Bed bug insurance legislation proposed in New York State

by nobugsonme on August 13, 2010 · 3 comments

in bed bug insurance, bed bug legislation, bed bugs, money, New Category, new york, spread of bed bugs

VosIzNeias.com reports that New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson are proposing legislation to force insurers to offer bed bug insurance in New York State:

The legislation provides that insurance companies must reimburse renters, homeowners, co-op and condo owners who experience a bedbug infestation for all infestation-related costs, including: extermination services, cleaning of the insured’s property and personal property (such as clothing and bedding), as well as the cost of replacing items which cannot be treated or cleaned, like mattresses or furniture.

BrickUnderground notes that the idea came about after Allison Witty, Dov Hikind’s director of communications, lost everything due to a bed bug infestation in her Brooklyn apartment at 1650 Ocean Parkway. BrickUnderground notes that Witty registered her infestation on the Bed Bug Registry, here.

This could be hugely helpful to people who are covered for bed bugs in their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. However, as BrickUnderground also notes, bed bug coverage is likely to be pricey indeed.

Witty’s infestation added up to a loss of $7000. A recent Community Health Survey found that one in fifteen New Yorkers had bed bugs last year.

Do the math: that’s a lot of potential bed bug payouts.

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1 Ci Lecto August 15, 2010 at 8:51 am

I find this story interesting on many levels. It would be comforting if “someone” compensated us for our losses to BB. But, as many commenters on your source article noted, insurance companies are not charities and the more prevalent infestations become, the more costly such coverage would become. If this were mandated in renter coverage, it will impact the cost of every policy. If the law is implemented as “insurers must offer a bedbug rider”, would they be affordable and would people buy them? What worries me about this is that right now there are PCOs who are diligent and whose work allows people to keep their furninshings. Others just say “toss the couch, lady”. There’s little incentive for landlords to hire the better PCOs. With insurance theoretically available, landlords and their PCOs can just palm the problem off on tenants on the premise that they have insurance and if they don’t, that it was their choice not to buy it.

The other interesting thing about this (from a non-BB perspective) is Hikind’s politics. He’s known as a conservative or a “neocon”, but this is a more “liberal” type of approach to the problem. Hikind came out of the activist politics of the 60s, as did many of the neocons. Some commentators (like Andrew Sullivan) have noted that many of the neocons actually have an activist “core” inside them.

With albany politics being what they are, I would be willing to bet (just a little) that this bill does not become law in this session and also suspect that this bill might have been introduced to make its sponsors look good rather than to actually pass.

2 nobugsonme August 15, 2010 at 10:47 am

Hi Ci,

Insightful comments, as usual.

I note that insurance would also extend to landlords — there’s a potential for landlords to have a much easier time with bed bug infestations in their properties if they themselves could be insured against them.

So this may not lead to the laws in NYC being changed to force tenants to pay for treatment. I suspect most tenants in NYC don’t carry renter’s insurance, and if the costs increase due to these kinds of provisions, the numbers may be even smaller.

I think your prognosis for the legislation not going through is correct. I seem to recall that it’s impossible for homeowners in Brooklyn to get flood insurance (perhaps someone can confirm this). Given that bed bugs are a much more likely occurrence for most residents of Brooklyn than a flooded home, the insurance companies are unlikely to let this happen.

3 nadia solomon August 25, 2010 at 11:22 pm

It’s absolutely ludicrous that the one disaster most likely to happen, is the one that is NOT covered (it’s like the “pre-existing conditions” clause that health insurance companies had). Almost everyone I know in NY has been touched by bedbugs.

Bedbug infestations cause countless people to lose their belongings, and go into debt. And worse, if people choose not to deal with the bedbug problem because they can’t afford to, it only results in the problem getting bigger and spreading to others.

It’s a no-brainer that renter’s insurance should cover it, or atleast offer the option, as they do for expensive jewelry.

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