Bed bug bill in New Jersey General Assembly: A-3203

by nobugsonme on September 17, 2008 · 6 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bug laws, bed bug legislation, bed bug treatment, landlords and tenants, money, new jersey, new york, spread of bed bugs

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.

We first heard about this proposal back in July.

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.

According to PolitickerNJ:

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.

You can read the proposed legislation here,
or download a PDF here.

Note (5/2010): A3203 was reintroduced as A2072.

1 Doug Summers MS September 17, 2008 at 3:37 am

Cimex hemipterus (bed bugs that originated from the tropics) are not listed in the bill.

The tropical cousin of Cimex lectularius, Cimex hemipterus should be referenced in the new legislation.

I would imagine that if a specimen was identified as C. hemipterus, then the infestation would not be subject to the requirements of the proposed state statute as it is presently worded.

2 parakeets September 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I don’t think this will pass. Landlords are actively lobbying against legistlation mandating their having to pay for bedbug treatment> It is expensive and a never-ending expense–as soon as they get rid of bedbugs, the building can be re-infested again. Landlords feel they are not the ones bringing bedbugs in. They don’t want to have to shoulder the cost. While landlords are organized and actively fighting about who pays, tenants are not. Disclosure is not mandatory andlords are not even telling tenants that their buildings are infested. Many tenants still feel “bedbugs won’t happen to me.” The landlords are smarter. We need to move very quickly to get people mobilized or the laws will not be passed in favor of tenants.

3 Rose November 4, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Anyone file a Tort Claim notice with NJ HUD? have the form and contact?

4 Alicia Cambell June 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

My building at 55 Corbin Avenue has a bed bug problem. The landlord didn’t notify anyone of the problem. The children and babies in the building are being bitten an no one cares. Repairs arent done in the building because the super has another job. Who is suppose to pay when there are infestations? Not to mention there is already a roach problem. Roaches and bed bugs and the landlord can not even try to handle the problem. Notify the tenant..we can do it if necessary, but dont pretend this isn;t a problem. The health department has already been called.

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