The Quigley Bed Bug Bill (A2072) — so named because it was introduced by Joan Quigley (Jersey City) and L. Grace Spencer (Newark) — has now cleared the New Jersey State Assembly and is headed for the Senate, according to the Jersey Journal.
The bill, if approved by the state Senate, would require landlords to pay the cost of bed bug treatment in rental housing in New Jersey. As the Jersey Journal notes,
The legislation, A-2072, would make building owners responsible for maintaining dwellings that are free of bedbug infestations.
Under the bill, if and when a bedbug outbreak is reported, 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 uncooperative landlords.
An educational pamphlet about bed bugs in English and Spanish is part of the bill — the Department of Health and Senior Services would produce it, and landlords would furnish it to each new tenant when they move in.
The pamphlet would inform tenants about bed bugs and warning signs they are present, and remind them of their responsibility to inform landlords about bed bug infestations they are aware of (or signs, such as bites, which suggest bed bugs may be present), and to allow inspections and treatment if necessary — or face the cost of treatment.
There’s also a clause requiring the landlord to visually inspect a unit after it is vacated and before it is rented. This should happen, of course, but I do not hold a lot of confidence for such inspections having much of an effect. Visually inspecting for bed bugs is difficult and time-consuming, and not at all straightforward. A glance around the room will only catch the most serious infestation, where bed bugs are crawling about in daylight.
Another concern I had with this bill originally is that I worried it would follow the Jersey City ordinance which only requires landlords to pay for two bed bug treatments in a year. That ordinance is not very helpful, since most bed bug infestations take more than two traditional spray/dust treatments to clear.
I note that A2072 does not specify how many treatments a landlord must provide. Section 4c states,
Upon written notice from a tenant, or from the local board pursuant to R.S.26:3-49, of the presence of bedbugs in any dwelling unit, an owner shall, within 10 days following that written notice, at his own expense,
(1) begin the process of eradicating bedbugs in the dwelling unit;
(2) ascertain the presence of bedbugs in other dwelling units or common areas; and
(3) following written notice to the tenants of those units where bedbugs are present, eradicate any remaining presence of bedbugs in other dwelling units or common areas.
I do like the verb “eradicate” because it clearly lays out an expectation that bed bugs are completely removed from the building. I have some concerns over whether landlords and pest control firms will really take efforts to confirm that bed bugs are truly gone. If they resurface within a few months, for example, this should not be seen as a new infestation. If the tenant does not react to bed bug bites, it may take even longer to know for sure that bed bugs are gone.
Under the bill, if a tenant repeatedly introduces bed bugs, they will be charged for treatment. The bill states (in sec. 7) that:
If repeated eradications are necessary due to the tenant’s failure to properly maintain the dwelling, the costs of eradication may be charged to the tenant…
I think we can all imagine situations where tenants should be held liable for repeated infestations.
My only concern with a bill such as this is that while the bill requires bed bugs to be “eradicated” by the landlord, there may be situations where what looks like a new or repeat infestation is simply a case of bed bugs hanging around from a previous infestation (i.e. incomplete eradication).
That said, I think that the bill is a good idea.
- It lays out expectations for prompt eradication of bed bugs, and who is responsible for making this happen.
- It allows tenants to go to the health department who can order treatment at the landlord’s expense if the landlord does not act within ten days.
- It gives both landlords and tenants rights and responsibilities regarding bed bugs.
- It holds someone responsible for making sure a building is bed bug-free. (When tenants are responsible for treatment, entire buildings tend to become infested.)
- It sets out requirements for educating tenants about the problem and their rights and responsibilities.
- It protects tenants as well as landlords from other tenants who resist inspections or treatment — a problem we hear about too often on the Bedbugger Forums.
You can read previous discussions of A2072 here.
An earlier version of this bill (A3203) also passed through the Assembly, but was not picked up by the Senate.
As of Thursday, A2072 is now under consideration in the New Jersey Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. If you live in New Jersey, you can contact your senator using this form.