We now have a status update on the bill in the New Jersey Assembly which would make landlords entirely responsible for eradicating bed bugs in rental properties.
According to PolitickerNJ.com,
The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee released the measure 5- 0 with one abstention. It now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.
A3203, sponsored by Assembly Members Quigley, Spencer, and Smith, would change the situation in New Jersey. State Laws currently require landlords to pay for treatment, but they can — and often do — turn around and pass those costs on to tenants.
Jersey City recently passed an ordinance which (in my opinion) does not improve matters: it requires landlords to pay for two, and only two, bed bug treatments. If the bed bug infestation persists, tenants have to pay to get rid of the problem. This is unfair because the problem may persist for various reasons besides the tenants’ negligence (inadequate treatment, bed bugs coming from other units, etc.)
Requiring tenants to pay for bed bug treatment — either initially, or after the second treatment — does not work on a practical level. First, many tenants may not notice they have a bed bug problem, since many (if not most) do not react to bed bug bites. Secondly, those who do notice a problem may not be able to pay for treatment. They may ignore the problem or move out. These actions can cause other tenants to become infested, and they may make similar choices. In the end, the landlord may be left with a severely infested property.
When landlords are only required to treat twice, as in Jersey City, there’s no incentive to find a pest control operator who can eliminate the problem in two visits. Doing so can be difficult at the best of times, and is even more difficult if tenants are uncooperative or if multiple units are infested.
In short, the current New Jersey laws are lousy for tenants and landlords, who may end up with chronically infested buildings. Homeowners suffer as well: if more people in your area have bed bugs, your chances of picking them up somewhere increase too.
The legislation (A-3203) would make building owners entirely responsible for maintaining dwellings that are free of bedbug infestations. Under the bill, if and when a bedbug outbreak occurs, landlords would be required to exterminate the pests at their own expense.
Landlords who do not take action when an infestation is reported would face fines of $300 per infested apartment and $1,000 per infested common area. Moreover, local boards of health would be empowered to conduct exterminations and bill unresponsive landlords.
I recognize that paying for bed bug treatments causes landlords hardship, but I do believe that the current situation (which more or less encourages tenants to ignore bed bug problems until they spread throughout the building) is bad for landlords as well as tenants.
I also strongly feel landlords should demand government assistance if bed bug treatments create hardship. If we can give disaster assistance to property owners who are the victims of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornados, why not help those who are the victims of a bed bug epidemic?
The measure also would require annual inspections of all multi-unit dwellings in the state for bedbug infestations and would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services to create and distribute an informational pamphlet to educate the public about bedbugs.
This is good news. Education is the first step in avoiding bed bugs, recognizing them, and helping prevent their spread. (This is good for everyone: landlords and tenants alike.)
If you’re in New Jersey, please contact your State Assembly member and ask them to support this bill. (You can find Assembly Members via this website; keep in mind Senators and Assembly Members are included together.) And you might also contact the Speaker of the Assembly, asking they put it up for a vote ASAP.
Note (5/2010): A3203 was reintroduced as A2072.