Bed bugs are the forbidden words in the vacation rental industry. Gross in nature and near impossible to exterminate, these little creatures can end up costing your vacation rental serious revenue if not properly treated and prevented.
If you’ve never personally dealt with bed bugs, know that they’re that much more common in shared spaces like vacation homes. In your own home, it’s easier to manage who uses the mattresses and bedding, but for vacation rentals, you’ve got a whole host of potential bed bug carriers.
It would be unrealistic to scan and prime every guest for bed bugs, but there are still measures you can take to prevent these pesky critters. Further, if you find yourself in a position where you do have bed bugs, we’ve outlined the crucial next steps for exterminating and carrying on with your reservations.
Let’s start with the most pressing question: how can you tell if you have bed bugs in your vacation rental property? If you want to ease your worries or confirm your suspicions, there are some signs to look out for.
Complaints of an “itchy” bed
There are many reasons for implementing a guest satisfaction survey, but most people wouldn’t guess bed bugs. Surprisingly, surveying guests for bedding comfort and overall sleep quality might give you clues as to if your property has bed bugs.
If your guests report to you that they felt itchy while laying in the bed or on the furniture, this might be your first indication of bed bug infestation. Moreover, when guests report small bites, you can be almost sure that there are bed bugs in your vacation rental. Still, this can’t be assumed until confirmed by a professional.
Checking the bed itself
If you want to know if your property has bed bugs, go straight to the source. Although not exclusively, bed bugs frequently live in and on mattresses. Most mattresses are white or have a muted pattern allowing you to track their footprints, so to speak.
It might not be for the faint of heart, but check the mattress for clues. Some of these indicators include small blood stains, eggshells, dark or rusty-looking spots from their excrement, and skin sheddings.
Where bed bugs hide
If you’ve made it past the bedding hunt, you’re one step closer to finishing your bed bug check but still not fully in the clear. Unfortunately, bed bugs are resilient creatures who can live in a variety of cracks and crevices in your vacation home. They can even live in the space between the wall and wallpaper! Checking all your fabric materials, decor, and bedding will help you to narrow down your search for bed bugs.
How to prevent bed bugs in a vacation rental
So you’ve completed the search for bed bugs and found nothing: what a relief! Unfortunately, preventing bed bugs is a continual process. Vacation rentals pose an extreme risk for attracting bed bugs, with the high number of visitors coming in and out of your house.
What can you do to prevent bed bugs in a vacation rental just shy of buying new mattresses for each booking? There are a couple of things you can do to regularly keep an eye on pest control and prevent bed bugs from infesting your property.
Protect your mattress
Most importantly, you need to make your property uninhabitable for bed bugs. To do this, you’ll need to eliminate the spaces they can reside in. They’re called bed bugs for a reason. These creatures typically inhabit mattresses and bedding. Purchasing mattress protectors for each bed and box spring will better your chances of not having bed bugs. The protectors should be air-tight and left on the mattresses permanently. Bed bugs can actually live up to one year without feeding, so if you open the protectors too frequently, you risk keeping an infestation going.
Train your housekeeping staff to spot them
You might only visit your property periodically, but your cleaning staff should know the home well. This is a simple way to prevent bed bugs and should be a quick add for your cleaning personnel. If you’ve already got a cleaning checklist in place, add an extra checkbox for inspecting mattresses and bedding for stains, eggs, or bugs.
For those that want to demonstrate extreme caution, you could always add pest control to your guest turnover procedure. Add this extra step to your task manager to make sure you don’t miss a beat or leave any room for bed bugs to go overlooked.
Replace your beds and bedding periodically
Even the sharpest eyes might not catch these pesky creatures. It’s always good practice to replace your beds and bedding periodically. Depending on the volume of guests you host, you might want to do this bi-annually or every couple of years. On average, hotels replace their mattresses every three to five years to give you an idea of when to take yours to the landfill.
Bedding can be replaced or refreshed every year or so. Consider it an opportunity to give your home an interior design makeover! If you aren’t ready to part ways with your bedding after just a year’s worth of use, you could have an annual deep cleaning of the bedding to offset the costs. Although bedding should be refreshed after every check-out, a deep cleaning, where you bag the bedding, double wash with higher levels of heat, and steam press, should be completed at least at the end of your peak season.
Have yearly pest management inspections
Vacation rental owners are always looking for ways to maximize their off-season. The ideal answer is more bookings, but if your vacation rental has some vacancies during the low season, you can use this time to carry out pest management inspections.
Once a year, you should have a professional inspect your entire property for bed bugs and any other pests that might lurk around your vacation home. Remember that prevention is cheaper than treatment, so if you do this once a year, you’ll help to ensure that your property is in good standing for your guests.
What to do if your vacation rental has bed bugs
If your property does have the dreaded bed bugs, there’s no need to panic just yet. Fortunately, the places that they infest are replaceable and, in some cases, cleanable. If you don’t already have one, you’ll want to devise a plan for how you’re going to exterminate your pest problem.
Put your reservations on pause
You cannot host guests so long as you knowingly have a bed bug infestation at your property. Not only would it be unethical, but you also risk a lawsuit. While you line up an exterminator and take the necessary steps to eliminate the problem, you’ll need to cancel or reschedule your upcoming guests. Only you know how long it will take to fix the problem (factoring in the extermination process) so adjust your reservations accordingly.
If you can get a pest management company out to the property immediately, then you may only need to cancel one reservation. When you do cancel, try to stay in good graces with your incoming guests by offering a full refund and discount for their next stay.
Call an exterminator ASAP
This might be an obvious step, but securing your extermination process as soon as possible will prevent you from losing too much money. You might have to pay more for an emergency visit but remember that the cost of this expense could be less than the potential damage of ongoing bed bug infestations and lost reservations.
Clean what you can in the meantime
An extermination service is going to help you to address your infestation problem, but there are still some things you can do while you wait. If you’re planning to keep your bedding, get them professionally cleaned as soon as possible and get ready to bag and store them for up to a year.
These creatures can also live in the tiny cracks and crevices of your vacation home, so cleaning off all surfaces, decorative pieces, and even light fixtures might help to eliminate the problem. You’ll also want to check the walls, corners, and molding to make sure there’s no trace of bed bugs.
What is the vacation rental bed bug addendum?
After a city-wide outbreak in New York City’s hotels and stays, the city deemed itself under attack from bed bugs. While many cities across the country work towards finding a solution for bed bugs, a couple of legal procedures have arisen. Many towns have a site to report bed bugs found in hotels and vacation homes.
In an attempt to address the issue, many authorities are encouraging a vacation rental bed bug addendum. Further, owners are happy to add it as it can help to save you from legal bed bug-related troubles in the future.
The vacation rental bed bug addendum is an addition to a vacation rental agreement that ensures both parties, property owner and guests, understands their responsibilities when it comes to bed bugs. Guests have a responsibility to prevent bed bugs and not bring them into the home, while hosts should maintain a high standard to prevent and eliminate the pest problem.
If your skin is crawling from reading this, just imagine encountering these critters! There’s not much worse than finding bed bugs in your vacation rental, which is why you’ll want to take every precaution to keep them out of your home. Your guests will thank you and so will your mattresses.
Adding “bed bug management” to your list of tasks can feel like just another chore, but it’s a true benefit to your business to have an effective pest control strategy in place. All labor and assignments, even bed bug inspections, can be added to your task management system. Lodgify offers a robust solution for managing staff, reservations, and your own website. Check it out by starting our free 7-day trial today.
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