Sections on this page:
→ see also a list of NYC-specific resources on the Resources page
NYC Department of Health healthy homes bed bug guide^
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has published a bed bug guide (PDF) that is also available for download in Spanish (PDF), Chinese (PDF), Russian (PDF), Creole (PDF), Italian (PDF), and Korean (PDF) — check for other languages that may be translated here. Call 311 to request a free copy of the English-language printed booklet (other languages available only as downloads). You can use this basic and easy-to-follow guide to spread awareness about bed bugs and to educate neighbors, landlords and friends who are new to the problem. (Check our resources page for more bed bug management guides.)
Department of Sanitation Rules for Disposing of Mattresses and Box Springs^
Starting December 3, 2010 DSNY will require all mattresses and box springs set out for collection to be encased and sealed. Full text of the rule (PDF):
§ 1-04.1 Collection of bedding.
(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section, “Bedding” shall mean any mattress or box spring which can be used by any human being for sleeping or reclining purposes.
(b) Any person disposing of bedding for Department collection shall enclose such bedding within a plastic bag. Such bag shall be constructed in such a manner and be of such size as to readily contain the bedding to be disposed of. Such bag must be securely sealed after the bedding is placed inside.
(c) Failure to enclose any bedding placed at the curbside or other designated area for collection by the department within a plastic bag pursuant to this section shall be a violation of §16-120 of the New York City Administrative Code.
Full enforcement will begin January 3, 2011. The fine will be $100. The rules are spotlighted on the front page of DSNY’s website. See the press release, a graphic notice (PDF) available as a download, and a note from the commissioner in which he makes an additional recommendation:
that plastic mattress bags be placed around the discarded bedding before it is removed from the room out to the curb to further prevent bed bugs from infesting other parts of the home or apartment building.
Sealing items in the room before removal is an important principle of bed bug management and you should practice that for anything that is being removed from an infested room.
The rule applies to all mattresses and box springs, not just bed bug-infested ones.
Here are a few other things you should know. The mattress refurbishing industry does not have effective sanitizing protocols in place, and yet mattresses and box springs in the city are routinely scavenged for this purpose before they are ever collected by sanitation. Therefore, the closer to collection time that mattresses and box springs can be placed on the curb, the better, if at all possible. It is also good to attempt to make things unusable or unattractive before sealing, as well as placing a clear warning sign on items that are infested, as ordinary people in your neighborhood will also pick up stuff from the trash and risk exposure.
A bed bug infested sign, however, is not a requirement of this new Department of Sanitation rule.
In places where there is strong pushback from building management against using such signs, it may be a less-freighted alternative to simply use DSNY’s notice (PDF):
Bed bug disclosure law forms^
DHCR has published the necessary forms for the new bed bug tenant disclosure law (New York City Administrative Code § 27-2018.1) which mandates a notice of one-year bed bug infestation history be given to new tenants. The notices are required of all property owners offering residential leases:
- DBB-N – Owner’s Notice to Tenant Disclosure of Bedbug Infestation History (For New York City) (PDF)
- DBB-NO –
Tenant’s Complaint of Owner’s Failure to Disclose Bedbug Infestation History/Notice and Order (For New York City) (PDF)– this form is no longer available from DHCR’s website. Their reason? “There are lots of forms that are not available on the website.” Tenants have to call 1-866-275-3427 or call/visit one of the borough offices to request a copy of the form and then the form will be mailed to the tenant’s address (it has to be mailed to the tenant’s address)
DHCR can order the property owner to provide the bed bug history notice upon the tenant’s complaint, but there are no penalties for non-compliance — except insofar as, in the case of rent-stabilized apartments, there are penalties for failure to attach a rider to vacancy leases that must itself be accompanied by the bed bug notice (PDF).
For an overview of lawyerly questions about the law, see Bedbug Disclosure Law Provides More Questions than Answers (PDF) – Sherwin Belkin, Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP.
Maps and databases^
For citizen reports of bed bugs in New York City apartments and hotels, see The Bedbug Registry’s New York City map. You can also search online reviews in travel sites (such as) for bed bug complaints at the hotels you are considering, but nothing can guarantee a bed bug-free location in any city large or small. Better to learn how to inspect and how to avoid taking them home if you encounter them. Resource links and a comparative NYC/Florida discussion here.
For bed bug violations recorded by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), use this tool to enter a building’s address and find the history of code violations. Remember that a building may have bed bug infestations and not have bed bug violations. Violations are triggered by tenant complaints to 311 which are in turn handled by HPD.
HPD’s online course and community classes^
HPD has a free interactive online course about bed bug management. You access the course registration via the orange link on the top right corner of HPD’s home page or on this education program page — now sporting streamlined registration (you only need to supply your name and email address):
HPD also offers an in-person bed bug course at their offices in lower Manhattan, a free class one evening per week (on designated Wednesdays) from 6:00-9:00 pm at 100 Gold Street, NYC 10038. Register online or call 212-863-8830.
And they can arrange to send an instructor to teach a bed bug course on-site at a not-for-profit community group or a tenants group. Contact Pam Glaser, Director of Public Outreach and Education, at 212-863-6721.
Information and downloads from New York vs Bed Bugs^
This is our February 2009 report on the problem of bed bugs in the city and our analysis of the available statistics:
- Bed Bugs in New York City: A Citizen’s Guide to the Problem – February 2009 (PDF)
- See also the FY 2009 update of HPD statistics (PDF)
- and a partial NYC bed bug statistics FY 2010 update (PDF) with new 311 data
While multiple agencies hold bed bug data, no one is minding the big picture. For Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) residential rental statistics in particular, the existing adversarial complaint system will necessarily reflect not the overall number of infestations but the most bed bug-negligent landlords and the most poorly-maintained buildings.
- Frequently asked questions
- The last update on the NYC bed bug advisory board
- Why are infestations spreading? (PDF) – a logic tree of the underlying problems
- Policies and strategies in other cities, bed bug guidelines and best practices, and help and self-help resources for landlord/tenant issues in NYC
- A review of the relevant New York State and New York City laws — note: written in July 2009, it does not discuss the recently passed landlord and schools bed bug disclosure/notification bills: see S8130/A10356B and A5434/S4472 (both of which were signed into law on August 31, 2010)
Click here to see the NYC-specific posts from the blog — for example:
- Notes on Lou Sorkin’s bed bug seminar — featured speakers included a lawyer, a tenant advocate and a tenant
- The 2009 NYC community health survey question — 12/10: see also an update with a look at the interesting survey data that’s become available
- The FY 2010 stats update and sources
- Discarded mattresses as an illustration of the complexity of bed bug problems in the city — 12/10: not very many happy bed bug stories in NYC but this one at least should be a thing of the past if the new DSNY rule (above) is widely adopted and enforced
- Communicating with building management — a sample letter
- A one-sheet for communicating with your neighbors — a flyer to distribute during canvassing
Please email if you need help finding resources.