Communicating with building management

Those of you who are fighting bed bugs in your apartment buildings know that it is extremely challenging to find effective ways of cooperating to eradicate infestations.

You may be looking for ways to improve communications — with your fellow residents and between residents and property management.

Here is a possible tool for you to consider:

Download text file: Letter from a tenants association to building management about bed bugs. You are welcome to use and modify this letter according to your needs.

This letter is obviously very specific to certain circumstances and comes at a point in the relationship that you may not be in. But I hope some of it may be useful to you in your circumstances. (I am exceedingly grateful to the group that is generously sharing it.)

Sure, there are many inferences you can make about the relationship between tenants and management in this building, and perhaps you would not be off the mark (there is no need for such letters when things are working as they should), but the important thing to realize is that no matter how badly things deteriorate, nor how difficult it seems, there are ways to steer communications towards a more productive and effective place.

Here are some thoughts about why this letter works:

1. It is polite, reasonable and diligent. You’ve heard of “fake it ’til you make it”? Right. So, even if you are not feeling particularly well-disposed, it is extremely important to appear to be polite and reasonable. I add diligent because I think it makes a difference in elevating the tone and purpose of any such conversation if it is clear from the outset that you have done your homework. What happens when someone receives a letter like this? One possible result is that they are compelled to be (or appear to be) polite, reasonable and diligent in return. The reasonable element is really critical. If you are ever in the unfortunate position to be in litigation with your building management, you will be glad that you took pains in all your recorded communications. Litigation, of course, is the worst possible way to solve a bed bug infestation.

2. It offers help. The logistics of eradicating infestations in apartment buildings are daunting. There is so much to do. One of the many tasks that is often not done or not done well is the education of tenants and building staff. If you are expecting property managers to educate residents, you may be disappointed. If instead you offer to partially take on the task of educating your fellow residents, you may be more successful. The city has some good basic educational materials [this is the English language PDF, other languages available] and there are many other sources, sometimes advanced and specialized but also some that are simple and effective. In addition, the city offers educational sessions for groups that you can take advantage of.

3. It makes a case for what is requested. This is part of doing your homework, analyzing what is not working in your own building specifically, and (as best as you can!) describing a path to the solution for the purpose of persuading others to follow it — as opposed to resorting to the dead-end strategy of assigning blame. After all, bed bugs are costing everyone lots of money. Everyone (well, nearly) wants them gone.

Yes, easier said than done, but what else is there? This is hard. As you know.

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