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April 02. 2013 8:54PM

Bed bugs are target one for House bill designed to help

CONCORD - Bed bugs are a growing problem in New Hampshire, and landlords, tenants and municipal and state officials believe they have a way to begin addressing the problem.

House Bill 482 outlines the parameters for dealing with bed bugs infestations and the responsibilities of landlords and tenants to remediate the problem.

The bill grew out of the work of the Bed Bug Action Committee bringing those affected by bed bug infestations together to reach a compromise on the best methods to fight the problem.

"This is a genuine compromise," said Sarah Mattson of NH Legal Assistance at a public hearing on the bill before the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee Tuesday. "It's an enormous step forward on a problem that has been viewed as intractable."

Under the bill, landlords would be able to enter tenants' apartments without their consent to investigate a reported infestation and requires tenants to prepare their apartments for remediation.

Landlords would be responsible for the cost of remediation, but could later recoup the cost if a tenant is responsible for the infestation.

Landlords have to respond to a report of bed bugs within seven days or tenants can seek a court order.

Nick Norman of Derry, the legislative affairs director for the NH Rental Property Owners Association and a landlord, praised the bill, saying it has taken three years of hard work to achieve balance.

He noted dealing with bed bugs requires that the tenant cooperate to help solve the problem, while the landlord is allowed to use methods that best address the situation.

"As written, this bill is balanced and will make a great impact on handling the bed bug problem," Norman told the committee. "If you start mucking with it, it will get out of balance. Our plea is to accept as it is because we have already thrashed this out."

He and others said quick action is essential in dealing with bed bug infestations. The longer a tenant waits to report it or a landlord waits to take remedial action, the harder and more expensive it is to address.

Kelly McDonough of JP Pest Services of Milford told the committee "Not one person out there wants this bug in their home."

She gave the committee a primer on bed bugs and how quickly they reproduce and how difficult they are to kill. One bed bug can become 28,000 in six months, she noted.

One landlord spent $70,000 to get rid of the pests, she noted, but if they are caught early, duct tape can be used. "We have to stop these friends from moving around the state," she said.

McDonough noted professionals treat only 5 percent of the bedbug problems while tenants and homeowners treat the other 95 percent themselves.

The problem is growing worse in New Hampshire, said McDonough, who began working on the issue at Manchester's Langdon Mill apartment complex infestation in 2009 when she was a college student.

She noted her company has treated more nursing homes in the last six month than it treated in the last three years.

The bill is sponsored by Manchester alderman and Rep. Pat Long, D-Manchester.

The bill also would enable cities and towns to establish standards in local ordinances for infestations.

The committee voted 4-0 to pass the bill.

The Senate is likely to act on the bill later this month.

grayno@unionleader.com


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