|By Brian Lockhart, Connecticut Post,
BridgeportMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 02, 2011--Lawmakers want to force hotel, apartment and condominium owners to warn potential tenants or buyers about any recent problems with bedbugs and steps that were taken to eradicate the bloodsucking pests before renting or selling property.
"At least people have the opportunity to be warned," said Rep. Elizabeth Ritter, D-Quaker Hill, co-chairwoman of the Legislature's public health committee, which hosts a public hearing Wednesday on bedbug notification.
The bill would require hotels, landlords and condominium owners to provide written notice to possible tenants or buyers of any history of bedbugs during the previous year. And since the forms would be crafted by the state Department of Health, the legislation also requires that agency track the extent of Connecticut's bedbug problem. The bill does not address single-family homes.
"Decades ago they were satisfactorily handled with DDT, but it was so very detrimental to the environment it was banned ... Now they're coming back and very difficult to eradicate," Ritter said.
In 2009, bedbugs were found in a Stamford senior housing complex and the city-based St. Luke's LifeWorks. And the discovery of a single bug at Anna LoPresti School in Seymour in December shut down a kindergarten classroom.
A spokesman for the Connecticut Lodging Association, which has been tracking the proposal on its website, could not be reached. But Mike Morin, whose Stratford-based firm Bedbug Finders serves that industry, is concerned.
"I'm traveling in my car, (stop) at a hotel and say, 'Can I get a room, please?' " Morin said. "The manager says, 'I just want to let you know the room had a bedbug problem three months ago.' You're going to get back in your car."
Morin said hotels already feel pressure from consumers and the media to guarantee bedbug-free premises.
Ritter understands the criticism, but said an infestation notification system can also assist businesses.
"Say the local Holiday Inn has bedbugs, everybody knows it but there's not a mechanism to attest something was done," Ritter said. "I don't think that helps them, either. Honesty and forthrightness is also helpful in a situation like that."
Morin wants the state health department to begin tracking bedbug cases, as does Ryan Boggan, a public health inspector in Danbury. Danbury health officials last week hosted a public seminar on bedbugs.
"We have had a large number of cases over the past year," he said. "Typically, landlords are good about exterminating."
Rep. Andres Ayala Jr., D-Bridgeport, a public health committee member pursuing tougher laws to keep remanufactured mattresses and rental furniture bedbug free, worries the notification bill could unfairly penalize responsible landlords.
"But I sympathize with a person who has the heebie-jeebies about renting an apartment that had them," he said.
Staff Writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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