Many carpet cleaning technicians are called in to clean the carpet after a tenant has moved out and before the unit is put back on the market for rent.

However, very often property managers determine whether the carpet needs to be cleaned by doing a visual walk-through. If it looks clean they may forego having the carpet cleaned to save the expense.

However, technicians should advise property managers that this is no longer a good practice. Instead, carpet should be cleaned, preferably using a hot water extractor, after every move-out.

The reason?

There may be some unpaying residents living in the apartment’s carpet that the manager is not aware of: Bedbugs.

According to a 2010 study by Terminex, the pest control firm, cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles have some of the worst bedbug infestations in the country.

Bedbugs are often discovered in rental units in the warmer months of the year, not because bedbugs are a seasonal insect, but because the warmer summer months are when many renters move in and out of units. Very often that is when property managers first discover that a unit has bed bug problems.

Determining whether or not a vacant rental unit has bedbugs can be tricky. If the carpet looks clean and the former tenant never complained about these pests, it is reasonable to assume that the problem does not exist. However, this is not always the case. And if it turns out that there are bedbugs, it can prove to be a big headache for property managers.

Eliminating bedbugs once the unit has been re-rented is much more complicated and involved. While the bedbugs may have just been living in the carpeting of the vacant unit, they may now be living in the beds, furniture and clothing of the new tenant.

Even more, legally a tenant can often break a lease if a bedbug problem is discovered shortly after moving in. As of 2011, tenants in every state in the country but Arkansas are legally entitled to “fit and habitable” housing, which includes the absence of vermin. Bedbug infestations are generally considered vermin.

Here is the advice technicians can offer property managers of rental units when a tenant moves out. These include both reactive steps, treating a bedbug problem if one has been discovered, and proactive steps, helping to prevent a bed bug problem from developing:

  • If bedbugs are suspected, a pest control firm should first be brought in to treat the unit.
  • Once the unit has been treated, it should be detail vacuumed. A backpack vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will come in handy. The HEPA filter will help protect indoor air quality, and backpacks are flexible. It can be used to vacuum not only carpet and floors but under cabinets, inside cabinets, baseboards, moldings, closets and so on. Note: If the vacuum has a removable filter bag, when it needs to be changed, put the bag in a plastic bag, seal it and dispose of it outside the unit.
  • Next, extract the carpet using a hot water carpet extractor. Should there be bed bugs, the extractor will help remove them, as well as their eggs, from carpeting. The heat may also help kill bugs and their eggs if present. Note: Concentrate on the outer parameters of the carpet. This is where bedbugs in empty units tend to hide.
  • If bedbugs are not suspected in a unit, it is typically not necessary to call in pest control, but you should follow all of the same steps of detail vacuuming and extracting the carpets as described above.

Taking all of these steps is also proactive because bedbugs have a tendency to travel from one unit to another. Eliminating the pests in the vacant unit can help prevent them from moving into another.

Sean Martschinke has been involved with the professional cleaning industry for nearly a decade. Today, he is the product manager for Tornado Industries, manufacturers of professional cleaning equipment.