Bed Bugs - Landlord Responsibilities

Bed bugs are small oval-shaped insects. Bed bugs do not fly; they crawl and get rides on clothing, furniture and luggage. Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale. It is possible for anyone, anywhere to have bed bugs.

Bed bugs in all stages of life are visible to the naked eye. Eggs and early stage bugs may be hard to see. Bed bug eggs are white, pear-shaped and about the size of a pinhead. Clusters of 10 to 50 eggs are found on surfaces, cracks and crevices.

Adult bugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed. They are 5 mm long, flattened and brown in colour. After feeding they get bigger and turn dark red.

Property Standards By-law & Residential Tenancies Act

There are two laws that outline your responsibilities as a landlord with respect to bed bugs:

  1. The Property Standards By-law No. 10-221 (PDF, 74 KB) requires dwellings or dwelling units to be pest free, including bed bugs.
  2. The Residential Tenancies Act or RTA 

Section 20 indicates:

  • The landlord is responsible for maintaining the rental units, lobbies, hallways, stairwells and laundry facilities in a good state of repair.
  • The landlord must ensure their building complies with health and safety standards set by the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario.
  • The landlord must ensure that their buildings are fit for habitation.
  • The landlord is responsible for the cost of building maintenance.

Section 22 states:

  • The landlord cannot interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental dwelling or building

Your responsibilities as a landlord

As a landlord, you should:

  • Have an Integrated Pest Management program for your buildings.
  • Encourage tenants to report bedbugs as soon as they know of a problem.
  • Respond quickly to tenant complaints.
  • Keep a record of bed bug complaints.
  • Inspect rental units suspected of having a bed bug infestation, as well as units beside, above and below the suspected unit.
  • Under the Act, a landlord should inspect between 8 am and 8 pm, after giving tenants 24 hours written notice.
  • Explain to tenants how they should prepare their unit for bed bug treatment.
  • Hire and pay for pest control treatment services by a licensed pest control professional who has experience managing bed bugs using Integrated Pest Management.
  • Give advance notice to tenants when a pest control professional will be entering a unit to treat for bed bugs and informing the tenant of planned use of pesticides.
  • Inspect all vacant units to ensure they do not have bed bugs or other pests before renting.

If a tenant does not cooperate to get rid of the bed bugs, landlords can contact the Landlord and Tenant Board.


What to do with bed bugs in rental units

An Integrated Pest Management program or IPM (PDF, 466 kB), is the most effective practice for eliminating or controlling bed bugs. We recommend that all landlords and building managers have an IPM program in place. IPM combines a variety of techniques to eliminate or control bed bugs.

Conducting a whole building inspection is the best way to fight bed bugs in your building. Many bed bug infestations are not reported by tenants, leaving the bed bugs to spread to other units.

Inspecting each unit for bed bugs can be achieved quickly and efficiently, and will save you time and money in the long run. These steps show a simple and affordable approach to quickly inspect each apartment to determine if there are bed bugs present. This approach has been shown to be an effective and affordable approach to conducting an inspection of each apartment unit, taking approximately 10 minutes per unit.

Advise tenants that you will be inspecting all apartments

  • 1 – 3 days before the inspection, send tenants written notice that you will be inspecting all apartments as part of your building maintenance and pest control program. 
  • Tell tenants that the inspection will check for signs of bed bugs around their beds and sofa areas.
  • Consider also checking for other pests as part of this inspection.
  • Tell tenants that the inspection will take approximately 10 minutes.
  • Speak with tenants at time of inspection.

If tenants are present at time of inspection, ask if they have had bed bugs in the past or think they have  bed bugs now.

  • How long ago?
  • Do you think your apartment still has bed bugs?
  • Do you know how you got them?
  • Record that you suspect the apartment has bed bugs if the tenant indicates that they think they may have bedbugs, or if they have had bed bugs in the past.
  • If tenants are not present, move to inspection.

Briefly Inspect Bed and Sofa for Signs of Bedbugs

  • For each bed, check the corners of bed sheets, bed frame, mattress and box spring.
  • Check the seams of sofa arms and exposed areas.
  • Do not turn over heavy furniture (bed or sofa).
  • Record that you suspect the apartment has bed bugs if you find any of the following during your brief inspection:
    • Dead bed bugs
    • Shed skins
    • Eggs
    • Bed bug stains
    • Blood stains from crushed bed bugs

Download a sample unit inspection sheet check-list (PDF, 133 KB)

You can also take steps to prevent the spread of bed bugs between units in your building.

  • Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, floors and walls with caulking to prevent bed bugs from entering or to eliminate places where they can hide.
  • Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into the rental unit.
  • Hire a licensed pest control operator to treat units where bed bugs are found. Treatment should be done at least two times, 10 to 14 days apart to effectively remove bed bugs.
  • Instruct tenants what they can do in their unit to help, including regular inspections.
  • Provide tenants with large bags for disposal of mattresses and large furniture that may be infested with bed bugs. Bags are available from the City by calling 905-546-2489.

Where to get help

Public Health Services
Call 905-546-2489 to speak with a public health inspector about identifying bed bugs or recommendations for Integrated Pest Management.

Landlord and tenant board
The landlord and tenant board helps with disputes between landlords and tenants about bed bugs.

Hamilton Housing Help Centre
Low income residents who are unable to prepare their unit for bed bug treatment due to a disability may qualify for help.  Refer then to the Hamilton Wentworth Housing Help Centre to find out if they qualify.

Pest control treatment companies

More information on professional pest control companies in your area can be found at:
Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario

Contact us

Public Health Services
Phone: 905-546-2489