Bed Bugs and Tenant Rights

You know that bed bugs are a nuisance. But do you know your rights, if you are a tenant, when it comes to bed bugs? There are some important things that you need to know when it comes to dealing with your rights as a tenant and what that means for your bed bugs problem: The laws vary depending upon which state -- or city -- you live in There is no federal legislation regarding tenants' rights and bed bugs. Instead, these laws are left to the state to write. Currently, 22 states have laws about bed bugs, but not all of these laws deal with landlord/tenant situations. Some states, like New York, have very specific regulations for landlords to follow when it comes to dealing with bed bugs. In 2010, the State of New York enacted legislation in which new residential tenants are supposed to receive a one-year bed bug history form from their landlord. This form lets tenants know what they are getting into when it comes to the issue of bed bugs. Landlords are supposed to get rid of not only bed bugs when they find them, but let future tenants know what they did. The city of New York goes even further in its own rules. The city housing code "specifically names bedbugs in the list of insects a landlord is legally obligated to eradicate." New York City also encourages people who find bed bugs to report it to 311. In the state of Connecticut, landlords are required to eradicate bed bugs via hiring and paying for a pest control agent. They are also not allowed to rent out units that they know currently have a bed bug problem. However, this law also gives tenants obligations. According to a summary of the legislation, "it makes tenants financially responsible for subsequent treatment costs of their unit" if they do not let the landlord and the pest control agent have access to the apartment, or if they fail to "comply with treatment measures." If you have an issue with bed bugs in your apartment, it is important to know what the laws are in your state regarding bed bugs and tenant rights, as these vary from state to state. You should also check to see if there is a local ordinance governing the issue. What tenants should do about bed bugs It should not be necessary for a new tenant to hire a bed bug dog to inspect the premises of their new apartment for bed bugs, but they should give the place a thorough physical once-over before they move in. If they see dark specks or tiny bloodstains on the baseboards, floors, walls, or cracks and crevices, the place could be infested with bed bugs. Tenants should also follow common sense measures like being careful with used furniture, and never "dumpster diving" or taking items off the street to bring into their new place. They could easily bring bed bugs into the apartment this way. They should also take care to keep their place neat and free from clutter. While bed bugs are found in both messy and spotless apartments, if a tenant reports bed bugs, a landlord will be less likely to blame a neat tenant than a slovenly one for the situation. If a tenant finds bed bugs some time after moving in, or think they have bed bugs, they should:

  • Look for signs that could potentially confirm a bed bug infestation, like the aforementioned black specks and tiny bloodstains. They should move the bed away from the wall, inspect around the bed, and use a flashlight to see if they can spot any of the bugs.

  • Make sure they know what their lease says regarding bed bugs.

  • Make sure that they know what the state and local rules regarding bed bugs and tenant rights are.

  • Let the landlord know, both with a phone call, and with a certified, dated letter. This documentation can be crucial in the future if the landlord does not alleviate the situation.

  • Make sure their place is ready to have a bed bug inspector visit it. If the is too cluttered the bed bug detection technician will not be able to do their jobs.

  • If the landlord fails to get the bed bugs removed in a timely fashion, or if the pests show up again, you will need to inform him again, via another certified letter.

  • If the landlord refuses to fix the issue, the tenant may need to pursue legal action. They may even be able to file a class action suit, if many people in the apartment complex are affected by the issue. Check with a lawyer first, though, to see what the next step is for you.

In summary, make sure you know your bed bugs and pest rights as a tenant when you move in.

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