added to the “Tenants and Landlords FAQ”: Washington, D.C. and Florida

by nobugsonme on March 4, 2007 · 9 comments

in bed bug treatment, FAQs, florida, housing laws, usa, washington, washington DC

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.

Washington D.C.

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!

1 Doug Summers MS March 7, 2007 at 9:42 pm

In Florida, the landlord tenant law is FS Chapter 83. Under F.S. 83 pest control is listed under the Obligations of the Landlord.

A Seven Day Notice To Correct is a letter that specifies in detail the problem that needs to be corrected (exterminate the bed bug infestation in this case). F.S. 83 states that the tenant may break the lease without penalty if the landlord fails to address the notice. Constructive eviction is a also a possible defense to break the lease, but the 7 Day Notice to Correct letter is the usual starting point.

A personal injury civil lawsuit is another potential option.

Also check to see if your deposit was placed in an escrowed bank account by the landlord. If the landlord places the deposit funds in their business or personal bank account (or intermingle the funds in a non-escrowed account) they have violated the law and are not permitted to retain any of the deposit regardless of any damage or contract issue that may exist.

Most private landlords in Florida fail to place the deposit funds in an escrow account.

You can download a copy of the law at

Florida law usually favors the rental tenant in a bed bug infestation situation, but needless to say you should consult an attorney about the specifics of your situation if you expect civil litigation with your landlord.

2 nobugsonme March 7, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Updated the FAQ (not above, but the full one).
Thanks Doug!

3 msvsthebugs October 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Hello all –

I am a renter in Washington DC. I got bed bugs (no idea how) about four months ago, and made a deal with my landlord to split the (very expensive) treatment. Before I began treatment, I asked the other tenants in the building if they had experienced beg bug issues, and it did appear at that time that I was the only one in the building with the problem.

I will be moving out of the unit in two weeks. As far as I can tell, the bugs are contained, but I am wary to make any claims about being BB-free. After my second treatment, they went away for an entire month and then, much to my dismay, came back. My third treatment has resulted in a few more weeks of no bites, but who really knows with this problem?

I am facing serious credit card debt resulting from this situation and am terrified my landlord will withold my security deposit if the new tenant gets bitten within the first month. Does anyone know what my rights are with regards to this? The “move out” letter I got from the rental company stated that my deposit would be witheld if there was an “infestation of fleas, roaches and silverfish”…but no mention of BBs.

I can’t find ANYTHING on the DC housing laws re: bed bugs, except what is posted above. It is not financially viable for me to pay for extermination in this unit twice. I am young and just starting out professionally. The DC law seems very unfair for tenants. I am terrified that a) my security deposit will be witheld, and/or b) I will take them with me (I am putting all furniture in storage and moving to a furnished apartment to minimize that risk).

Thanks all for the support – I don’t know what I would do without this site!

4 nobugsonme October 16, 2008 at 5:46 pm


It might be worth contacting a tenants’ organization in DC. I cited the information above as the only mention we could find, but it is true that I have seen incorrect information in other newspapers about other local laws. I would definitely follow up if I were you. Keep in mind the law may mention pests or vermin, but not bed bugs specifically. There may be room for interpretation.

5 msvsthebugs October 16, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Thank you No Bugs! I am researching this issue now and will let you know what I find. In general, I haven’t seen that DC has done much about the bed bug problem – nowhere near as much as NYC. I am trying to report them to the DC housing authority, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

As an aside and a warning to others – after getting no bites for more than a month, my PCO told me I could hang my clothes back up in my closet. These clothes had been laundered and stored appropriately during treatment. Needless to say, the bugs came back and I now think I have spread them to my boyfriend (despite taking the precaution of keeping clothes in plastic bags when I slept there, for peace of mind). These things are unbelievable, and folks should NOT assume they don’t have them because they have gone away for a period of time. In the entire four months I have been dealing with this problem, I haven’t seen ONE SINGLE BUG in my apartment, yet somehow they remain. Anyway…

God bless you and all that you’ve done.

6 nobugsonme October 17, 2008 at 12:23 am

Thanks, msvsthebugs.

I am sorry you are going through this.

Please visit the forums. There have been a number of forum users from the DC area. They may have additional suggestions, perhaps even know more about the laws you’re trying to find out more about:

And thanks in advance for letting me know, later, if you find out more.

7 msvsthebugs October 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm

I didn’t find anything relevant to the legal issue on the forums, but I will look again more carefully later. Most DC-related postings are about treatment.

I contacted my DC Councilman, as well as key staff on the Housing/Urban Affairs and Health Committees of the DC City Council. I asked what is being done in DC re: 1) public education about the spread of BBs and 2) changing the law to make landlords responsible for treatment rather than tenants, in the event the tenant is the first to report an infestation. I tried to explain clearly why the current law (as I understand it) will only encourage tenants not to report the problem, and thus spread BBs throughout the city more rapidly.

Will let you know what I hear.

8 nobugsonme October 21, 2008 at 11:47 pm


Sorry I wasn’t clear. If you haven’t yet, I would post in the forums asking about the DC housing laws or sources of tenants’ advice.

I am glad you wrote your councilman! This is excellent.

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