Many people find out that their rented property has bed bug problems only days or weeks after they move in. With this, there are many who are wondering if it is possible or legal for them to terminate their lease due to bed bugs.
Terminating lease due to bedbugs can be a lengthy process, but it is possible. There are cases where landlords willingly terminated the lease of their tenants after being sued or after being notified that tenants will sue them because of neglect from the reported issues. It is advisable to contact a lawyer, especially if you’ve signed a contract and is nowhere near the end of your lease.
Aside from terminating your lease, you have two options if you find these critters in your unit. It’s either you stay in the rental unit and spend money on the treatment until the end of your lease, or clear the unit from the pests and stay as long as you want. For both choices, you’ll definitely spend money to make sure that you go through the lease without the need to worry about the bugs.
Keep in mind that you cannot terminate your lease without letting your landlord know, as he might be the one suing you in the end. As bothersome as your situation may be and despite the need for fast action, it is best that you consult a tenant lawyer to help you make the right decisions.
Understanding Your Rights as a Tenant
Just because you find bed bugs in your unit doesn’t mean you have to deal with these pests on your own. If you are confident that you didn’t bring these critters with you when you moved in, then you should know your rights as a tenant and demand the landlord to have the issue dealt with.
Different cities and states have different legislations when it comes to dealing with these pests. The laws implemented in your city can be beneficial for both the landlord and the tenant, or either of the two parties.
In Canada, there are cities that don’t have clear legislation regarding bed bugs. Some cities require a thorough investigation to know whether the tenants had brought the bugs, or if the pests were in the property before the tenants moved in. It depends on how a certain government department handles such an issue which could determine which party must handle the costs for the extermination. However, there are also those that require landlords to deal with pest issues while tenants, on the other hand, are responsible for maintaining the property bedbug-free.
Learn more about bed bugs and the laws in different Canadian provinces here.
A Bedbug History Must Be Provided by the Landlord
Not all tenants know that landlords must disclose the bed bug history of the unit or property to be rented out. This is the main reason why some tenants, unfortunately, learn about a bed bug issue after moving in for a certain period of time. If you’re still in talks with a landlord before moving in, it is recommended that you ask for this just before you finalize your decision.
Just like knowing when the property is prone to flooding and other issues, it is also your right as a tenant to know whether the property is liveable in or not. You should ask for this disclosure just to make sure you won’t have to go through the entire process of having your unit exterminated every few months.
Being able to contact a lawyer will give you the advantage of knowing your rights and laws in your city regarding bed bugs. Remember that there are laws making landlords responsible for covering treatments for different pests but may not include these pesky critters. So, talking to a legal expert will give you more options on how to handle the entire situation.
Should You Cover the Costs of Extermination?
Usually, the landlord is responsible for the cost of getting extermination services for a bed bug infestation that is inside your unit. This is what happens in cases where tenants find out that there is an infestation after they move in. However, in the event that you were proven to be the one who brought those critters into the property, you will be the one responsible for paying for the services and will be accountable for the bed bug problem.
It is the responsibility of the landlord to make the rental property habitable for tenants, so it is necessary for landlords to pay for regular extermination services. Tenants, on the other hand, must also be responsible for making sure that they don’t bring in these pests. In cases where the landlords are the ones who neglected such responsibilities, they will be the one to pay for the extermination and relocation costs, if several units or an entire property must be treated.
If the landlord ever refuses to cover the costs, he may provide you with different options such as the following:
- Pay for it to make sure you get your unit cleared of the pests and deduct what you spent from your rent.
- Return a certain percentage of your rent and terminate your lease (which is less likely to happen).
In the case where the landlord ignores the repeated efforts of informing him about the infestation, you can always sue him for damages.
One thing that you must keep in mind is that not all landlords will cover all the expenses. There are times when the landlord only pays for the exterminators while the tenant has to pay for the preparation. This means that you will still spend money to make sure that the service will be done properly inside your unit.
To learn more about your rights as a tenant, click here for the rights of tenants in Ontario.
Things a Tenant Can Do
For someone who moves from time to time, it is necessary that you have common knowledge when it comes to carefully select your rental property and what you should do in case your property becomes infested.
When looking for a property to rent
Search online and check for bed bug violations at certain addresses. If available, you can also get a full bed bug history. Visiting potential properties is ideal, but you have to be careful not to bring the insects back home if you see these pests from your initial visit. Checking the Bed bug Registry in your desired location is another option to learn more information.
Alert a tenant and suspect or find an infestation
Report to your landlord as soon as you notice signs of bed bugs. It is ideal to notify the landlord in writing. Once you send your complaint, the landlord must take action within 30 days of receiving the letter. You can hire an exterminator to inspect and do an assessment in your unit in case your landlord has ignored your suspicion.
If the landlord hires the exterminator and had the infested units inspected and assessed, you’ll both know the proper treatment that must be done. To get a proper assessment, the exterminator will inspect every nook and cranny of the infested unit or property. He will check all closets, mattresses, box springs, and furniture for any signs of these critters. The expert may either recommend the use of chemicals or heat treatment, in worse cases.
To get the best result, it is highly recommended that you suggest to your landlord that several trusted exterminators inspect and treat the unit or property. This way, you can rest assured that your landlord will be choosing someone who can guarantee successful results.
Searching for the right exterminator? This page will guide you in choosing the right one.
Preparations Prior to the Treatment Schedule
For successful extermination, you must also do your part in preparing your unit. The following are some of the steps you should take before the treatment:
- Start moving furniture away from the walls and keep them a few inches away from each other. This way, the bugs will not find a way to move to another hiding area or reach other cleared items.
- Put all potentially infested items in plastic bags and seal them. It is best to use a sealable bag to make the process easier. You’ll have to separate the items that you want to throw away and the items that you still want to keep. For those you want to throw away, you should still make sure that it is sealed properly to avoid spreading the bugs. Those that you want to keep must be sealed in the bag for a few months to a year to ensure that the remaining bugs will die of starvation.
- As much as you want to use pest control products to help with the treatment, it is advisable to not use any of it prior to the treatment schedule. The treatments you use may interfere with the effectiveness of the products used by the exterminators. Just focus on the things that you must prepare and let the exterminators do their job.
Your cooperation is necessary for making the extermination process successful. Everyone living in the property must make an effort to have his or her potentially infested items treated to prevent re-infestation and avoid another costly treatment in the future. After the treatment, your exterminator will provide you with some guidelines on what you should do after the procedure to prevent a re-infestation.
Comparing the Provincial Tenancy Laws in Canada
The provinces of Canada have different tenancy laws. If you are in the midst of finding a rental property anywhere in Canada, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the laws in each province to protect your rights. This will make you understand whether your landlord is doing his responsibilities and also be aware of your responsibilities as a tenant.
The landlord and the tenant both have obligations to maintain and repair the rental unit. It is the responsibility of the landlord to comply with the housing, health and safety standards and make the property suitable for living in.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the tenant to maintain the sanitary, health, and cleanliness standards of the rental unit and other facilities he has to access to. In the case of neglect or actions that may damage any part of the unit or facilities, the tenant is obliged to repair the damages. In contrast, the landlord is responsible for repairing daily wear and tear in the unit and facilities.
It is the obligation of the landlord to comply with such things, regardless if the tenant is aware or unaware of the tenancy agreement.
When it comes to emergency repairs, the landlord has the sole obligation to take action especially if the damages will put the health and safety of the tenants at risk. In the case that the tenant is the one calling for emergency repair and the landlord didn’t take action, the tenant can proceed to the repairs and call experts to do the job.
The landlord may take over the repairs and cover the rest of the expenses. If the tenant has already spent money on the repairs, he can file for reimbursement and give a written account of the repairs along with the receipts supporting the claims.
The province of Alberta is different from the other provinces. The obligations of the landlord are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act but with the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, a Public Health legislation.
In this case, the landlord has the sole obligation to take care of everything starting from making the rental property safe to the little details such as the interior finishes.
Similar to British Columbia, landlords in Saskatchewan are the ones responsible for everything to make the tenant comfortable. However, in the event that both parties agree to give the tenant exclusive use of the property, the tenant will take over the obligations to maintain the cleanliness of the exterior and interior of the property.
The tenancy act in Manitoba clearly states that the landlord is responsible for maintaining the appearance of the property including repairs. The tenant should notify the landlord in writing regarding the repairs. Should the landlord fail to comply, the tenant can apply under Section 154 where the landlord must compensate the tenant.
The landlord is solely responsible for maintaining the rental property’s livable state and taking care of repairs.
Similar to that of the other provinces, the landlord is obliged to cover all necessary maintenance and repairs in the property. Once it is leased, the tenant will continue with the maintenance and repairs unless the damages are due to normal wear and tear.
The tenant can make any urgent repairs when needed. On the other hand, the landlord will have to inform the tenant and ask him to vacate the place temporarily. If the damages don’t require quick repairs, the landlord has to acquire authorization from the court to comply with conditions that protect the tenant’s rights. The tenant will have the right to have a reduced rent as compensation for the time he temporarily vacated the property for.
In the case that the landlord doesn’t comply with the needed repairs, the tenant can apply for authorization from the court to carry out the repairs himself. Once authorized and the repairs are carried out, the tenant can deduct the amount incurred from the repairs done in the property. The tenant can withhold the amount from the rent or ask for a reimbursement from the landlord.
The landlord is obliged to keep the premises in good condition and maintain its good state fit for the tenant’s enjoyable stay. Not a single facility or service must be stopped or restricted without proper permission from the Director.
New Brunswick has the same legislation implemented when it comes to the obligations of landlords in other provinces. It is also stated that the landlord or his representative must not hinder the supply of electric power, heat, or water except for emergencies. The landlord must not do anything that could make the premises of the rental property uninhabitable.
Newfoundland and Labrador
This province has a similar tenancy act where the landlord has the responsibility of maintaining the good state of the property and must take over repairs to make the property fit for the tenant’s inhabitation.
Prince Edward Island
The landlord should provide all maintenance and repairs for the property. The tenant should have continued access to facilities and services, while the landlord should continue paying or providing the services and facilities unless the Director allows the landlord to discontinue the services and facilities.Get a more comprehensive comparison of tenancy acts of different Canadian provinces here.