Landlord-Tenant Who's Responsible?(10 posts)
My mother lives in a multi-unit apartment building in Ambler, PA. Her apartment
is infested with bed bugs -- and some were also found in the apartment next to her.
She has lived there for over 20 years and never had this problem. We reported it
to the super who confirmed with an exterminator that it's bed bugs and that the
neighbor has some, too. (Not sure if anyone else in the building has a problem.) The
landlords are saying that my mother is responsible for payment of exterminating the
bed bugs. Does anyone know what a tenant's rights are in Ambler PA? Also, if other
apartments have bed bugs and they don't get it fumigated, won't it be likely that the
bed bugs will come back. Please advise.
Hi reporter, I'm so sorry for your mother's situation. Yes, bedbugs in an adjacent apartment that are not controlled can certainly spread. Both apartments should be treated at the same time, and adjacent apartments should be inspected.
Regarding who pays for pest control in Pennsylvania, you will need to obtain competent legal advice. (Even if we could find the relevant statutes for you, we are not lawyers. However, some quick googling suggests that Pennsylvania landlords are bound by the concept of "implied warranty of habitability" to provide a safe dwelling, and this would certainly include exterminating vermin infestations.)
Looks like Montgomery County is served by two legal aid organizations, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Community Impact Legal Services. I strongly suggest you contact them for advice and information.
Another resource might be the Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County.
And, reporter? Please come back to let us know what you find, so that the next time someone asks your question, we can help them!
Also, please use the resources on this site, the faqs and this forum, to help your mom. People here are very understanding and generous and will help you through this ordeal.
You had better look up the laws in Pa...Most people on this site are NYers..not all but majority...So to advise you on Pa. laws..is not easy to do....please call your local board of health.....tell them about the infestation....Look at your Mothers lease....Calling the local housing authority and see if you can get some advice. I think the landlord is ultimately responsible...don't be bamboozeled !! You have to fight for your rights....You must take action against these bugs...they breed very quickly..you need to seek a professional PCO who knows how to deal with Bed bugs...
Most cities require landlords to maintain habitable conditions on their properties- this includes keeping them free from vermin and insects. Bedbugs are insects which create inhabitable living conditions not only because they feed on humans, but also because they produce excrement in/on/near humans. Check out your mom's lease- it should have a clause that details landlord responsibility in terms of habitable living conditions, and it will probably use roaches or rats as an example.
Also, I encourage you to check out the FAQs on this blog. You use the word "fumigation," and hopefully you're using that term broadly. If not, you should know that fumigants and bug bombs do NOT work on bedbugs, and in some cases may actually serve to make an infestation worse. Specific pesticides are used to exterminate bedbugs, and in most cases, at least two or three treatments spaced over a month or six weeks' time are necessary. It's important that your mother's unit and the other infested unit, as well as adjacent units, are inspected and treated accordingly. Bedbugs travel through walls, so just treating one unit probably won't solve the problem.
Good luck, and let us know if we can help, okay?
Thanks for the help. I did mean fumigation in the broadest terms. The landlord is now
saying that my mother is responsible for treating the adjacent apartment as well, which
we are countering by forwarding him the Pennsylvania housing law about implied warranty of habitability (Pugh v Holmes, 486 PA 272, 405 A.2d 897 1979). What's ludicrous about his position is that since my mother identified it, she's responsible. The fact that she is 95, doesn't travel, has lived there over 20 years without a problem until now and that the apartment across from her has had several tenants within the last two years doesn't compute to him that my mother is not the source. I'll keep you posted.
this is really awful BTW are you really a reporter? or is that just your alias? as in you want to report the bed bugs? I ask because we do get Entemologists on here and reporters--they have some very strange names
I am a journalist. But I'm on this site solely because of my mother's situation.
I am in MA, but this morning i read something in the daily Metro that said "Landlords are responsible for eradicating pests (in this case they were talking about rats)." It looks to me that landlords really are responsible for this everywehere.
Your mother's landlord is clearly not getting it. 'Whoever smelt it, dealt it' does not apply to bedbugs, last I checked. That's total crap and I hope she doesn't have to take it. Glad she's got you on her team.
The landlord is most likely responsible for pest control in both units (really, all units). Your mother should absolutely not have to pay for her neighbors' bedbug treatment - she really shouldn't even have to pay for her own.
What she might have to do on her own, is all the other stuff - the laundry, isolating the bed, living out of ziplocs for a while. Maybe you could help her with that - again, start with the FAQs.
Also, please note that the neighbors, while possibly the source of your mom's infestation, will probably not be financially responsible either. So don't expect to "blame them" and have that help you. With bedbugs, blame is obviously a tricky issue but no matter where they came from, now they are here. And it's the landlord's problem.
Read the FAQs on our site about how bedbugs breed and travel, so you can inform him/her with some facts.
I sat down with my landlord and made a case that was lawyer-esque in its preparation and timing - first I handed her the New York times article (it's linked at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry on bedbugs). I had highlighted some of the passages on how they spread through buildings. Then I showed her the Chicago Landlord-Tenant Ordinance which clearly states that landlords are responsible for maintaining habitable conditions AND what those conditions include (pests is one of them). Then I showed her everything I'd done so far (at this point I'd already started a list of things I'd bought and things I'd done to rid myself of bedbugs, including hiring a PCO and paying for the first two treatments myself). Then I shared with her an article about the lawsuit in New York, where the tenant sued and won. Just to make the point that while I didn't want to go to court over this, I was prepared to because I felt that the law was on my side.
I got her to agree to pay for all future visits from the PCO.
She still made some statements about how bedbugs were our fault, not hers, and how they had to come into the building somehow (she seemed to doubt it could be from any of the neighbors, although how could she possibly know this? Also, remember that many people have bedbugs but don't react to the bites, so the neighbors could have them and THEY might not even know!)
But she saw my points, and she came around. The PCO came I think three or four more times, and each time, we'd write him a check and then deduct that amount from our rent.
Good luck with this. Get your facts in order and call this guy up. Let us know if you have any more questions.
There may be places where landlords aren't liable. We only definitely have information from a number of cities and states (in the landlords and tenants FAQ).
If people want to let us know what they find out about their city or state (preferably with a link to a resource), it can be added to the FAQ. The best thing would be to comment on that FAQ.
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