This FAQ attempts to answer one of the first questions renting tenants, co-op owners and condo owners ask, when confronted with bed bugs, is: who’s responsible for paying for their elimination?
The laws vary. We are not lawyers. There may be inaccuracies or errors or speculative comments below. Use what you find below as a starting point, verify the laws in place in your location, which apply to your housing situation, and work from there.
If you are a tenant (renter), please find out the laws in your area about the responsibility of landlords vs. renters to eliminate a bedbug problem. A local tenants’ rights organization probably exists in your city, and they’re probably the best free source of information regarding landlords’ responsibility to pay for treatment. Remember that you, the tenant, also have responsibilities, like reporting infestations promptly (doing so in writing protects you legally), and complying with treatment. Responsibility is not always a clear-cut matter, so please use this FAQ as a starting point, and realize that you may need to figure out how the local laws define your dwelling, your status, and who is required to pay.
If your country, state, province, or territory is not mentioned below, or you know of online information about bed bug laws in your locality, please help us by posting a link in the comments below.
If you need to check on local laws or how to get them enforced, a local tenants’ rights organization may help. Some are listed here (note: we cannot vouch for the contents of this website).
But a roundup of links to laws on all other areas in Canada can be found on the CBC website.
In the USA, so far we have information for
Jersey City (see also NJ)
New York City
New York State
New Jersey (see alsoJersey City)
Consumerist has links to Landlord Tenant Law for Every (US) State, which is not specific to bed bugs, but should help you if nothing below does.
Regarding Australia, reader Cody writes,
Tenants in Australia are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (which has slightly different versions for each state, though are mostly the same).
(a) shall provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness;
(b) shall provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair having regard to their age, character and prospective life; and
(c) shall comply with all requirements in respect of buildings, health and safety under any other written law in so far as they apply to the premises.
It doesn’t specifically mention bed bugs or other pests, and I haven’t found any state health and safety legislation for buildings yet, but owners have been prosecuted for bed bugs using this legislation, see: Chessels v Wood (Residential Tenancy)  NSWCTTT 306 (8 June 2004).
In these cases the owner is always responsible, not the real estate agent or a head-tenant or anyone else. It’s the owner that you must take to magistrate’s court.
The main caveat is that not everyone will be considered a tenant – specifically borders and lodgers are excluded. A court can also deem this law will or will not apply to you using Section 84.
If you’re not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, you may be able to use another law to pursue a case.
In Ontario, according to the Ontario bed bug portal, bedbugsinfo.ca, landlords are responsible for treating for bed bugs, and tenants are responsible for cooperating with the landlord’s efforts to do so:
Who is responsible when a bed bug infestation is discovered in my apartment?
If you have a problem with bed bugs or other insects or pests, you should immediately inform your landlord, your superintendent or property manager, or someone else who is responsible for ensuring homes are pest-free. As a tenant, you are responsible for cooperating with your landlord’s efforts to control bed bugs. It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the rental unit so that is fit for habitation and complies with health standards.
Make sure you read, in particular, this page with information on tenants’ rights and what to do if your landlord does not provide the required assistance.
Click here to read Vancouver Coastal Health’s pamphlet on bed bugs: Click here to load a PDF.
Reader Sean (a Canadian Pest Control Operator and entomologist) reports on Vancouver, British Columbia:
In October of this year the city of Vancouver BC has extended the responsibilities of a landlord to include bed bug erradication.
Their are some loopholes, like the client must cooperate with the pest control companies.
In addition, as of February 2007 it will be illegal for landlords to apply any pest related chemicals within a suite other than their own personal living space. If they would like to do so they will need to become a licensed pest control operator.
In April 2011, the Arizona governor signed a law (SB1306) which accorded landlords and tenants certain responsibilities in terms of bed bugs.
As I understand it, the law,
Here’s an article from Bedbugger.com raising questions about the Arizona law. It also includes video from a local Fox station on new law.
What is not entirely clear to us from that text is how these provisions affect who pays for bed bug treatment. We recommend contacting a local tenants’ organization for advice (one AZ tenant advocate is interviewed in the video embedded in the article previously mentioned), or consulting a lawyer or legal aid service, if you’re not sure about your rights.
The law appears to be that landlords are responsible for eliminating pests only if they occur in more than one unit. Peoples-law.org says:
Rat proofing and pest extermination
Where infestation occurs in the shared or public areas or in 2 or more dwelling units in a building, the owner is responsible for extermination of rats, insects, or other pests.
All dwellings and dwelling units must be rat-proofed and kept in a rat-proof condition by the owner. Rat proofing includes but is not limited to: 1) using rat impervious material to block all passages by which rats could enter from outside; and 2) paving basements, cellars, and other areas in contact with the earth; eliminating rat breeding places by keeping areas clean; removing rats’ nests, etc.
A landlord with any sense would pay to have bed bugs removed from one unit, rather than waiting until they spread to multiple units. And I would, if I were a tenant in Baltimore with bed bugs, try and negotiate politely with the landlord on that basis.
See the source of the Baltimore information cited above here.
Apparently there’s a division of the Boston Housing Dept. Inspectional Services (ISD) that works as Bed Bug Inspectors.
Here’s what the Boston Inspectional Services Division (ISD) can do (according to the BISD website):
To effectively address bed bug infestations in Boston, ISD endeavors to educate inspectors, property managers, exterminators and the general public on the nature of bed bugs, bed bug prevention and the proper extermination of bed bugs. We endeavor to assist owners, tenants, and pest control operators in exterminating for bed bugs by attending extermination visits, assisting with education & preparation and by sharing our knowledge and experience on best practices.
Bed Bug Inspection Orders:
- We require written extermination reports, within 14 days of a notice of violation, and prior to closing a case. Although Bed bug infestations do not get resolved quickly, we endeavor to work with owner’s who have contracted licensed Pest Control Operators, who have treatments programs in place, and who provide written documentation on the treatment programs.
- Our Standard bed bug notice of violation also requires that owners inspect all units in the dwelling, and they must treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units to the infested unit(s).
Let me repeat: the housing inspectors in Boston generally require landlords to treat all horizontally and vertically adjacent units, and to inspect every unit in the building. However, you do need to get the inspectors in to confirm the problem and issue a violation.
Education & Outreach: Boston ISD has conducted an outreach effort over the years, one which:
- Targets areas with a concentration of infestations.
- Educates and offers inspections to those residing in the targeted area.
- Engages & educates the local community leaders and activists.
- Utilizes the media attention to educate and raise awareness of residents in all parts of Boston.
If a landlord is notified by tenants about bed bugs, and does not eliminate them, tenants should call the Housing Inspection Division at (617) 635-5322. Or, Boston residents can report bed bugs using an online form linked from the Boston ISD page.
According to the Allston Brighton Community Development Guide (PDF), Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation still has a Bed Bug Initiative, which may be helpful to those in the area. At one time they were giving grants to landlords and homeowners to help pay for treatment, however, we can no longer find information online on that specifically. However, Allston Brighton residents can call the ABCDC contact listed below for more information on what help is available to tenants or owners.
The bedbug eradication initiative provides extermination advice and incentives to tenants and
owners to eliminate bedbugs in Allston Brighton. Contact Ava Chan: 617-787-3874 x201
Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation
320 Washington Street, 3rd floor
The City of Chicago Bed Bug Information page is a bit murky on responsibility for treatment (as are the various leaflets linked from this page, compiled by the city’s bed bug information partner, the Safer Pest Control Project), but the City page does note that “you can report instances of bed bug infestation in an apartment building or commercial building by calling 311 or by filing an online complaint with the Dept. of Buildings.” Keep in mind that most tenants probably ask their landlords for help directly first.
The non-profit Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) also notes on its bed bug FAQ that
According to Chicago’s building code, the responsibility lies with the landlord when pest infestations are present in two or more units of a building. Bed bug eradication is not an easy task and will almost always require a pest control professional who practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM), however the law does not specify whether or not the landlord must actually hire a professional.
On the other hand, The Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance says landlords have to exterminate pests (see section 5-12-110).
Chicago Bedbugger S. says,
This is [Metropolitan Tenants Organization FAQ on Apartment Condition and Repairs]. It says specifically, under “What must my landlord do to maintain the condition of my apartment?”, that your landlord must “Protect you against rodents and insects by exterminating.”
This worked for me with my landlord.
While we have heard from a number of Chicago Bedbuggers who apparently received treatment from their landlords when a single unit in a building was (reported as) affected, the MTO’s information suggests Chicago landlords need to treat for bed bugs only if more than one unit has them. I recommend contacting Metropolitan Tenants Org. for more information and assistance. You can contact them via this form (or number) or live via their website chat during hotline hours:
You can call MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline [information here] to speak with a hotline counselor about your situation. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 1pm – 5pm.
If you live in a building with 12 or more units and other renters in the building are living with bed bugs, you may also request a visit from an organizer who can assist you in getting your requests met by your landlord.
MTO has dedicated community organizers willing to help you and fellow tenants organize to get appropriate help with bed bugs from your landlord. See the MTO’s page about this.
According to this Columbus Dispatch article from 9/2010, responsibility for treatment in Columbus rentals depends on whether you’re renting an apartment in a multi-family building, or renting a single-family house:
Apartment-dwellers should notify their landlord immediately so treatment can start, said Bill Willis, a lawyer who represents building owners. Columbus codes say it’s usually a landlord’s duty to treat for the bugs in a multifamily rental, he said. In a single-family home, it’s the renter’s responsibility.
For New Haven, see this comment
General Landlord Duties
Landlords are required to deliver possession of the rental property to the renter when the lease period begins. Failure to do so may entitle the renter to sue for damages. A landlord must ensure that residential property is habitable. This includes complying with all building, housing and health codes. Roofs, windows, screens, doors, floors, steps, porches, walls and other structural elements must be kept in good repair. Certain pests (e.g., rats, mice, roaches, ants, bedbugs) must be exterminated, . . . Landlords requiring access to a tenant’s residence for repairs must give the tenant reasonable notice, which is defined as at least 12 hours prior to entry.
According to Kelly Klein’s Renting and the Law column in the Star-Tribune, if you are a tenant with bed bugs,
You have the right to demand that your landlord take action to resolve the issue. Under Minnesota law, the landlord has to remedy such problems.
What’s more, Klen says you may have a right to a rent escrow action if the problem is not remedied in 14 days. Please read her column on this, and contact local tenants’ advice organizations or a lawyer or legal aid service if you need help; we are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice.
This article in the Minnesota Post from May 2009 suggests Minnesota tenants call non-profit tenant advocacy organization HOME Line for advice on their rights.
If you’re a renter and need legal advice about your bedbug problem, you can call HOME Line‘s tenant hotline. The hotline provides free legal advice to tenants. Call 612-728-5767. If you’re calling from Greater Minnesota, call 866-866-3546.
This is the relevant section of LSNJ Law which describes the warrant of habitability laws. Among other things, the warrant of habitability says rental units must be kept pest-free.
Using the housing and health codes
As discussed in the preceding section, rental units must meet city and state housing and health codes. The codes list the requirements that the landlord’s property must meet so that it can be approved as a safe or “standard” building. The codes deal with heat, plumbing, security, roofing, pests, and other serious defects like weak walls.
If you feel that the conditions in your apartment or house are defective, unlivable, or dangerous, tell your landlord. If your landlord fails to make the repairs in a reasonable period of time, call the local building inspector and ask him or her to inspect the property as soon as possible. If you can, be present when the inspector does the inspection so that you can point out all of the problems. Ask for the inspector’s name, and ask him or her to send you a copy of the report.
If the needed repairs present a sanitation problem, such as a sewage leak, call the city or county board of health. Ask for an inspector to check the condition. When the inspector comes, get his or her name.
If the inspector finds code violations, he or she will send a letter to the landlord listing the code violations. This letter will advise the landlord that a reinspection to check whether the repairs have been made will take place on a certain date.
Some housing and health code inspectors do not send the tenant a copy of the inspection reports or inform the tenant of the results of the inspection. As a tenant in the property, you have a right to receive a copy of these reports, and you should make sure to ask that copies of all reports be sent to you.
We are not lawyers and don’t live in New Jersey, but this should give you a starting point. Whether you or the landlord is responsible to pay may also depend on the type of home, the lease terms, etc. There are tenants’ organizations everywhere. The NJ one, New Jersey Tenants’ Organization, may be able to advise you further.
Apparently, NJ landlords do have to pay for treatment, but many pass the costs on to the tenant.
Jersey City has just passed an ordinance specifying that landlords must pay outright for an initial and follow-up bed bug treatment. See this article for details. (If additional treatments are needed, as they so often are, the landlord can charge the tenant.) This law applies to buildings with 2 or more units.
LANDLORDS’ DUTY OF REPAIR
Landlords of buildings with three or more apartments must keep the apartments and the buildings’ public areas in “good repair” and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerators and stoves in good and safe working order. Tenants should bring complaints to the attention of their local housing officials. (Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) §78 and §80; Multiple Residence Law (MRL) §174. The MDL applies to cities with a population of 325,000 or more and the MRL applies to cities with less than 325,000 and to all towns and villages.)
If you have or encounter bed bugs in Nassau County, the department of health’s website instructs you to call the following numbers to report them:
- Tenants - Nassau County Dept.of Health Office of Community Sanitation – (516) 227-9715
- Homeowners (and residents, travelers, college students, etc.) – Nassau County Dept. of Health Healthy Homes Program - (516) 227-9459
- Hotels/Motels – Nassau County Department of Health Bureau of Environmental Sanitation - (516) 227-9717
Many times, people on this site (myself included) have said, “the landlord is responsible for paying for elimination of bed bugs in New York City.” This is true in most cases. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was all cases, as this Real Estate article from the New York Times (last October) implies. The FAQ has always stated clearly that there are exceptions (such as buildings with 3 or fewer units) where tenants may be responsible. To be honest, we’re not sure about where those exceptions occur, but it seems to hinge on whether you’re defined in some cases as an “occupant in charge of the dwelling” (which tenants in larger buildings apparently are not).
It appears to be true, according to the information below, that landlords must arrange and pay for elimination of bed bugs if you are a renting tenant, AND:
1. Your apartment building has 3 or more rental units, OR
2. You live in NYC-owned housing.
There may be other exceptions, and the resources below should help you figure out if you’re an exception.
In NYC, in most cases, landlords are responsible for eliminating insect problems, including bedbugs. You can read more about the laws here: NYC Rent Guidelines Board, Ch. 2 of Housing Maintenance Code, or here: Met Council on Housing’s Bedbugs page. (If you’re not sure of your rights on any issue related to renting in NYC, call Met Council, a non-profit tenants’ rights organization.)
Sec. 27-2017 Definitions
When used in this article:
1. Eradication means the elimination of rodents or insects and other pests from any premises through the use of traps, poisons, fumigation or any other method of extermination.
2. Insects and other pests include the members of class insecta, including houseflies, lice, bees, cockroaches, moths, silverfish, beetles, bedbugs, ants, termites, hornets, mosquitoes and wasps, and such members of the phylum arthropoda as spiders, mites, ticks, centipedes and wood lice.
3. Harborage means any condition which provides shelter or protection for rodents or insects and other pests.
[back to top]
Sec. 27-2018 Rodent and insect eradication; mandatory extermination
1. The owner or occupant in control of a dwelling shall keep the premises free from rodents, and from infestations of insects and other pests, and from any condition conducive to rodent or insect and other pest life.
2. When any premises are subject to infestation by rodents or insects and other pests, the owner or occupant in control shall apply continuous eradication measures.
3. When the department makes the determination that any premises are infested by rodents, insects or other pests, it may order such eradication measures as the department deems necessary.
Subchapter two of the NYC Housing Code clearly states that bed bugs must be eradicated by the “owner or occupant in control of a dwelling”:
But here’s where it gets confusing: If you are a tenant (renter), are you the owner? No. But are you the “occupant in control of a dwelling”? Sometimes. This may be true if the property you’re renting is, for example, a house with a rental unit or two. The same kinds of buildings, I assume, where landlords need not issue leases. Please seek advice from Met Council or a lawyer.
The NYC website says,
The City accepts reports of bed bugs in private residences, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, hotels, single room occupancy buildings, day care centers, and subways. To report bed bugs in a private house or apartment, you must be a tenant in the building.
To report bed bugs in a domestic violence shelter, contact the shelter director.
You can read more here. Or Call 311 to report bed bugs.
WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY
Tenants are entitled to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment. Lease provisions inconsistent with this right are illegal. Failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or to rid an apartment of insect infestation are examples of a violation of this warranty. Public areas of the building are also covered by the warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability also applies to cooperative apartments, but not to condominiums. Any uninhabitable condition caused by the tenant or persons under his direction or control does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability. In such a case, it is the responsibility of the tenant to remedy the condition. (Real Property Law §235-b)
Note that the landlord has responsibilities, but the tenant does too. We have not heard of any tenants who were forced to pay because they “caused” the “uninhabitable condition,” but the possibility is there.
The above item also seems to imply that co-ops are responsible for eradicating pests, not the individual owners. Readers who are co-op owners have claimed that owners are responsible, but this implies they aren’t. Perhaps someone who is an expert on housing law can clarify this. The New York Times article from October implies co-op and condo unit owners are responsible except,
In some instances the building might be responsible — if, for example, bedbugs have affected multiple apartments, and their source is not readily traceable or attributable to a particular unit owner.
Back to the Warranty of Habitability:
If a landlord breaches the warranty, the tenant may sue for a rent reduction. The tenant may also withhold rent, but in response, the landlord may sue the tenant for nonpayment of rent. In such a case, the tenant may countersue for breach of the warranty.
Rent reductions may be ordered if a court finds that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability. The reduction is computed by subtracting from the actual rent the estimated value of the apartment without the essential services.
A landlord’s liability for damages is limited when the failure to provide services is the result of a union-wide building workers’ strike. However, a court may award damages to a tenant equal to a share of the landlord’s net savings because of the strike. Landlords will be liable for lack of services caused by a strike when they have not made a good faith attempt, where practicable, to provide services.
In emergencies, tenants may make necessary repairs and deduct reasonable repair costs from the rent. For example, when a landlord has been notified that a door lock is broken and willfully neglects to repair it, the tenant may hire a locksmith and deduct the cost from the rent. Tenants should keep receipts for such repairs.
I would not undertake any of the above (eg making your own repairs) without seeking legal advice. If you’re renting, call Met Council on Housing for more information on the laws and what to do, or consult a lawyer.
Tenants’ Rights: Apartment Buildings and Hotels
Obviously, multiple dwellings offer bedbugs the perfect environment, since the bugs can hide in the walls while one unit is cleaned and then appear in another, or return to reinfest the original room or apartment. Hotels traditionally have had difficulty removing bedbugs, because bedding is often carried from one room to another, and while one infested unit might be cleaned, it’s rare for the entire hotel to be shut down so all the rooms can be fumigated.
For tenants in New York City, the right to a bedbug-free environment derives from the city’s housing and maintenance code-which specifically names bedbugs, along with a number of other unpleasant pests. The landlord has an obligation to eradicate the infestation and to keep the units from getting reinfested. If your landlord refuses to take the necessary steps, you can file a complaint with the city department of Housing Preservation and Development (call 311) or take the owner to Housing Court in an HP action. As with any problem you have concerning repairs or services, it is important to notify the landlord of the condition in writing (send by certified mail, return receipt requested, and save a copy) and to let the owner and manager know what steps you expect them to take.
Note, again, this says “apartment buildings and hotels.” Many of NYC’s housing laws vary when applied to small-scale landlords, who rent out an apartment or a few. If this describes your situation, you need to look into your lease and if you do not have one (which probably means you’re in a very small building with fewer than 3 units), seek advice from Met Council or another source. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and people have to be aware of which laws apply to their situations.
Any NYC tenant can call 311 and report a bedbug infestation. Information on how to do this, and what will happen next, is here. You might feel like you don’t want to do this, for example if your landlord is your friend, and you think they might be more helpful if a complaint is not formally made. You might prefer simply to deal with the landlord directly. However, don’t forget about this option if your landlord is slow to act, wants you to pay for extermination, or hires bad exterminators. When you’re being bitten by bloodsucking monsters, not getting any sleep, and walking around with ugly welts and sores, any warm feelings you have for landlords who are not quick to respond will undoubtedly go right out the window.
Calling 311 will mean the city sends a housing inspector to inspect your home for bedbugs, the inspector files a report, and this forces your landlord to eliminate the problem within 30 days. (I am not sure what happens if your problem is so severe that it takes more than 30 days to eliminate, but this is what I heard.) Your report will become part of the building violations listed here.
Under Housing Violations Look-Up on the right hand side of this page, type your building number and street name; you may be surprised to find someone else in your building has already reported a bedbug infestation! (You may also find rat or mouse infestations, which can cause bedbug infestations.) Violations are removed when they are fixed.
Finally, there are some links to information on taking legal action.
This is the website from the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court. It is general (not specific to bedbugs) but does tell you about the process of taking a landlord to court. Most importantly, though most of us won’t go to court, we need to keep good records (log of actions taken such as calls to landlord, pictures of bites, copies of doctor’s records if they inspect bites, copies of allergy medication prescriptions which are related to infestation, photos of bugs, samples of bugs, carcasses, or waste droppings, photos of items wrapped for storage, pictures of destroyed and discarded furniture, receipts for everything from prescriptions to vacuum cleaner bags, storage tubs and bags, new furniture, pesticides, and exterminators).
This is NYC lawyer Steven DeCastro’s housing information page (for tenants) on bedbugs, and this is a desctiption of the Judge’s Decision on Peter Young’s case. Peter Young was a tenant with bedbugs who was given a 6-month 45% rent abatement.
This is what we know: this article from the Brown student newspaper says,
. . . according to Rhode Island’s “Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code,” the infestation is the tenant’s responsibility if it is in one dwelling unit, but the owner’s responsibility if it is in more than one dwelling unit.
If you’re in Rhode Island, I would verify this with a tenants’ advice bureau. And if it’s true, I would caution anyone against assuming you are the only infested unit even if your landlord says you are, even if the neighbor says you are. Call a group that gives tenants advice, and find out what they suggest.
In San Francisco, the law says landlords pay for bed bug treatment, according to “Beating Bed Bugs: Landlords and property managers dealing with a bed bug infestation:”(PDF)
Article 11, Sec. 581(a) and 581(b)(8) of the San
Francisco Health Code state that property owners
cannot have pests on their property. Property owners
or their agent who violate these Health Code sections
may be subject to administrative penalty for each
If you suspect a bed bug problem on your property,
you are strongly advised to contact the Environmental
Health Section of the San Francisco Department of
Public Health for advice on eliminating the bed bug
SFDoPH has a Vector Control Department which apparently takes complaints about pests (you can call Norma Castro 415-252-3805 to report a complaint, as of January 2010). The Environmental Health section of the SFDoPH also advises landlords on bed bug treatment (according to the same brochure).
SFDoPH provides information on prevention (PDF) and treatment (PDF) for residents and on prevention (PDF) and treatment (PDF) for landlords. You may find the latter useful when dealing with your landlord.
Reader amysee helped us find this information. She writes,
- The landlord is obligated to control insects, rodents and other pests
In Washington State:
-The landlord is obligated to control pests before the tenant moves in. The landlord must continue to control infestations except in single family dwellings, or when the infestation was caused by the tenant
In theory, the Seattle law trumps the state law if it is stronger, which one could argue it is; though it seems unfortunately vague.
According to this article in the Stamford Advocate,
If a bed bug case is reported in rented housing, the city requires landlords to exterminate until the problem is resolved, [Health Inspector Mike] Kraynak said. First, a resident must find a bed bug and take it to the city as evidence. If a lab worker confirms it is a bed bug, the city sends an extermination order. Usually, if the apartment is six units or less, the city requires the entire building be treated. In larger complexes, the city requires treating only the affected unit and those surrounding it.
The article said Stamford residents can also show up at the government center’s front desk to see bed bug information including examples for identification.
See “Seattle,” above.
I took the following information off of a Washington Post real estate advice column. It appears that in D.C., the landlord’s liability depends on whether only one apartment is infested or not. According to Sara Gebhardt’s column in the Washington Post (3/2/2007), in which she responded to a Washington DC tenant whose landlord was refusing to pay for bed bug treatment,
Your landlord has an obligation to manage the infestation if your unit is not the only one infested. Talk to your neighbors and find out if they have bedbugs, too. Chances are they do, as those critters generally launch large-scale attacks on apartment buildings.
According to Section 805 of the District’s housing code, landlords have to do their part to keep out vermin and rodents. Part 805.3 of the law states, “If an infestation of a single habitation is caused by failure of the owner or licensee to maintain a residential building in a rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition, the exterminating shall be done by the owner or licensee.” (By “owner or licensee” the law means what most people would call a landlord.)
Additionally, Section 805.5 holds, “The extermination of vermin and rodents shall be done by the owner or licensee whenever infestation exists in two (2) or more of the habitations in two-family or multiple dwellings.”
She adds later,
Any evidence you can dig up that your neighbors also have bedbugs will help persuade your landlord to deal with the extermination. At the very least, if he does not respond, it will serve as a substantial basis for filing a complaint with the local housing office.
Disclaimer: Bedbugger does not offer legal advice. Do the research on where you live (even if you live in NYC), find out your rights, and demand they’re met! Do not assume that the laws are the same everywhere else. Do not assume that since Peter Young’s case was successful, that you should withhold your rent. Contact a lawyer to discuss your legal situation.
Remember also that tenants have responsibilities too, and it’s always possible someone is going to try to use that section of your local code to blame you for an infestation. Talk to a lawyer if this happens, and make sure the lawyer learns how difficult it is to prove fault with bed bugs, even in the face of apparent evidence. (This can work in your favor as well as against.)
Please do leave a comment below (or email me here) containing links to any useful sites about tenants’ rights relating to bedbug infestations for your locality (any city, state, country). I will do my best to make sure this information is included here and saves someone else the trouble of hunting it down.