Bed bugs are more common than most people think and can be a tremendous problem, posing risks to your health, furniture and home. Some speculate the ban on heavy pesticides like DDT crossed with an increase in international travel are to blame, but bed bugs have seemingly always been a problem, even if not a prominent one. Because these pests are extremely intrusive, as a landlord it is best to treat any bed bug issues immediately before the problem spreads across your residences.
Local and State Laws
Housing laws tend to vary from state to state, so it is always best to consult a local attorney about your rights as both a landlord and a tenant on issues pertaining to responsibility. In certain states, such as New York, it is mandatory for landlords to treat bed bugs immediately, typically in all neighbouring apartments as well, as the risk for spreading is great. In some states, the landlord might be able to charge the tenants for the expenses, if he or she can prove within a reasonable doubt that the tenants are responsible for the infestation. Typically, a landlord is not responsible for replacing items lost to infestation, unless they were negligent in treating it.
Landlords are typically responsible for paying all costs for bug infestations, even bed bugs, provided tenants were not purposefully and knowingly responsible for bringing them in to the dwelling. Lease agreements often contain a clause about pest control issues, including the responsibilities of the tenant to comply with procedural treatments, moving or treating furniture or even vacating if necessary. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to treat the problem immediately or risk it spreading, which could result in legal action from your tenants.
As you are often legally responsible to treat adjoining apartments, you will need the cooperation of your other tenants. Again, this is an issue that should be included in your lease agreement, but if it is not, you still have to treat the bed bugs. If a tenant refuses to allow you entry or refuses to comply with procedural requirements, which often including moving or discarding infected property, you can issue a "3-Day Notice to Cure Covenant or Quit." This notice basically states that the tenants are in violation of their lease if they do not follow procedure and allow exterminators to do their job. If you do not have an infestation clause in your lease, you should consult a local attorney first, as you may still have the right to take action against the tenant for non-compliance.
Property of your tenants is a tricky issue and usually is not included in the lease agreement. If possible, you should attempt to find an exterminator that is able to treat furniture, as otherwise it may be your responsibility as a landlord to reimburse or replace items such as beds, bed frames and couches. Contact a local attorney when in doubt.
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