Bed bugs are just gross. These pests can cost you thousands of dollars in damages and ruin your Airbnb listing. Bed bugs and airbnb just do not go well together. First, let's introduce you to these nasty little pests...
Bed bugs are small, oval shaped, brown insects that live off the blood of animals or humans (imagine these as vampires for Airbnb guests - YIKES). After feeding, the bodies swell up and turn a little redder. They don't fly, but they move very quickly and can populate and infest your Airbnb. Importantly, they love to hide in box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they can come out at night and feast on human blood.
Because we know we don't want these little critters staying in our Airbnbs without paying (just a joke) we need to know how to prevent them. There is a 3 step plan to prevent bed bugs. First, purchase the right gear. Second, install the gear properly. Lastly, bring in the pros.
In all of my years servicing vacation rentals, I always advise my clients to purchase bed bug covers for the mattress, box spring, and pillow cases. These are zipper covers made of special fabric to prevent bed bugs from inhabiting your beds. Are these guaranteed? Unfortunately, with these pests, there are no guarantees. However, covers are an effective prevention method. My recommendations are:
Twin Sized Beds:
Full Sized Beds:
Queen Sized Beds:
King Sized Beds:
You can purchase diatomaceous earth from Amazon, Home Depot, or Lowe's. Using this chemical to dust lightly you are able to benefit from the following:
- Safe killing of pests by disrupting the shell of the bug and dehydrate them. The dust does not have any pesticides or toxic compounds to humans, but still exercise safety and wear a dust mask
- Slow acting and long lasting effects when you have an infestation, it can take up to 2 weeks to kill
- Finally, make sure you spread the dust thinly and not in one lump, they will naturally avoid that area not wanting to die
Keep the area clean at all times, you can use bleach, pinesol, and even a carpet cleaning machine depending on the floors surrounding the infected area.
Bed bugs pose a real threat to a profitable business, particularly for short-term rental hosts (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.). Leaving aside bad reviews or a potential lawsuit, hosts need to know if they have insurance to cover for bed bugs. Many insurance carriers flat exclude coverage for “infestation” so it’s highly recommended you check with your insurance carrier whether coverage exists or not. Learn more here where leading short-term rental insurance company, Proper Insurance, discusses the details of coverage for bed bugs.
Ask yourself, would you want a review stating you have bed bugs. A better question, is it ethically right to keep a guest in the middle of an infestation? Absolutely not. Because of this, it is wise to cancel any reservations in the near future while bed bugs are being exterminated. Please note, you do not have to cancel bookings far in advance if you can reasonably get rid of all of them before guests arrive. To clarify, if you have a booking in December, but you have bugs in June you do not have to cancel the booking. By taking prompt action, you should be bed bug free before then!
With the issue ripe for scams, you have to research your pest control provider extensively before hiring. In my market, I use Truly Nolen (I receive nothing for the recommendation and I am honestly pleased with their service). With that being said, bed bug removal is EXPENSIVE. It can run you $1500-4500 depending on city and level of infestation. Be sure to ask several vendors for quotes. Angie's list and google are your best friends to find a local provider. To be safe, make sure they have at least several recent reviews.
A tip, if you ask companies to come out and inspect, 9 out of 10 will do so completely free of charge. Pest control professionals earn a ton on bed bug removal jobs and are happy to inspect and quote you without charging for a service call.
Since your Airbnb is currently a breeding ground, you need to prepare your space for removal. Do not rub your body all over the infested area. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people unknowingly bring bed bugs to other homes because they did not take these critters seriously. Cover your shoes up, leave your bags in the car. Ask your pest control company for instructions on prep. Here are some guidelines I have used in the past:
- Remove all laundry and put away in bags - take them out of the Airbnb
- Empty closets, bookcases, desks, boxes
- Remove all items on walls
- Open up sofas
- Remove linens, curtains, towels, fabrics
- Take your laundry to a laundromat and wash them on HOT for 1.5 hours.
- Utilize plastic bags to move laundry about
- Clean items should be placed in brand new bags and sealed up
- Move mattresses / box springs up
- Do not forget anything on this list or on the prep list given to you from your company
After your first treatment, please wait 24-48 hours before entering the property. The chemicals are strong, so you do not want to be in the unit while they are taking effect. Next, schedule a follow up appointment with your pest prevention company. Important to note, bed bugs are extremely hard to get rid of, so after your first follow up you should schedule another 30 days later. After you are in the clear, you can bring your laundered linens back into the home. To prevent another infestation, here is a list to serve as a review of what to do:
- Buy mattress & box spring encasements
- Purchase and treat with diatomaceous earth (if necessary)
- Cover pillows in encasements
- Perform a deep clean every 3-6 months
Finally, you are knowledgable on how to prevent bed bugs in your Airbnb. If you found this helpful, please subscribe and share with friends. Comment below with your own bed bug story, or questions - happy to answer! Vacation Home Help Blog is dedicated to improving hosting standards worldwide by providing FREE educational resources to hosts and rental entrepreneurs. In our home city, we also offer top-notch vacation rental cleaning, maintenance, and concierge services. Read more of our blog here.
Seeing how the bed bug problem is such a prominent issue for Airbnb hosts, short-term rental insurance companies have begun offering coverage for infestation. In particular, Proper Insurance now offers a policy which not only covers the host for liability should one of your guests hold you liable for the incident, but extends this coverage to cover bed bug removal and loss income as a result. You can learn more about Proper Insurance and their bed bug coverage in their recent blog post.