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Healthy Housing
A Handbook for Portland Property Owners

A number of local efforts have recently shined a spotlight on the relationship between the built environment and the health of low-income Portlanders. Poorly designed housing; a lack of sidewalks and safe crossings; and limited access to recreation, schools, nature, places for social interaction, vital services, preventive medical care, and healthy food all contribute to health challenges that disparately affect low-income residents and communities of color.

Pest Management

Common Portland Pests

Bed bugs
Carpenter ants
Dust mites


Roaches, mice and other pests pose health and safety threats to residents, and they can do severe damage to your property. If left untreated, pest infestations may quickly spread throughout entire buildings. Multiple factors contribute to pest problems, some related to resident practices and others to property maintenance procedures and structural defects. The good news is that both residents and owners can take effective actions to eradicate pests—and to prevent infestations from occurring in the first place.

Pest Management Benefits

Resident Health
and Wellbeing

Pest management prevents infectious disease. Residents may be infected with extremely hazardous diseases from rat bites. Contact with rat feces or urine can spread salmonellosis, leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis. Children playing near sources of pest infestation, such as Dumpsters, and babies crawling on floors, are at increased risk of exposure to disease-bearing pathogens.

Pest management helps residents control asthma. Cockroach debris (old shells, body parts and droppings) is a powerful allergen that can trigger asthma or aggravate existing cases.

Pest management keeps food safe from contamination. When mice and roaches get into food, they spread germs and render items unusable.

Pest management prevents damage to personal property. Rats and roaches are attracted to electrical heat; they’ll gnaw through electrical cords and equipment, destroying expensive items such as TVs, computers and DVD players. Cockroaches eat glue in furniture and books. Other bugs burrow into clothing, furniture and mattresses, laying eggs and leaving droppings.


Property Performance
and Condition

Pest management keeps property costs reined in. Left uncontrolled, pest infestations can severely damage your property and lead to potentially massive repair bills.

Pest management protects the integrity of wood structures. Wood-eating pests, such as termites and certain types of ants, can wreak havoc on your building’s wood frame.

Pest management prevents damage to building finishes and systems. Cockroaches that feast on glue can ruin carpet and linoleum. Rodents will gnaw through electrical wiring and tear into insulation when they nest.



Pest Management Solutions

    Management and Maintenance

    Inspection Tips

    Move appliances and furniture to make sure you don’t overlook any pests.

    Inspect at night, using a flashlight, because roaches like to hide during the day.

    Treat pest infestations aggressively.

    Regular inspections can prevent pest problems from getting out of hand.

    • Address infestations immediately, before they get out of hand and become prohibitively expensive to eradicate.
    • Take a whole-building approach. Rather than treating only those units where problems are reported, inspect and treat the entire structure that’s affected.

    Get ahead of pest reporting and detection.

    • Give residents an easy-to-follow system for notifying you of pest infestations.
    • Implement a regular pest inspection schedule. Inspect at least twice a year if your building has no recent history of pest infestation, monthly if it does.
    • When a resident reports a problem, inspect the entire unit. Always check for water leaks, because access to water encourages pests to visit and stay.
    • Assign responsibility for pest management. Many pest control companies familiar with IPM (see organge box at left) offer ongoing prevention and maintenance contracts.

    Take proactive steps to prevent pests from easily accessing food, water and shelter.

    • Remove landscaping debris, garbage and pet-food containers from outdoor areas.
    • Fix active leaks that provide ready water sources for pests.
    • Get rid of standing water by regrading soil and repairing holes and depressions in paved areas.
    • Seal any building-envelope cracks, which welcome pests like open doors. Pay special attention to plumbing penetrations, eaves and roof fascia. Also, repair holes in interior walls that separate units.
    • Replace or fix broken screens in windows and doors. During warmer months, even small holes in screens permit easy access for all types of pests.
    • Maintain adequate clearance between siding and soil, and trim landscaping to provide at least 18 inches of clearance from the building. Rats and mice like to hide in shrubbery.

    Deal with Dumpsters. Dumpsters are very attractive to pests, so it’s important to diligently monitor and maintain your building’s entire Dumpster and recycling area.

    • Make sure you have adequate Dumpster space and that garbage service is scheduled frequently enough to accommodate residents’ needs. When garbage overflows, pests have easy access to food.
    • Encourage recycling to reduce garbage loads. Provide guidance by placing pictures of recyclable items above the appropriate bins.
    • Chain a step stool to the base of your Dumpsters so that residents, including children, can reach the top when throwing out trash.
    • Move Dumpsters away from your buildings, at least 15 to 20 feet, so pests aren’t tempted to crawl indoors.
    • Fence, screen or add concrete barriers around your Dumpsters to make food scraps and other trash less accessible to pests.
    • Request that your garbage service company regularly wash out the inside of your Dumpsters.
    • Decommission garbage chutes.

    More Pest Management resources.

    Use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques

    Much of the advice in this chapter references and builds on a proven system for preventing and controlling pests known as integrated pest management, or IPM. IPM strategies are simple and environmentally sound, focused on addressing the underlying conditions that cause pests rather than spraying with pesticide once pests are discovered. Here are some basic IPM strategies:

    • Monitor pest populations to get a sense of baseline conditions and changes over time.
    • Block pest access by sealing any building cracks and interior holes, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms.
    • Eliminate food and water sources for pests.
    • Apply low-toxicity pesticide selectively to specific, documented problem areas.
    • Continue to monitor for pests after problems subside.

    The National Center for Healthy Housing has some good introductory material on practicing integrated pest management in multifamily housing. Check out IPM Case Studies and Costs Comparison to learn how IPM can benefit your property.

    Resident Communication and Education

    Encourage prompt reporting of pest problems.

    • Don’t charge residents for spraying or setting traps. Residents may delay reporting problems if they fear being charged or blamed. Moreover, pest infestations often have multiple or indeterminate sources; by charging the person who reports the problem, you may end up “punishing the victim”.
    • Use safe and nontoxic treatments, and explain to residents that these treatments won’t harm people or pets.

    Create a written notice informing residents of these pest prevention practices:

    • Store perishable food in the refrigerator. Store nonperishable foods, like flour and beans, in metal/glass containers with tight-fitting lids.
    • Don’t put aluminum foil around stovetop burners, as trapped grease provides a breeding ground for pests.
    • Keep up with housework:
      • Sweep or mop up spilled food and beverages; vacuum carpets regularly.
      • Don’t leave dirty pet-food containers on the floor. Pick them up and wash them out after your pet has eaten.
      • Throw away garbage quickly and take out the trash at least once a week. Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.
    • Make sure trash makes it inside your building’s Dumpster; don’t leave it on the ground.
    • Don’t leave pet food outside, where it will quickly become a good meal for pests.

    More Pest Management resources.

    Get the word out to non-English-speaking residents

    Provide translations of notices and signs in residents' own languages. Consider using pictures and icons to communicate across multiple languages. Or ask bilingual residents, including youth, to verbally pass along the information to others in their language community.

    Design and Construction

    Design family-sized kitchens that provide adequate space to store and prepare food.

    • Maximize cabinet storage. Otherwise, residents’ best option may be to use dishwashers for storage, preventing quick cleanup of dirty dishes.
    • Provide large-capacity refrigerators.

    When laying out sites, locate pest “magnets” away from buildings.

    • Locate the garbage and recycling area at least 15 to 20 feet away from the building.
    • In your landscaping plan, specify plants that won’t quickly become overgrown and touch the buildings.

    Design pest-resistant structures.

    • Use durable non-wood siding materials such as cementitious siding.
    • Eliminate material that contains cellulose, including wood, under and near structures.
    • Design structures for easy pest inspection. Build in access to critical areas, such as foundations.

    Seal off openings.

    • Use flap valves or mesh to prevent rodents from climbing up downspouts and pipes. (Note that valves and mesh will require regular cleaning.)
    • Install mesh to prevent animals and insects from gaining entry through vents and other building openings.

    More Pest Management resources.

    Pest Prevention by Design

    For guidance on designing pest-resilient structures, see the City of San Francisco’s excellent technical resource, Pest Prevention by Design: Authoritative Guidelines for Designing Pests Out of Structures. These guidelines apply to a wide variety of building structures, addressing both initial design and retrofit work.

Rethink This Property

Rethink This Property

Pest Management

Health-related design solutions for real East Portland apartment complexes.

We asked a team of architects to recommend health-related design solutions for real East Portland apartment complexes. These drawings show how to keep your Dumpsters from becoming pest magnets.

Get ideas for deterring pests. View the Dealing with Dumpsters slideshow.

Images by Constructive Form Architecture & Design