In August of 2010, National Pest Control revealed that the UAE was suffering from a bedbug infestation, particularly multiplying during the summer months.
More than a year on, it seems the situation has barely improved, despite major efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Water to deal with the problem, including using more effective pesticides. Worse, the burden of dealing with these infestations is falling on renters - as opposed to the building owners who are paid to maintain livable dwellings.
Bedbugs are beyond foul. Not only are they annoying, invading a person's sleep with itchy, blood-sucking persistence, they are also notoriously costly and time consuming to eradicate. Rental agreements include maintenance fees; it therefore seems reasonable that building owners, and not renters, should be the ones cleaning them up.
Beyond that, tenants should also be made well aware if their accommodation has had a history of infestation, what chemicals were subsequently used to treat it and whether or not the problem has been completely eliminated.
Major metropolitan areas in the West, most notably New York City, have implemented rules like these with great success.
In the UAE, better regulation on chemical treatments is also in order, given that existing fumigation methods don't seem to work in every case. And because costs can be high - a leading exterminator in the UAE charges Dh750 for a three-visit bedbug treatment, for instance - some might seek to administer pesticides by themselves. Yet this can be dangerous for those in and near a flat, especially if the substances are misused or not properly applied.
In the Emirates' housing market, transparency is key to long-term sustainability. We've already seen a level of openness on how rents are calculated, and what flats are available for new tenants - with the online Tawtheeq service. A similarly transparent approach to maintenance and pest control records is also in order.
As Dinesh R of National Pest Control told The National, "bedbugs are getting genetically adapted and resistant to the pesticides". Given the enemy in this war, residents need all the help they can get.