Bed bugs can be tricky to deal with. Often, tenants and landlords have a tendency to blame each other for the spread of the vile pests. However, the cause usually is unknown. Landlords may be unsure how to handle an infestation and tenants may attribute the responsibility to them. Consider these tips on how to handle a bed bug infestation properly.
There's a lot of controversy surrounding who's responsible for a bed bug issue. Many tenants may begin to point fingers at each other and potentially at the landlord. Responsibility varies from state to state. Many states will ask that landlords take control of keeping the property pest-free, Quick and Dirty Tips noted. The language in certain contracts may be very vague, in others it might be more specific and clearly note bed bugs. Language can be deceptive and often results in legal counseling. Some laws only hold landlords responsible if more than one property is infested. If not, it's the tenant's job to handle the issue. As a landlord, make sure you know the property rules for your state regarding pests.
Is it a lawsuit possible?
If the problem isn't addressed or taken care of in a timely fashion, tenants can sue you. Many contracts use a term known as "constructive eviction," which is legal terminology for believing that the tenants were forced out of the home because the living conditions were terrible. However, tenants need to have a strong case with plenty of evidence that the property was uninhabitable. If the case is proven, landlords have to give their tenants the cost of finding a new apartment.
Tenants can also sue a landlord on the legal concept of a lack of habitability, NOLO stated. This is the idea that the tenants lived through sleeping with bed bugs for over a month, but were incredibly uncomfortable. Again, tenants need to prove they were in poor living conditions. If they do, landlords need to reimburse tenants for the months of rent when they dealt with the bed bugs.
Neighbors in an apartment complex or building may also attempt to sue each other. If one tenant used another's property and bed bugs popped up, he or she might blame the neighbor. However, this case is much more difficult to prove.
Sometimes bed bugs may come into an apartment with an unknowing tenant, or they may already be there. If a landlord discovers a bed bug problem, he or she should call pest control services immediately to properly eliminate the bugs and prevent a lawsuit or full infestation. Letting a problem go on can result in lost future business, money and potentially property.