Bed Bugs Treatment and Extermination in a Rental

Bed bugs treatment and extermination in a rental are often not included in the lease agreement. Rental properties and landlords will sometimes cover part of the cost of bed bug treatment or extermination, but most will not. Luckily, courts are finding more and more that bed bugs are a serious problem affecting the well-being of tenants and are ordering landlords to administer bed bug treatments as a part of their obligation to keep properties safe for tenants.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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You have discovered bed bugs in your rental dwelling. Now, the question becomes: who must pay for the bed bug treatment? This is best answered by defining some important terms.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small bugs that get into beds and linens, and often bite, leaving raised welts. Bed bugs can lay up to 5 eggs a day for weeks, and these larvae mature in a few weeks, thus exponentially compounding the bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are very hard to kill and some experts report that bed bugs are reaching near epidemic levels in certain cities and areas in the United States.

How do bed bugs get into a rental dwelling?

Unlike rodents and other pests that are attracted primarily to garbage and food particles, bed bugs can enter into a rental dwelling in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Through floor boards, electrical conduits, and small cracks
  • On clothing, backpacks, contaminated luggage, and even on people who have come in contact with them

Bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt and they can infest even a clean home, due to the fact that they are hard to see and you may have them and not even know it. They are attracted by the scent of humans and they ingest only human blood, not other animals or food.

Who is at fault in the case of a bed bug infestation?

Because bed bugs can enter a home unnoticed, it is very difficult to determine who is truly “responsible” for a unit becoming infested. In some cases, the bed bugs get in on a tenant’s clothes, or in baggage arriving from another location. A tenant can pick up a bed bug even from sitting on an upholstered seat on public transportation or in a cafe, and never notice it. Bed bugs can also come in from other apartments in a multi-unit dwelling, and that’s where a landlord’s responsibility comes into play.

Who pays for bed bug treatments?

The laws governing financial responsibility for extermination of bed bugs vary from state to state, but many states are placing the responsibility for bed bug treatments squarely on the shoulders of landlords.

Because landlords are in a position to most effectively treat all areas in a rental dwelling, including common spaces, they are expected to carry the cost of treating the problem. This is especially relevant because the bugs can migrate, so treating one unit may not be enough – the whole building may have to be treated in order to eradicate the pests.

Furthermore, courts are finding more and more that bed bugs are a serious problem affecting the well-being of tenants, so much so that landlords have a responsibility to administer bed bug treatments as a part of their obligation to keep their properties safe for tenants.

What is bed bug treatment?

Bed bug treatment is a complex, expensive process that involves the cooperation of all tenants in all rental units. A specific exterminator will be required, and follow-up inspections are a must. To be most effective, bed bug treatment must commence immediately after the first sighting of bed bugs, so if you are having a problem, report it to your landlord immediately.

How a Landlord Tenant Attorney Can Help

Bed bugs are hard to get rid of and the longer you wait, the worse the problem will become. If you have bed bugs in your rental apartment, you need to get your landlord to address the problem immediately.

If the landlord refuses to act, or tries to get you to shoulder the costs of a bed bugs treatment, you should contact a local landlord tenant attorney right away to see what your options are.

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