Real estate brokers who do not disclose that buildings are infested with bed bugs

by nobugsonme on July 16, 2008 · 5 comments

in bed bugs, bedbugs, brokers, Brooklyn, disclosure, real estate broker

There really should be a special place in Hell set aside for this kind of real estate broker behavior.

The section of Hell where you have to watch bed bugs bite you all night long, and it never ends.

That, or perhaps some new tenants in this Brooklyn building who contract bed bugs could sue the pants off their broker for not disclosing.

(See original thread on Brooklynian.com.)

Update (8/11/2008): here’s another Brooklynian thread on this from August.

And check out this post.


(Thanks to Renee for the updates.)

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1 bugzd July 17, 2008 at 10:02 am

Of course, this is absolutely disgusting.

But I think the core issue here is that we need some kind of legal push forcing landlords to disclose the presence of bed bugs, in writing, as a rider to the lease. Just like the lead paint rider– there should be a form that the landlord must sign disclosing that he or she knows or does not know of any bed bug infestation in the building in the past 5 years.

Because, the landlord will almost never tell the broker that there is a bed bug issue. Therefore, no matter how honest the broker wants to be, most likely he or she does not have the information.

This case above is a different issue, but forcing landlord disclosure would make a broker’s attempt at deception a non-issue. It should be the building owner’s responsibility for disclosure, both to the broker and to the tenant before lease signing.

2 parakeets July 17, 2008 at 10:58 am

Thanks for the post because the issue of people moving into a building with bedbugs is very relevant. I am totally for disclosure and I agree with bugzd. My apartment building has had an active bedbug infestation that cycles up and down for several years but never totally goes away. The situation is partially treated, poorly managed, and there is no disclosure at all (which is one of the reasons they will never completely go away). It’s sort of a management policy of “Bedbugs? What bedbugs? We haven’t seen any bedbugs.”

When we got bedbugs the management stopped renting through rental agents since the agents wouldn’t show our building (for one thing, the tenants can sue to get back the fee they paid the rental agent). The word had spread.

My building has been rented through Craigslist ever since. I posted on Craigslist that people should be aware that a building in our town was being rented on Craigslist without disclosure about active bedbug infestation, and that people should check the bedbug registry before they rent. My post on Craigslist was flagged and pulled. It upsets me so much when I see new tenants moving into our building. I want to run up and grab them and say “Didn’t they tell you we have bedbugs in this building?” The new tenants eventually find that we have bedbugs, move out, and some of them are taking bedbugs with them to their next apartment.

I wish there were a secret sign–like the ancient Christians used the fish–that we could mark on buildings that have bedbugs.

3 nobugsonme July 17, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Actually, if you follow the thread on Brooklynian.com, linked above, tenants are alleging that the broker rents the units, people move in, move out due to bed bugs, and someone else moves in right away.

That may or may not be so. If it is so, I’d suspect the broker has an inkling.

But the Brooklynian.com folks also direct us to the HPD page where you can check building violations.

Click on open violations and you’ll see the building has 187 OPEN violations. It’s listed as 349 ST JOHNS PLACE in Brooklyn.

Click on “Complaint History” and you’ll see recent complaints of bed bugs for four units: 1A beginning June 18th, 2A beginning June 13th, 1C beginning June 14th, 2B beginning May 8th.

Then 2B complained again in June, and all the rest complained again in July.

Only one (1C) has an “Open Violation” listing for bed bugs, for June, suggesting that most of the complaints did not get identified as bed bugs by HPD and so are not listed as violations, just complaints. However, no open violations are listed with July dates. It may be possible that July complaints have not been inspected yet.

I am just speculating, but it is interesting to compare the “Complaint History” and “Open Violations” pages.

At least since May, a broker would have no excuse for not knowing about complaints of bed bugs in the building. (Neither would tenants, though they may suspect the unit they’re renting is uninfested, since it is not listed, which is not a fair assumption.)

And I also want to point out that other units may have bed bugs and the tenants are not aware or are aware and are not telling. This is a pattern we have heard about many times in other buildings.

And the tenants who DID call 311 may or may not have had bed bugs before May. (Sometimes people only call 311 after a landlord has refused to treat, or treated without eliminating the problem.)

4 Renee August 11, 2008 at 10:50 am

A discussion of this building at brooklynian and a This American Life episode.

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