Tim Bird recognized an opportunity when he realized that property managers leasing single-family homes in his San Antonio, Texas, market were often held liable for bed bugs left behind by tenants who had already collected their deposits and moved on.
“Having seen a lot of court cases where a property management company takes the hit for a tenant’s infestation, I thought, ‘What if Mayday Pest Solutions were to offer a program to protect these firms?’” Bird shares. “We could inspect each property at the time a tenant announces plans to move out — well before they collect their security deposit — and either issue a pest-free certificate (much like a termite clearance letter) or advise both parties of the need for treatment. Any infestation would clearly be the responsibility of the tenant, who would be charged with eliminating the pest issue prior to turning in their keys.”
Bird began his program in the spring of 2018 with his established property management clientele and then started building this base through educational sessions with local chapters of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). NARPM has since named Bird and Mayday Pest Solutions its 2018 Affiliate of the Year for his dedication to supporting its members.
“Property managers value their relationships with their vendors, and to have one that goes above and beyond is much appreciated,” says Joyce Zimdahl, president of the San Antonio chapter. “Mayday provides efficient and gracious customer service, along with the level of detail and accountability that makes our jobs much easier.”
EYE-OPENING EDUCATION. Making Bird’s idea particularly timely was a new bed bug addendum made available through the Texas Association of Realtors in 2018. This rider enables property management companies to set forth policies and detail tenants’ responsibilities in circumstances involving bed bug infestations.
“In our March NARPM membership meeting, we discussed this new addendum and I commented, ‘Well, we really don’t have a bed bug problem here,’” says Zimdahl. “Shortly after the meeting, Tim invited my husband and me to lunch. He told us horror stories of bed bugs, many right here in our local community. I was shocked. He then offered to share his knowledge with other property managers, who more than likely had the same misconception of bed bugs.”
Marie Gabriel, president of the Texas Hill Country chapter of NARPM, says she had heard rumors of the rise in bed bugs. “With further investigation we concluded they were not rumors but realities, so I reached out to Tim and asked if he had information he could share with us. Before this, we had thought that only hotels, motels and apartments — not residential homes — would become infested with bed bugs,” says Gabriel.
Bird began conducting continuing education sessions and was overwhelmed by the high level of attendance and interest. “When I scheduled the first two sessions, with the San Antonio and Hill Country chapters, I expected maybe a half dozen project managers to attend; more than 50 showed up. And the four hours I had allotted for sharing and discussing the information wasn’t nearly enough to address all of their questions,” he says. “Once they understood the potential scope of liability, they wanted to be as informed as possible.”
Zimdahl adds, “We feel much more knowledgeable about bed bugs having participated in these sessions. We are able to educate our tenants on identification, treatment and responsibility should bed bugs be brought into the rental home. I believe this program would be beneficial for property managers nationwide. We hope to schedule Bird to educate our members at the next Texas State Conference through information sessions.”
MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL. Once a Mayday technician inspects a home and issues a pest-free certification, which applies to general pests as well as bed bugs, the property manager knows they won’t encounter additional treatment charges. “After we’ve cleared the home, we cover it for an additional 30 days, taking on the liability for any pest activity during the transition. This helps the property management companies not only mitigate their liability but also stand out from their peers, which makes them more appealing to investors. Tenants are also satisfied because they know they are moving into a clean home,” Bird explains.
Once a Mayday Pest Solutions technician inspects a home and issues a pest-free certification, which applies to general pests as well as bed bugs, the property manager knows they won’t encounter additional charges.
Mayday is now covering about 25,000 homes with this new program. Bird has increased staff and created a Pest-Free Certification Division to handle the additional business. And now the property managers working with Mayday on the program include pest management specifics in their rental agreements: Upon move-out, tenants are responsible for paying the inspection/recertification fee to the rental office, which forwards that payment to Mayday. However, this fee is waived if the tenant signs up for quarterly pest control service with Mayday when they sign the lease.
“This program protects our customers and helps us grow. It has been a tremendous opportunity all around,” says Bird.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.