When Home Becomes Hell: Living the Nightmare of Bedbug Infestations
Even just the mention of bedbugs is often enough to trigger a shiver of dread and revulsion in most people. These small insects are a scourge that spread quickly among travelers and occupants of hotels, apartment buildings, public transit, and anywhere else they may find carriers or sleeping sources of the blood on which they feed. Because of the speed with which they can spread, bedbugs must be taken seriously by both landlords and tenants who both have responsibilities in dealing with this troublesome pest.
Bedbugs are most often active at night, as they feed on sleeping humans and animals. Their presence might first be detected when victims discover the welts left by their bites, something that might take days to appear. Otherwise, they might find bedbug skins which they shed as they grow, rust-colored bedbug droppings, or the bedbugs themselves. Bedbugs tend to settle near where people sleep, including inside of box springs, cracks, folds, or seams of furniture, inside of bedding, luggage, or clothing, and inside of walls.
Landlords are required to educate themselves and their employees in how to identify and deal with bedbugs. They are also required to provide tenants with educational material on identifying signs of bedbug infestation. For their part, tenants are required to inform landlords of any signs of bedbug activity within a day or two of detection. When tenants report possible signs of bedbugs, landlords are required to follow remediation practices, including the hiring of a licensed pest control operator to investigate and perform necessary remediation in the reporting unit as well as any neighboring units. This is because bedbugs spread very quickly, and it is safer to assume that the infestation has not been limited to the reporting unit. Since bedbugs can spread quickly, they are an exception to the usual presumption that a landlord may take up to thirty days to respond to a report of uninhabitable conditions in a rental unit. Landlords bear the cost of remediation, unless they find that the tenant was responsible for bringing the bedbugs into the unit.
As with other pest infestations, a landlord’s failure to address a bedbug problem may be considered a breach of the implied warranty of habitability. It therefore creates a basis for a potential claim of constructive eviction. If your landlord is not responding to your report of possible bedbugs in your unit, begin documenting everything to ensure that your landlord does not deprive you of your right to a healthy and safe home.