Got some information today on DC and FL laws vis-a-vis extermination (whose responsibility it is to pay does depend on locality in the US). I added this to our FAQ for tenants, but I am also putting it here, so people can see the update, especially because DC’s laws are different from those we’re seeing elsewhere, and I think they may pose a real problem for those with bed bugs, and their landlords.
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.
A wee editorial on the Washington DC housing code: this does not seem like a good system, where bed bugs are concerned. Perhaps it saves landlords money in rare cases. But many tenants who can’t or won’t spend money on PCOs may put up with bed bugs until they spread to others and the landlord becomes liable. This will harm landlords, who will pay to treat multiple units, and tenants, who will live longer with bed bugs (or, in the case of neighbors, get bed bugs). Not sure when this section of the code was written, but it doesn’t seem like a good policy where bed bugs are concerned, because they are so tricky and costly to eliminate, and because they spread so easily.
After I wrote this post, I got a tip from a reader to information on Florida’s laws, which is more in line with those in other jurisdictions we’ve got information on so far:
General Landlord Duties (Florida)
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, common areas kept clean, garbage removed, heat made available in the winter, as well as heated, running water throughout the year. 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. If a landlord fails to keep up with required repairs, a tenant should give the landlord written notice of the noncompliance. If the landlord fails to make the repairs within seven days of receiving notice, the tenant has the right to terminate the lease.
(Editor’s note: I’m not sure how those terms translate when pests are involved.)
We now have the following laws covered in our FAQ for tenants: Florida, New York City, NY State, Boston, MA, the District of Columbia, San Francisco, CA, and Vancouver, BC. If you are aware of the laws in your locality, anywhere on earth, please drop a comment below, preferably with a link to a source online where they can read more. You can often find this information on city housing websites or tenants’ rights websites from your area. If everyone looks for their local info and sends it in, we’ll have a wonderful FAQ for tenants.
Thanks for helping improve the FAQs!