Legislation would require disclosure of bed-bug infestations

In an effort to crack down on blood-sucking bedbugs, San Francisco may soon require pest control companies to provide monthly reports of their eradication efforts and make landlords give tenants a two-year record of any such infestations.

Tenants shared horrific tales of scars and blood-stained sheets, and issued complaints about a general lack of response in eliminating the pests during Thursday’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing on legislation aimed to curtail bedbug blight.

Bedbugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood, usually late at night. They are not considered carriers of disease, but their bites can cause redness, itching and swelling.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who has made tackling bedbugs a priority, authored legislation that would require the Department of Public Health to collect and disseminate monthly reports from pest control operators about the number of housing units they treated. It also would require landlords to disclose a two-year bedbug history upon request by prospective tenants, and it would force them to treat infestations in compliance with regulations drafted by the department, which would certify the treatments within 30 days.

The rules also would apply to hotels serving tourists, except for the disclosure provision.

Violators would face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Richard May, who has worked as a renters’ counselor at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said the legislation’s approval would put San Francisco “at the forefront of the fight against bedbugs.” May called bedbugs “a pervasive and ongoing problem” and noted that San Francisco is a major tourist attraction.

“We never want this place to be known as a bedbug haven,” May said.

The legislation grew out of more than two years of discussion by San Francisco’s bedbug working group, which includes representatives from the Mission, Tenderloin, Chinatown and South of Market neighborhoods.

Those involved in addressing the bedbug problem say there has been lack of clarity about how infestations should be addressed and who is responsible, which can create tension between landlords and tenants.

Karen Cohn, a department program manager, said her agency plans to advertise on Muni to alert tenants about ways to prevent bedbug infestations and how to report property owners who do not address the problem. The department would hire an additional worker to meet the certification requirement.

Kim, who called the parasites a “citywide epidemic that has been plaguing many of our different neighborhoods,” said the legislation was “just the first of many steps.”

“There is much more that we need to do,” she said.

The full board is expected to approve the legislation.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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