When homeowners find pests within their houses, there is nothing that seems to be worse than that moment.  Whether it is an infestation of ants taking control of the kitchen, or termites turning the walls into lunch, in the aftermath of finding a pest problem, homeowners often reach out to the first pest control company they find which can, unfortunately, result in the hiring of a bad pest control company.  For homeowners that find themselves dealing with a pest control company not meeting their expectations, failing to eradicate the initial problem, or in need of cancelling a subscription or contract service the information here should be used as a blueprint for handling your pest control company problem.

So maybe you think you have a bad exterminator, but how do you know for sure?  Theresa Braine’s weekly column, Bedbugged, addresses the 11 signs of a bad exterminator in the Brick Underground Podcast.  While focused on bed bugs, the information is useful for identifying which companies the homeowner should try to avoid.

Before letting anyone with potentially deadly chemicals into your home, you should request, and they should furnish, certification and other paperwork that shows they are qualified to perform this work.  The following is Braine’s list of signs to avoid, with information for other pests along with bed bugs.

  1. He pronounces a bed bug infestation based on your bites and the pattern, without other evidence.

All pest control companies should seek out evidence of an infestation other than bites or marks on the skin.  Insects of all types make humans their dinner special, and bites alone are not confirmation of a bed bug infestation.  It is also possible to have a bed bug infestation and not know it because not everyone reacts to the bed bugs the same way with red inflamed marks.

2. She doesn’t ask to see a bug sample, or agrees to treat based on what you’ve told her, without evidence.

Just like you would not trust a doctor that treated you without an examination, just based on what you told him or her, you should not trust an exterminator that does not ask to see, or find, a bug sample.  Treating a bug without evidence would be like treating a stomachache without evidence for illness.

3. They rely solely on canine to alert, without verifying that the dog actually alerted to a live bed bug

It is best to avoid pest control companies that rely solely on dogs to alert to a bed bug infestation because dogs are known to make mistakes.  Treating your house just based on what a dog may indicate, without any other evidence, puts the homeowner at risk of paying for a service they may not need.

4. He or she can’t seem to distinguish bed bug myths from fact

There is a lot of misinformation available when it comes to dealing with all different types of bugs and pests.  Exterminators that perpetuate these myths only damage the industry and their own reputation.

5. They tell you that deep freezing will take care of the bugs

Deep freezing will kill all types of bugs, but only the bugs that the cold can reach.  This means that while you may kill the ants that are visible, or the bed bugs in the sofa, the bugs burrowed deep in the floors, the walls, or outside will not be affected by cryogenic freezing.

6. More is better

While it may seem like more is better would apply to pest control, overdoing it on the pesticides can be harmful to your health, and your children, and pets.  When it comes to pest control, moderation is the best way to experience the most success.

7. He or she cannot or will not produce a detailed list of the chemicals being used

If any pest control company is unwilling to tell you what they are putting into your house, it is best to steer clear.  State laws also require that exterminators share the types of chemicals they have, and anyone that refuses to be upfront should be avoided at all costs.

8.  You can’t find the person on the list of exterminators posted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Each state has a list of exterminators that have been vetted and which are certified or licensed to perform the services they provide.  Before hiring a pest control company, it is best to ensure that they meet the minimum standards set by each state.

9. They tell you to sleep elsewhere, rather than the bed

If a pest control professional tells you to sleep anywhere else in your house, do not hire them because they do not recognize the fact that bed bugs will follow humans to the living room, guest room, or anywhere else they choose to sleep while treating their bedrooms.

10.  They do not give you a detailed prep list for their visit

You should expect that before any work is done in your house, the pest control company will give you a detailed list of everything you should do prior to their visit.  If dealing with bed bugs, this would include bagging up your possessions, for ants, it would involve getting rid of food in open containers, repacking food into closed containers, and vacuuming out pantries to ensure no crumbs are left behind.  If the exterminator does not offer any detailed prep information, find someone else.

11.  They use foggers

While foggers may work for some bugs, they are ineffective in getting rid of the entire bug problem.  They only kill the bugs that the chemicals can reach, and instead of killing most of the bugs, it just forces them to escape, and if you’re living in an apartment, your neighbors will not be appreciative.

What should you do if you sign a contract with a pest control company that is not as effective as promised?  Firing a pest control company after a contract is signed can be difficult, or there may be high financial penalties. When looking to sign a subscription or contract service make sure to read all of the fine print, and to understand under what conditions a subscription or contract can be cancelled.  Discuss your expectations with the services offered by the pest control company to ensure that your expectations and their service meet.  If you want treatment every month, but they only offer quarterly treatment, they are not the service provider for you.

Stuck in a subscription service with a provider that is not meeting expectations?  The first step is to document everything and to raise your concerns with the management from the company.  If that fails to result in steps to correct the problem, the next step is to review the contract to find out how you can cancel the remaining service, what type of notice you may be required to give, and how you need to initiate the cancellation.  If there is no clause to get out of the contract due to issues with the services provided, unfortunately any action to cancel the control could result in the company taking you to court for breach of contract.  While this is rare, it could be a large financial burden and take months to handle.  In instances where there is no cancellation clause, the best course of action is to come to an agreement with the pest control company, offer to pay a token fee to cancel the service, and part ways.  For situations that cannot be rectified, the Better Business Bureau is a great resource for filing complaints and getting the situation corrected.

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