Arizona has new state bed bug law

by nobugsonme on July 31, 2011 · 7 comments

in bed bug education, bed bug laws, bed bug legislation, bed bugs, landlords and tenants

Arizona has a new law (SB1306) that is now going into effect regarding bed bugs which (and I am paraphrasing from the full text):

    Prohibits landlords from renting units known to have current bed bug infestations.
    Requires landlords to provide bed bug educational materials to existing and new tenants.
    Prohibits tenants from moving items into the building if they are known to be infested with bed bugs.
    Requires tenants to notify landlords in writing or electronically of the presence of bed bugs.

Fox 10 in Phoenix notes that local commentators had mixed responses to the new law:

“I think it’s a balanced law it puts an obligation on the tenants but it also puts an obligation on the landlord as well,” says attorney Scott Clark.

But Ken Volk, an advocate for Arizona Tenants says the law has no teeth. Volk says the law doesn’t say what will happen if an apartment is found to be infested with bedbugs.

“it doesn’t go the extra step of saying the lease is terminated, invalidated, and the landlord must return the security deposit and all the payments,” says Volk.

And as always with this kind of legislation, the big question is: how will the law be enforced?

Here’s one problem: Landlords can’t knowingly rent out an infested unit. Most traditional spray/dust treatment protocols require units to be occupied during treatment. So how will landlords effectively treat infested units which are unoccupied if structural heat and Vikane gas fumigation are not an option?

Another problem: what will be required of landlords in terms of a unit being considered cleared:

    A dog inspection?
    A visual inspection by a human?
    No bites being reported?
    The landlord not seeing bed bugs?
    Implementation of rigorous active or passive bed bug monitoring systems?

And yet another problem hinges on a definition: the bill states that

“Infestation” or “infested” means that the presence of bedbugs is sufficient to materially affect the health and safety of tenants and their guests.

In my assessment, that’s one bed bug.

How will those in charge of enforcing this law define the number of bed bugs “sufficient to materially affect the health and safety” of tenants and guests?

You can watch Fox 10 Pheonix’s report here (if no video is embedded below).

1 Sam Bryks, B.C.E. August 1, 2011 at 1:54 am

I wonder if the lawmakers consulted with some of the experts in Arizona who know the subject well. Good points by nobugsonme (what is her first name? – how about a pseudonym like Betty Nobugsonme?).
I think that there is a reasonable process to certify that a unit that was infested is now bed bug “free” that could include a block inspection using a K9 team, or a dry ice inpection of a unit that has not had any reports of bed bugs. In my recent paper on cases in Ontario, some adjudicators considered a unit to be “habitable” even if there was infestation.. a rather weird attitude .. I would ask them if they would want to live in a “habitable” unit with bed bugs with their families. I can only guess the answer.
I think there is a need for a standard law that has been carefully reviewed by experts involved in bed bug management such as some of the researchers, industry experts, as well as representatives of the housing industry and of tenant support organizations.
This law is not bad in some ways, but as you note, it does not really address some of the issues in much detail, and that leaves this open to a lot of interpretation. The law is also supposed to take precedence over any other statutes. Here in Ontario, a municipal statute that addresses this kind of issue can actually augment a provincial statute so long as it does not oppose the provincial statute. Toronto actually passed a cosmetic pesticide law that was above and beyond any provincial or federal legislation banning use of herbicides and insecticides for lawns. Industry challenged this up to the Supreme Court and lost. The province actually passed their own Cosmetic Pesticide legislation soon after this happened.
There is clearly a need to protect the interests of tenants and of landlords in a fair manner. San Francisco has had a bed bug bylaw for at least 5 years, and this is certainly coming in more jurisdictions. It really comes down to co-operation, education, common sense and the basic principles of the golden rule in doing the right thing… i.e. treat others fairly as one would like to be treated fairly.

2 BugsInTO August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

I think the mandatory distribution of educational material by the landlord is a great idea. I hope the info is well-researched and standardized (i.e. not composed by the landlord) and that it also outlines tenant/landlorrd responsibilities.

I have believed (and suggested to my government representatives) that a public education campaign was just about the only thing that could make a real difference to improve the bedbug situation. But, that costs money. Now, Arizona is downloading this responsibilitiy to the landlords, so I hope it works.

3 CarpathianPeasant August 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

People do NOT want to talk about them. I don’t mean just landlords avoiding mention with prospective tenants. I mean the so called “average person” who might indeed run into them. They want to avoid the matter.

There was a nurse (nurses are not stupid or uneducated) who was at my apartment on business just about a week ago. When the matter was mentioned, she said that outright. She had a spray bottle of alcohol for when she went around to the big apartment buildings.

If they don’t want to discuss it in places of potential infestation, they sure are not going to STUDY the matter even if educational material is offered.

4 Jennifer August 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I recently moved into a place that is infested with bedbugs before I moved in here. The maintenance guy who lives on the property was informed before I moved in here but nothing was done. I am so angry, I would have never have moved into here if I’d known. I had already notified the owner (who lives in California) in writing of the issue and a few others and by Arizona law he has 10 days to respond and if not then I write another letter stating that he failed to respond and notify him of when I’m moving and also that he has 14 days to give me my deposit. Here’s the thing, I was mislead when I moved in here and I want all of my money back (1st month’s rent and deposit totals $1025.00) plus I want to be reimbursed for the cost of the moving truck I rented to move into here, plus be reimbursed for most of my furniture/mattresses etc…From day one I’ve had all problems. The first 3 weeks of living here I didn’t have hot water (which is a health code violation). Also the maintenance guy who lives here makes it known to all tenants that if you cross him he’ll have you evicted, which to him I did cross him because I wrote the owner that letter, the maintenance guy said it makes him look like an idiot and that he isn’t doing his job, well, he isn’t. I still have things in this apartment that need fixing and they are not fixed. I’ve only been here 6 weeks. Also there was a problem with the lease. After I moved in here, the owner emailed me the lease to sign and fax back to him, but when I received it it had my grandmother’s name on it as cosigner, which was never brought up to me that I needed a cosigner prior to me moving in here, so I emailed the owner back stating that I wasn’t going to sign it unless he takes my grandmother’s name off it, so he emailed me another one with just my name on it, but I haven’t signed it because legal aid advised me not to, so now I’m just a month to month tenant with a verbal contract (which is better for me). I would like to hire a lawyer, but I need on that will get paid only when I win my case. Can anyone help me with finding a lawyer like this? I live in Lake Havasu City, Az. 86403. Thank you in advance and your help is greatly appreciated. Also I have two daughters with me ages 15 and 5 and all of us are being bitten and my 15 year old is allergic, she’s getting welts from the bites.

5 nobugsonme August 8, 2011 at 2:11 am

Good points. I note that a lot of people seem to be using alcohol as if it were “magic dust”…

6 nobugsonme August 8, 2011 at 2:15 am

Hi sam bryks,

Sorry for the delay in responding. To respond to your comment about my pseudonym, the problem with using my real first name is that it kind of negates the point of using a pseudonym. Sure, I could choose someone else’s first name, but I might find that confusing.

Landlord/tenant issues vis a vis bed bugs are indeed complex matters and we do need laws which give *both* tenants and landlords rights and responsibilities in the event of a bed bug problem. But coming up with laws which work really requires the input of bed bug experts, and I suspect in a lot of these cases, this is not happening.

7 nobugsonme August 8, 2011 at 2:24 am

Hi Jennifer,

It sounds like you’re in an awful situation in that apartment.

I can’t be of much help with finding a lawyer beyond recommending this FAQ:

(I suspect you already asked if Legal Aid could give suggestions as to how to find one? The State Bar of AZ website has some FAQs which may help:

I hate to mention this, but if you are planning on moving, keep in mind it is very easy to move bed bugs. There are reliable ways of avoiding it, like getting your stuff treated with Vikane gas or heat in a truck or pod, en route to your new home. But this can be costly.

Please come to our forums if you need more input or support on the bed bug issue:

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