As the saying goes, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.
The idea of bed bugs alone can make anyone cringe, but keeping the pests away can be tough.
Plus, if you live in an apartment or multi-unit housing, you may be at more of a risk than you think.
Health officials say the biggest problem with bed bugs is that they can live almost anywhere in a home and travel easily between units.
But getting rid of an infestation can be a multi-step process, and for some renters, a point of conflict with their landlords.
"At first I thought it was bites and then it got worse,” said Alejandra Ramirez, who’s dealing with a bed bug infestation.
Ramirez and her three kids moved into her apartment eight months ago.
It didn’t take long to realize she wasn’t the only resident.
"We found bed bugs everywhere. It was really bad. It took like a month or two and it got worse and it got worse,” Ramirez said.
At one point, the bites got so bad on her daughter a teacher sent her home from school.
"She thought she had something contagious. And it was due to bed bugs,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez says she ended up getting rid of all her old furniture and moving into a different apartment.
But the bed bugs kept coming.
"I put a lot of money out of my own pocket and my apartment is very clean so I think at this point it's up to them to take care of it themselves,” Ramirez said.
So who’s responsible for getting rid of a bed bug infestation?
According to the Kern County Health Department, that answer is usually in the rental agreement.
With the property management or the owner of that particular building, what's outlined is the responsibilities of the owner and the tenant,” said Mariel Mehdipour with the Kern County Health Department.
But bed bugs are especially problematic when it comes to multi-unit housing.
"They tried to deal with the situation and fumigate it, then the bugs are very smart and they'll move from one unit to another to escape being killed,” Mehdipour said.
Enforcement of these situations falls under either the county or city code enforcement departments.
On average, officials say they deal with one or two complaints a month.
“Bed bugs have been known to exist without feeding for very long periods of time, even in some cases up to a year. So if a person did move out of an apartment and take all their furniture, the bed bugs could be alive waiting for the next host,” said Christopher Hengst with the Kern County Health Department.
And that’s exactly what Ramirez thinks is happening to her.
"Most of these apartments, the carpet needs to be out. Apparently these carpets are infested and carry the eggs,” Ramirez said.
Code officials say cleanliness has nothing to do with bed bugs and almost anyone can be at risk.
Also health officials say bed bugs themselves don’t carry disease but the bites can cause allergic reactions in some people.
For more information about bed bugs, click http://www.medicinenet.com/bed_bugs/article.htm