New York City: Who’s responsible for paying for bed bug treatment? Complicated, in some cases.

by nobugsonme on June 22, 2007 · 28 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, FAQs, housing laws, legal aspects of bed bugs, new york, usa

I just revised the Tenants and Landlords FAQ. I hope everyone who uses this site or the forums will re-read the NYC information (long as it is) because it corrects some misconceptions a lot of us have about the laws regarding who pays for bed bug treatment in rental units here.

While the FAQ has always been clear that there are cases in which tenants may be responsible for paying for treatment for bed bugs in NYC, we’ve all kind of gotten forgotten that, and gotten into the habit of saying “the landlord pays for treatment” (myself included). I want to stress that no one has yet reported that they are renting and were forced to pay, but I do think we need to be more careful about sending people to the FAQ for guidance on where to look for advice, rather than saying “landlords are responsible,” which isn’t strictly always the case. I do hope that no one was confused or inconvenienced by this. I hope everyone will have a look at the FAQ as it is now.

I have now prefaced the entire Tenants and Landlords FAQ with this disclaimer:

If you are a tenant, find out the laws in your area about the responsibility of landlords vs. renters to eliminate bed bugs. 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 bed bug treatment. Remember that you also have responsibilities, like reporting the presence of bed bugs 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.

I think it’s important for us all to be a bit more circumspect when telling others about local laws regarding bed bugs. I myself have said many times “the landlord is responsible for paying in New York City.” Well, yes, 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. I want to stress that 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.

Anyone else may be responsible for treatment, and everyone should therefore consult their lease (if any), and seek advice from Met Council on Housing, or a lawyer.

Please click here to review the revised FAQ (besides New York and Chicago, little has changed.)

If anyone has further additions or corrections, please leave a comment, with links to relevant information.

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1 penny hill September 27, 2007 at 2:16 pm

i live in a old apt bld 50 years old with all kids of people 50 apts people out of jails prison i tried everthing to get rid of bed bugs but move tips on moveing without bed bugs and who should spray land lord or me i have no beds or couch now share blanket and air bed got new pillows help soon

2 persona-non-bugga September 27, 2007 at 11:28 pm

penny, that’s terrible. Is your building in New York City? If yes, then – most likely – the landlord is responsible for eradicating the bedbugs, which means the landlord must do more than spray – he must get rid of them.

But different cities have different rules. Read the FAQ on tenants and landlords for some helpful info.

http://bedbugger.com/2006/10/22/faq-tenants-landlords-owners-and-bedbugs/

If you are in NYC, consider calling 311 to complain.

Also in NYC, try calling the Metropolitan Council on Housing for more detailed advice. Their hotline is 212-979-0611. It’s open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — 1:30 to 5:00 pm.

Best of luck to you.

3 October 27, 2007 at 7:40 pm

is there a number in nj where i can call to confirm who pays for bed bug treatmnent

4 nobugsonme October 27, 2007 at 11:36 pm

Anon,
I responded to your query on the forums.
Please read that answer, it’s all I know (and replicated, now, in the FAQs on landlords and tenants).

5 kathleensbrady January 31, 2008 at 11:56 pm

The cost of the treatment to apartments for a bed bug infestation is nominal compared to the cost of getting all your clothes, rugs, window treatments, furniture, closets, etc., cleaned. My question is, “Who pays for all that”? I am just going through an infestation here in NYC and our landlord is refusing to reimburse for any cost to us which is turing out to be upwards of $2500. In our case our mattress had to be thrown out, animals had to be boarded, all our clothes had to be taken out of the apartment and either dry cleaned or laundered and all our carpets and rugs have to be professionally cleaned. Has anyone taken the landlord to court to recoup expenses???

6 nobugsonme February 1, 2008 at 1:29 am

Hi kathleen,

I understand the horrible expenses involved, and everyone here would be sympathetic with your experience.

I am not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice, but I can tell you what I have seen.

I don’t personally know anyone who has filed a suit for these costs, though I have heard people mention the idea. (Lots of people have sued for being exposed to bed bugs in hotels and sued landlords for not treating and/or disclosing promptly.)

In your case, it isn’t clear whether you think the landlord contributed to your problems (say, by not disclosing the unit was infested before you moved in, or by not treating promptly). In many cases, this would be difficult to prove.

Luckily, it’s also difficult for landlords to prove an individual brought bed bugs in, or they’d probably be suing tenants.

7 kathleensbrady February 3, 2008 at 1:45 am

Hi Nobugsonme:
Thanks for your response. You need to understand NYC rent guidelines. Anyone who is renting apts. in NYC presently would not fall under the protection of our rent stabilization regs. Because my apt. is stabilized I have specific rights as a tenant that a “fair market ” rentor does not enjoy. Specifically, my slumlord cannot just one day decide to cancel my lease. Therefore his disclosing the presence of bb’s would be moot as I have been living here for over 30 years. He would do almost anything to get us “protected rentors” out so the rent can go up thousands of dollars.
About one year ago the tenant below my apt. had a serious case of bed bugs. I told slumlord then that treating only the infested apt. would not stop them from migrating to other apts and requested he treat the entire building both apts. and public areas. Only the apt. affected was treated at that time. An apt. two floors above me had bb’s. Again, the slumlord did nothing to prevent the infestation from spreading. My apt finally came down with a serious bb case. The slumlord sent the exterminator to spray my apt. When I asked again for the building to be treated he said NO. Since writing my first entry I have found case law in NYC that ruled in favor of the tenant receiving rent abatements when it was clear that the infestation was not just an isolated case in one apt. The way I understand the habits of bed bugs (and believe me, I know more than I ever wanted to) they can live for an entire year on one blood feeding. Does anyone out there know of a good personal injury or tenant lawyer that has taken any landlords to court on “warranty of habitability”? It would be really helpful to consult with a pro. Thanks

8 nobugsonme February 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Kathleen,
Believe me, I do understand NYC rent guidelines.

I would suggest looking into some of the lawyers involved in cases mentioned in the link I provided in my last comment above.

9 kathleensbrady February 5, 2008 at 12:35 am

Thanks. I have been exploring some of the lawyers on your links, called 311, posted notices in the building about the increase in bed bug occurances, contacted Met Council, as well as the Housing Advocate for our district, Joyce Goodman. I called our Counselwoman Inez Dickens to set up a meeting with her and intend to file an HP action at the clerks office at 111 Centre St.

If you can think of anything else that would assist me I would appreciate your help.

10 nobugsonme February 5, 2008 at 1:00 am

Kathleen,
Sorry I do not know what else to advise. But good luck and I hope you will keep us posted.

11 Harriet May 6, 2008 at 12:32 am

Kathleen,
We must live in the same district. Last summer I called Inez Dickens’ office and also spoke to Joyce Goodman. Joyce Goodman told me she didn’t understand why I just didn’t throw my mattress away and the office of I. Dickens was equally unhelpful. I really tried to educate them to no avail.

Did you have a meeting with I. Dickens? I’d be most happy to join forces with you if you’re interested.

12 nobugsonme May 6, 2008 at 3:45 am

Harriet,
I am not sure if Kathleen is still reading, but I hope you will check out http://newyorkvsbedbugs.org, and connect with others lobbying NYC politicians to take action on this issue.

13 LosingSleep June 14, 2008 at 3:33 am

Great question about the costs – we’ve been infected for a month or so now; told the super last week, and he finally calls me back today to say he’s spoken with a PCO who can come next week, but first I have to bag all of my clothing and wash it in hotwater, or dry clean it.

He said the landlord would pay for the PCO, but I’m not sure about the cost of cleaning everything. I’m actually related to the landlord, and so I don’t want to cause any problems for her by calling 311, but do want what’s right. We’re in Brooklyn, and the building has 12 units, I have no idea where the bugs came from, but the super says our apartment is the only one that reports an infection and he’s “Asked” … I’m not so sure. The super also told me that when he spoke to the landlord, or actually her agent, that he was told it was a “Tenant issue” but since I was family, they’d help out. Well, same result, but I had to educate him – based on what I found on this website.

So, anyone know about the costs? Like you can imagine, I don’t want a fight with the landlord, but don’t want to spend a fortune either.

14 nobugsonme June 15, 2008 at 12:18 am

As I said above, LosingSleep, you may be able to take some kind of legal action in order to recoup expenses for dealing with clothing, etc. But you’d have to get legal advice about that (I’m not a lawyer).

I love, however, that your landlord-relative is pretending they’re doing you a special favor in treating for bed bugs because “you’re family.” That’s classy.

15 buggedastoria June 16, 2008 at 4:48 pm

I’m also in a similar situation in that my LL doesnt want to get a PCO b/c she says it’s just me and that we have no evidence, found no bugs yet. she asked me to buy this stuff on the internet which is supposedly guranteed but i’m skeptical. should i just file a complaint by now?

16 nobugsonme June 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm

buggedastoria,

Have you verified for sure that you have bed bugs? I know this can be hard to do, esp. in early stages.

The problem with calling 311 is that I understand from those who have called 311, if you do not have visible bed bugs roaming the apt., they will not issue a violation or require the landlord to treat.

We have a FAQ in the main FAQs page on how to catch a sample bed bug. It may take time (esp. if you have a small infestation) but at least you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

If you’re not sure you were exposed to bed bugs, I would rule out fleas (with a flea trap, see “shop” page) and see a doctor to rule out scabies and folliculitis.

17 Sue July 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

I was living in an apartment in NYC when I got bed bugs. My landlord was good about treatment and for over 3 months they seemed to be gone. Yesterday I moved to a new apartment and woke up with fresh bites. I am sure I brought them here. I am a subletter in a co-op. What are my rights? Is the apartment owner responsible, the building management or me?

Thanks.

18 nobugsonme July 17, 2008 at 10:02 pm

I really could not advise you, sorry. Met Tenants Association gives good advice to NYC tenants. I’d ask them. See links under “landlords and tenants”.

19 Benjamin July 31, 2008 at 11:43 am

We have the beginnings of a bedbug infestation (yes, I’ve confirmed it, I’ve found live bedbugs, as well as eggs) in our apartment.

I’ve just been told by a neighbor that the landlord treated a bedbug infestation in the apartment below us about two weeks ago. This is the first I’ve heard of it however.

My question is: isn’t the Landlord compelled to inform all the tenants in the building when a bedbug infestation is found? And if they do not can they then be considered negligent?

20 nobugsonme July 31, 2008 at 11:51 am

Benjamin,

Unfortunately, the law is not specific about these things. Your experience is a common one.

I think the best thing you can do now is strongly encourage the landlord to have every unit adjacent to any of the units with known bed bugs inspected by a professional who knows bed bugs (by adjacent I mean above, below, or on any side). Again, the law is not specific on this. It’s just standard practice in the industry. If the landlord wants the whole building to get bed bugs and never get rid of them, s/he should keep dealing only with the units where people NOTICE bed bugs and complain about them.

Also, FYI– if you have found bed bugs and eggs, it’s possible you had them BEFORE two weeks ago. It is hard to find bed bugs in the early stages, and you may have had them for some time (if you do not react to bites, or did not initially). Another possibility is that they fled the other apt. after treatment, and if this is true, it may mean the pest control company is not handling this well. (Actually, if all adjacent units to the ones infested were not carefully inspected by pros after the original unit was found to be infested, it’s a SURE sign the PCO and landlord as a team are not handling this well.)

21 Benjamin July 31, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Thank you so much for the reply!

I think it is the case that they have fled the other apartment. I think it all started when the landlord started renovating an apartment two floors down. We started seeing some cockroaches and other little bugs in our apartment (which was previously very rare). Then they apparently treated the bedbug infestation in both of the two floors beneath us, but oddly not the ground floor. And now they seem to have run up into ours.

Thanks so much for your help. I do have one other question though, how dangerous is the insecticide stuff they spray? I’m about as nervous letting that stuff into my home as I am about having bedbugs in it. Could I not combat them just as well by being vigilant, clean and handy with a rolled up newspaper?

22 nobugsonme July 31, 2008 at 11:55 pm

All I am saying is, you cannot be sure. They may have come more than 2 weeks ago.

Unfortunately, killing bed bugs you see is not an effective treatment program. You do need serious, aggressive help. Pesticides should be applied by an experienced, licensed professional who knows bed bugs, and should be applied safely. If you have a baby, or an infirm person in the home, you should discuss your options with the PCO. But do get treatment. You are likely seeing a VERY small proportion of your bed bugs. Seeing one or two is a lot.

If you have more questions, please come to the forums, where you will get feedback from many more people: http://bedbugger.com/forum

23 Benjamin August 2, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Okay, thank you once again for your generous help!

24 lorraine barry August 18, 2008 at 11:14 am

On the July it was reported to me by the home health aid that my mother-in- law who lives at 2015 foster ave brooklyn had bedbugs, I contacted the building agent since I could not get into contact with the super for the building. I then called the building agent who assured me that someone would get in touch with us by phone. After getting no reply all day,I called the next day and the agent said that she tried to contact the building administration office and did not get any reply. she then gave us the direct phone number to the building administration office, we made several calls and left messages on their answering machine and get no reply. Finally, we contacted the city, and investigator, they did their investigation and nothing was heard of the report. I also called elderly care and spoke to one Margareta who advised, that would have to recieve consent from the building agent before we can do anything. It has been three weeks and nothing has been done. My mother-in-law lives alone and has twenty four hour service. Could someone please advise me know what our next step should be this problem is increasing. Concern relative.

25 nobugsonme August 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm

HI lorraine,

I’m afraid no one here can give you legal advice.

You should try calling Met Council on Housing, a fabulous NYC organization that gives tenants advice. They know the law, and will know what your next step should be.

Met Council:
http://www.metcouncil.net/contact.htm

It sounds like you called 311 and had an HPD inspector come out. Did they find bed bugs? It may be possible for you to call HPD and follow up. (311 would probably be the first step in that case.)

26 tsakas September 6, 2008 at 10:47 am

I found a bug craling in my bed last week and bites on my lower back. The following day I starting to inspect the mattress and found one running away. I caught it and threw it in a plastic container. i called the management company and they told me to go buy spray. I notified them in writing and advised I was moving out (only have 2 months left on lease and not paying rent). I have been living here for almost 2 years and recently started to see them in my bed. I notified the building super and he said the apartment next door was being renovated (demolished walls, floors and ceilings). I saw from the street the windows opened and an old mattress laying against the wall. I took pictures to document it. The managment company has not responded to my certified letter explaying where the bugs came from. I threw out all my furniture, bed etc. I am going to wrap my electronics in plastic and store them for the 18 month (any ideas on safely using them?). Do you think i can go after the landlord for reimburcemtn on the furniture and security deposit? I am going to call 311 (NYC Housing) so they can document is also.

27 nobugsonme September 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

If you call 311 and the housing inspector finds bed bugs, they will likely order the landlord to get rid of them.

Hint: do not aggressively clean or treat. HPD inspectors apparently need to see visual evidence in your home, and may not accept a bug in a plastic tub.

Read the FAQS and ask advice in the forums: I would not say storing items for 18 months would be my best advice. You can probably treat furniture and leave electronics exposed. A PCO will hopefully be ordered and have good advice for you on whether you can keep furniture.

I am not a lawyer– if you’re talking about a lawsuit or housing court, you’d need to get legal advice on that.

Document everything and remember–do not clean away evidence before getting an inspector in.

28 MR February 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm

One morning my teen woke up with a rash. We searched his bed and found bedbugs, catchin an adult BB and putting it in a container. We went to the doctor and doctor confirmed. I called my super and they told me they would send an exterminator. The exterminator came and reported they did not see anything. Since I was at work, I had my son take the BB to the super to show him. Once we did, building gave us white trashbags and told us to wrap my teen and younger sons mattresses and toss them. I did.

The exterminator came a few days later and fumigated. Since than I have found BB in my bedroom. In fact, one was crawling out my pillow! I tossed the pillows and wrapped the mattress with a BB bag I brought at Sleepys specifically designed for BB. I cant toss it cause then my youngest and I would have no place to sleep. teen is sleeping on a loveseat, the only other large piece of furniture.

I am still getting bitten on my face and body. The exterminator said they just had to do another treatment. However, when they went to inspect my apt. today, I was told by a porter that they did not spray/fumigated and that the exterminator just did a visual!

What should I do? You say that 311 wont accept the other BB I found and caught. I also dont want to open the mattress covering cause it cost me 150+ and I am not sure if they are inside. Also since they fumigated I have tossed ALOT of furniture, linens, toys and clothes. So I dont know where they are hiding and do not know where to direct the inspector.

Should I wait? Should I call 311? Pls help!

FYI: 1st Exterminator told me there was an infestation on my floor, as did several building workers but they asked I not tell. It could cost them their jobs. Management is not willing to help. Also, I live in a rent stabilized apt. (12 yrs). Several tenants hve left (4+) and the others are rent stabilized lik I am or new.

Please help. I am so stressed

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