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November 23. 2013 12:29AM

Focus of Manchester meeting will be rooting out those bed bugs

MANCHESTER — A new state law that requires landlords to quickly address complaints about bed bugs will be the main topic of an all-day conference Monday in downtown Manchester.

The New Hampshire Bed Bug Action Committee expects 200 people, including landlords, tenant groups, health care providers and government officials to attend the conference at the Radisson Hotel. It is being funded by the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, which oversees commercial pesticide use in the state.

Rick Castillo, one of the organizers and a housing counselor at The Way Home, said the New Hampshire Bites Back II conference should mark a turning point in New Hampshire, as efforts move from reaction to prevention of the pests.

“I believe we can greatly reduce the negative impacts of bed bug infestations such as lost school days, lowered work productivity, the high cost of treatment and discarded furniture not to mention the pure agony people experience from being bitten while they sleep at night,” Castillo said.

On Jan. 1, a new law goes into effect that sets up responsibilities for both landlords and tenants once bed bugs are discovered in an apartment.

For example, a landlord must investigate and remediate an infection within seven days of receiving a complaint from a tenant. The landlord is financially responsible for the remediation and must give tenants written instructions about how to prepare for treatment 72 hours in advance.

Tenants have responsibilities too. They must allow a landlord emergency entry into their apartment after a bed bug complaint has been received. They must prepare their apartment for treatment. And they can be charged for the cost of the treatment if they are deemed responsible for the bed bug infestation.

A tenant is presumed responsible for an infestation if bed bugs are found only in the one unit and no other bed bugs have been reported in that unit or adjacent units for six months.

The law allows a judge to issue penalties to landlords and tenants when provisions are violated. It also allows for eviction if tenants disobey notices from the landlord.

Currently, towns and cities have different ordinances and procedures for addressing bed bugs, Castillo said.

In Manchester, code officers won’t visit a building unless tenants from two apartments complain about bed bugs, Castillo said.

“That just plays right into the hands of the bed bugs,” he said.

The conference will include workshops with topics such as integrated pest management, information sharing and a question-and-answer session with the keynote speaker, Cornell University entomologist Allison Taisey.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas is scheduled to give opening remarks.

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