains about a bed bug infestation or reports one, make sure you have an employee well-trained in an approved response that follows protocol.
This should be a protocol that is business-wide and that everyone is trained to be familiar with to lessen the risk of an impromptu response from a less experienced staff member, causing strife as a result.
- Offer compensation of some sort – maybe a free night of stay in another room
- Respond immediately
- Don’t question the guest about the validity of their claim – get them to another room and start room inspection for bed bugs immediately
- If a bed bug infestation is found, call pest control professionals as soon as possible
In this day and age, bed bugs are seemingly everywhere. However, there are precautions that hotel businesses and guests can take to ensure that their exposure to these bugs range from minimal to non-existent.
The reporting of bed bugs may be on the rise, but the know-how to get rid of them is spreading just as quickly.
For guests, always check for bed bug infestations, know what to look for and take timely and careful steps to completely exterminate them if an infestation is discovered on personal belongings or within rooms.
For hotel extermination of bed bugs, always get advice or help from pest control professionals before attempting to exterminate or use any kind of pesticides yourself. It could be against regulations to take such measures on your own.
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