Bed bug law is a relatively new field, one that first began to spring up in 2008 as a bed bug epidemic grew in New York City and soon moved on to many parts of the U.S. Laws in the U.S. It focuses largely on the renting and ownership of properties. There are currently no federal laws in place regarding bed bugs, but there are a patchwork of city and state laws.
Most states and cities require that landlords offer habitations that are habitable, which includes being free of vermin. The states of New York and New Jersey both explicitly classify bed bugs as being vermin, meaning that it is the landlord's responsibility to pay for their extermination.
In certain states, such as New Jersey, tenants and landlords are both required to provide each other notice if a unit is infested with bed bugs. Tenants must notify landlords upon discovery of the insects, which landlords must provide notification prior to rental.
In many places, tenants have a number of responsibilities regarding the extermination of bed bugs. These can include making the apartment available for extermination as well as abiding by various protocols established to prevent reinfestation.
Suing For Damages
Bed bug extermination is often expensive and, in severe infections, can require that certain infested items be disposed of. Often either the tenant or the landlord will claim that the other party was responsible for damages related to the infestation. Because bedbug law is relatively new, there are few reliable precedents for how courts will rule. For example, in New York, even though it generally the landlord's responsibility to keep a unit bedbug free, several landlords have attempted to sue tenants for damage for introducing the insects into the dwelling.
Breach of Contract
In civil law, landlords can be found in breach of contract if a dwelling develops an infestation. Even if the contract does not specifically state that the sold or leased dwelling is free of bed bugs, the contract will likely included general clauses guaranteeing livability.
Using termite law as a precedent, occupants may be able to sue landlords for negligence if a bed bug infestation was caused due to preventable actions on the landlord's part.
If a dwelling is falsely presented as bedbug free or is declared to be free of vermin, but is not, the landlord may be liable or even criminally indictable for fraud and may be forced to pay both compensatory and punitive damages for their actions.
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