NYC Health Code, Pest Prevention and Management

We submitted comments on this proposal to amend the NYC Health Code (PDF). The proposed changes have to do with pest prevention and management, without reference to pesticides or application of pesticides, which are regulated by DEC.

Bed bugs were not specifically on the menu, but naturally we have some thoughts about that:

New York vs Bed Bugs is a policy advocacy group founded in response to the resurgence of bed bug infestations in New York City.

We have reviewed the proposed reenactment of Article 151 of the New York City Health Code and wish to comment on Section 151.02(c), “Pest management plans.”

Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects that are capable of active dispersal between apartments and between floors in a multi-unit dwelling. Eradication of a bed bug infestation, unlike that of other undesired insects or rodents, may require a costly and invasive regimen of multiple pest control treatments, including but not limited to the following protocols: a) laundering of every item of clothing and fabric, b) moving and emptying of furniture and household items, c) isolation and bagging of infested items that cannot be decontaminated, d) removal and disposal of infested items, and e) possible long-term storage of infested belongings.

Given the resurgence and spread of bed bug infestations in New York City, the invasive nature of current best-practice bed bug management protocols, the propensity for an infestation to spread between apartments, and the possibility of (sometimes significant) allergic reactions and secondary health effects to residents whose apartments are infested—as well as the particularly vulnerable position with regard to these risks of the elderly and disabled—where the identified pests are bed bugs, a pest management plan in a multi-unit dwelling should include a) notification of all residents, and b) inspection and possible simultaneous treatment of all apartments surrounding an infestation (the floor above, the floor below and all units on the same floor as the identified infestation).

The Board should consider making explicit provisions under Section 151.02(c) to ensure that the Department of Health, and other appropriate agencies, have the authority to mandate, as part of a written pest management plan, 1) the notification of all tenants in a building where a bed bug infestation has been identified, and 2) the inspection of all apartments adjoining an identified infestation.

We referenced some of the sources discussed here.

I also realized this week that anyone can petition the New York City Board of Health to adopt a rule. I never thought I’d say this but right now I really wish I were a lawyer.


  1. Annette Almanza

    I made a trip to NY on Dec. 18th thru Dec. 22nd and my guest including myself were bitten by bed bugs at a Five star hotel. On returning from NY trip, back to Miami I had to dispose of my luggage, bomb my house for possible infestations, visited my physician who prescribed antibiotics and cream, had to have my coat cleaned, and as a Massage therapist was not able to work for one week (due to bites all over both arms, neck,) per my physician’s request. What are the possibilities for a lawsuit from this terrible incident?

  2. Renee Corea

    I’m very sorry for your experience, Annette. You should consult a lawyer. Unfortunately, we don’t have a recommendation. However, this is now a common area of litigation and you should not have any trouble finding someone with experience. This FAQ on bedbugger may be helpful in your search. This post linking to a very good interview is also probably something anyone contemplating a lawsuit should check.

    But we can tell you that bombing your house is not something you should do. If you had brought back any bed bugs, or if you had an active infestation, it would be near the top of the list of things not to do. Bombing makes infestations more difficult to treat. So, no more bombing.

    Good luck. I hope that’s the end of the bed bug experience for you.

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  4. Jen

    Does anybody know how to find if any NYC hotels are doing anything to prevent bed bugs currently?

  5. Renee Corea

    Jen, I replied to your email.

    Checking tripadvisor and engaging the hotel directly on the issue might yield some information, but it will take legwork. Learning to inspect the room before you settle in might be the wisest course, and it’s a skill we all need to acquire in these times.

    Good luck and I hope you enjoy your trip.

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