New Jersey Assembly members Joan M. Quigley, L. Grace Spencer, and L. Harvey Smith introduced legislation (A-3203) on Monday which would make New Jersey landlords wholly responsible for eliminating bed bugs from rented accommodation.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee for a hearing.
Here’s a video of Joan M. Quigley, Major Conference Leader, New Jersey General Assembly (D-Hudson) talking about the proposed legislation.
Although landlords in New Jersey are currently charged with treating for bed bugs, the law does not prohibit them passing on the costs to tenants, which many do. This system is a bad idea: if tenants know they will have to pay for treatment, they are less likely to report bed bugs to the landlord. This helps the problem spread to others.
And the legislation has teeth:
(6.) Any owner of a multiple dwelling whose negligence or failure to act results in action by the local health officer … shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than $300 for each affected dwelling unit and not more than $1000 for each affected common area in the multiple dwelling. Such penalty shall be recoverable by and in the name of the local board of health.
And the proposed legislation also calls for a modest educational campaign.
The measure also would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services to create and distribute an informational pamphlet to educate the public about bedbugs.
“Making sure that renters are able to live pest free is only one part of the equation,” said Smith (D-Hudson). “We also must work to educate the public about bedbugs to prevent future infestations from reaching epidemic proportions.”
Last week we heard city council members in Jersey City are pushing to make landlords pay for one bed bug treatment and one follow-up per year; however, this is a bad idea, since bed bugs often take multiple treatments. Such a system is bound to help the spread of the problem.
And to head off the usual “you’re anti-landlord!” sentiment: you’re barking up the wrong tree. I think landlords and other homeowners need to demand assistance from the government to help them pay for bed bug treatment. Bed bugs are not termites, ants, or cockroaches.
No one who bought a home or building ten years ago had even heard of them. They’re more like a tornado, hurricane, or other natural disaster touching down (lightly, but repeatedly and destructively). And they’re contagious, in that you can catch them on a bus, or from a friend. You don’t have to do anything negligent to get them.
So no, I am not anti-landlord. But I know what tenants who can’t afford treatment will do if they are left with the choice of paying for treatment or putting up with bed bugs / trying to self-treat / moving away from the problem. And none of those alternative actions help landlords or fellow tenants.
Note (5/2010): A3203 was reintroduced as A2072.