Are Bed Bugs the Landlord's Responsibility?

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Are Bed Bugs the Landlord's Responsibility?

The mere mention of bed bugs is more enough to make your skin crawl. Tiny as they might be, these parasitic insects have become a common nuisance in many places all over the world. Back in the days, bed bugs were almost eradicated, but the past few decades have seen their resurgence. Now, they are out to cause fear and disgust all over again, and landlords and tenants not happy.

There are tons of misconceptions about bed bugs, as well as the development of bed bug infestations. These misconceptions are why it is a must for tenants and landlords to remember that the presence of these bugs is not about cleanliness alone.

There are different ways for these insects to find their way into rental homes, most of which are common daily activities. For instance, bed bugs can stick to electronics, books, and second-hand furniture pieces. They can even hitchhike on visitors who previously went to an infested area. Note that infestations could happen not only in residential dwellings but also in hotels, libraries, and offices.

An average tenant and landlord don’t have lots of encounters throughout a rental agreement. With a bit of luck, a tenancy period can pass uneventfully. But, an issue in the rental can cause arguments, heated communications, and prompt both sides to resort to legal advice or actions. Among the most frequent issues for renters and landlords are pest invasions, specifically bed bugs.

But why bed bugs? Because it is very tricky to know the exact cause of an infestation more than anything else. It can also be impossible to determine the exact time when these insects found themselves in the rental. So, you cannot just blame anybody in particular and pressure them to deal with the problem.

Who Takes the Responsibility if a Rental Property is Found to Have a Bed Bug Infestation?

One of the common questions is who takes responsibility for the treatment of a property discovered to have a bed bug infestation. The answer is simple. The property manager or landlord is responsible for treating the unit. But, it is the responsibility of the tenant to cooperate with the efforts of the landlord in managing the infestation. These include washing or bagging clothing and bedding, preparing the unit for the treatment, and making efforts to detect bed bugs actively. A good tenant will also advise their neighbors about the infestation; if not, bed bugs could still be lingering, reproducing, and worse, biting.

It is most likely that the landlord will enter the property to treat the infestations. It is the landlord’s right to enter the unit to maintain and inspect rental properties. However, written notice should be given to the tenant. Check with the governing body for rentals in your province (or state if you are a US citizen).

In emergency cases like fire or flood, landlords can enter the property without notice. However, bed bug treatment is not considered an emergency. With this, tenants should be given adequate time and proper notice to properly prepare the property for bed bug treatment.

Inform Your Landlord about the Bed Bug Issue

Contact the unit manager or landlord right away if you suspect that your rental unit or building has a bed bug infestation. Your landlord must hire a professional pest control company to measure and inspect for bed bug concentration in your unit and neighboring units.

Once your landlord has been notified, purchase bed bug proof mattress covers and bed bug interceptors. These products are essential to proper bed bug eradication.

Before the company enters your property, your landlord must give you notice of entry for the inspection of the bed bug exterminator. The landlord can also work with you to create a plan on how to access the unit that will work for you and your landlord.

There are some provinces/states with specific laws on the duties of tenants and landlords in the case of a bed bug infestation. For instance, state laws can require tenants to take certain steps including the following:

  • Reasonably collaborate with the extermination efforts of the landlord
  • Report possible infestation in a matter of 24 to 48 hours after you find bed bugs
  • Comply with the control measures that the landlord has put in place

What Should a Landlord Do?

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the rental property was meticulously checked before the new tenant moves in. In case there was a bed bug infestation issue before the new tenant moves in, the landlord is responsible for providing bed bug treatment.

Bed bug infestations also occur in properties with several units. In situations like this, the landlord should take measures to get rid of bed bugs in the entire building.  

Identifying when an infestation started is usually difficult because bed bugs often pop up at any time. Your landlord might try to blame you for the infestation, even if this is true, the landlord has an interest in treating your unit as soon as possible to avoid spreading.

It is also important that all tenants use bed bug detectors to monitor the presence of bed bugs in the other units.  

Who is Responsible for the Cost of Treatment?

Provided that the tenant is not responsible for the infestation, the landlord is the one who pays for the extermination cost.

Most governing bodies require that landlords provide liveable housing conditions, which means a home free of bed bugs.

But, identifying who introduced the bugs and who should foot the bill is usually quite difficult in buildings with multiple units. A lot of tenants may move in and out, others recently coming back from overseas travels and bringing home these bugs with them.

If you are living in a single-family house, particularly if you have been living there for some time, there is a high chance that your landlord is going to hold you responsible. It can be for both the bed bug infestation and the costs of extermination. It is mainly because there are no other tenants that will take the blame.

Take note that typically, renters’ insurance won’t pay for bed bug elimination or damages brought about by bed bugs. Qualified parties like professional exterminators may also determine that you were responsible for the infestation. With this, there is a possibility that you will use your own money to pay for the extermination costs.

Bed bugs can be a serious concern because they are not just tricky to eliminate but also because they multiply quite fast. Bed bugs lay up to 5 eggs daily for weeks. It only takes several weeks before larvae mature and take on the maximum size of a bed bug.

As far as rental properties are concerned, the question of who is responsible for getting rid of these pests between the landlord and tenant always pops up. The answer is a bit complicated as it depends on the infestation’s duration and if the landlord can confidently determine that you were the one who brought the bed bugs.

In any case, bed bug detectors are always a great tool to have around in case a bed bug “scare” happens at home. When an exterminator treat your unit, you want to make sure there are none left. Remember, exterminators cannot guarantee 100% extermination and that’s why using bed bug detectors can help you catch them earlier than later.

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  • Sheila Nicole