Can I Sue My Landlord Over Bed Bugs? (The Definitive Guide)
There aren’t many insects that will turn your life upside down the way bed bugs will.
These creatures are survivors, with the ability to live in adverse environments and reproduce quickly.
If you’re a renter and have fallen victim to an infestation…
You do have rights.
All states in the U.S. (except Arkansas) require landlords to provide safe and sanitary living conditions.
This typically includes the extermination of:
Rodents, vermin, or bugs that could endanger the livelihood of tenants.
The key here is that bed bugs create a habitability problem…
Which is in violation of the implied warranty of habitability.
This brings us to the question…
Can you sue a landlord for bed bugs?
This article will tell you everything you need to know, with instructions on how to deal with this unfortunate situation.
Can I Sue My Landlord Over Bed Bugs?
The answer is yes. If the situation is right and the proper evidence is gathered you can sue your landlord for a bed bug infestation. The base case scenario is if the landlord has showed negligence.
Meaning the landlord was aware of the bed bug problem but failed to properly deal with the infestation.
In this case you can sue your landlord for both monetary and non-monetary damages sustained.
Get connected with a personal injury lawyer who can help walk you through next steps.
(and determine whether you have a case.)
You’ll talk to an experienced and licensed lawyer in your state that know the laws between tenants and landlords.
In the midst of an infestation…
You’re probably thinking some of the following questions:
Are property owners liable for bed bugs?
Are landlords financially responsible for bed bugs?
Is the apartment complex going to fix my bed bug infestation?
There a a variety of factors that determine whether you have a case, as well as the potential financial value of your case.
Before you move forward with legal proceedings.
It’s very important that you understand what to do when your apartment is infested with bed bugs.
Bed Bugs in My Apartment. What Now?
Bed bug infestations are becoming more common in apartment complexes and multi family buildings.
More than ever it’s extremely crucial for both tenants (potential victims) and landlords to understand these creatures.
What needs to be done to prevent or eliminate an infestation.
Unfortunately bed bugs are quite common nowadays.
An estimated 1 in 5 Americans have been personally affected or know someone that’s come into contact with bed bugs.
Since the year 2000, bed bugs have re-emerged as a major pest in North America.
Largely eradicated in the 1950s…..
Bed bugs have since made a comeback.
Bed bugs can be introduced to a new apartment in the following ways:
- They crawl through cracks in walls/ceilings from an adjacent apartment
- They’re carried via luggage or other personal belongings
- They’re carried from clothes that were previously infested
If you think you see a bed bug in your apartment try and capture it in a sealed container.
Take the container to your landlord or apartment manager to help confirm it’s indeed a bed bug.
If you cannot capture one of these insects you can look for signs of an infestation…
Or contact a pest control specialist for a formal inspection.
Bed Bugs in My Apartment Building. Should I Move?
If you suspect there are bed bugs in your apartment….
You should take action immediately.
The first step is to properly identify and diagnose that the situation is in fact bed bugs.
These bugs are often confused with similar insects, and you want to ensure you don’t treat the wrong type of infestation.
Next you’ll want to properly inspect your home for signs of bed bugs or try to locate the physical bugs themselves.
Once you confirm the infestation, you should report the problem to your landlord, and work together on treatment options.
If your landlord fails to communicate with you, or deal with the situation, you may have a right to move out.
Can I break My Lease?
The short answer is Yes.
But only in the right situation.
The best way to break your lease is by proving that an uninhabitable condition exists at the apartment you’re renting.
To determine your rights, you should ask yourself these questions:
Is this a single-family home, or an apartment in a multifamily building?
If it’s an apartment complex, do other tenants have a similar problem?
If you do live in a mult-family building:
Bed bugs can travel through walls so it’s likely your neighbors could have given you bed bugs if other infestations existed prior to your arrival.
If others had documented infestations before you, it’s likely you will be absolved of responsibility and….
Able to break your lease!
Proving that you didn’t bring in bed bugs in a single-family home or townhome is much harder.
How Can a Landlord Prove I Brought Bed Bugs?
Most lawsuits involving bed bugs occur when the tenant sues the landlord over an infestation.
There are cases however…
Where the landlord can sue a tenant, who brings bed bugs into their property.
Tenants have a legal duty in many states to keep the premises they rent clean.
Proving the origin of an infestation is difficult, but the landlord could prove tenant’s negligence through the following evidence:
- The unit was inspected and considered free of bed bugs before it was rented.
- The tenant did not keep the premises safe and sanitary
- The pest control company reported that the origin of the infestation came from something owned by the tenant.
How Do I Remove Bed Bugs From My Apartment?
Before you do anything to remove an infestation.
It’s best to alert the building manager right away (preferably by phone or through a written complaint).
If building ownership does not respond:
Consider crafting a demand letter to show your seriousness.
In multi-family buildings….
If one apartment is infested, the adjoining units (both left and right side, above, and below) will be vulnerable to infestation.
These creatures are skilled at hiding.
(especially during the day)
So a formal inspection is usually necessary.
In a recent bed bug survey – only HALF of residents knew or admitted they had a bed bug problem in their unit.
This is because treatment is very labor intensive and can require tenants to vacate their apartments.
It may also take multiple visits depending on the following factors:
- Level of infestation
- Size of the unit
- Resistance to pesticides
- Time of the infestation
Though more expensive, hiring professionals to use extreme heat to kill bed bugs typically only requires ONE treatment.
What Are My Responsibilities as a Tenant?
As mentioned above, your first responsibility is to report the infestation as soon as it’s discovered.
Once an appointment is made for bed bug treatment, it’s necessary to prepare the apartment accordingly.
Preparing Your Apartment For Bed Bug Treatment
- Don’t move your belongings to another a neighbor’s apartment (you’ll risk spreading the infestation further).
- All loose items (especially things on the ground) should be double bagged and moved off premise.
- Remove Clutter. A messy environment provides more room for bed bugs to hide during treatment.
Before bringing your belongings back home after treatment:
Make sure all items are cleaned appropriately.
All clothes need to be washed and put in the dryer on high heat multiple times to ensure they are clean from any living bed bugs.
They should specifically be dry cleaned, washed in hot water, or tumble dried for 30 minutes.
This should kill bed bugs in all life stages.
Here are a few other action items (and to dos) when it comes to preparing your apartment for bed bug control.
- Even though bed bugs congregate in bedrooms and living rooms, open food should be put away and sealed.
- You may want to buy a bug proof mattress encasement.
- Vacuum couches, chairs and recliners.
- Empty all drawers and night stands.
The above items are CRITICAL.
To a successful bed bug treatment.
You want to allow pest control to do their jobs as best as possible.
Can My Landlord use House Staff to Treat Bed Bugs?
In some states (Texas for example), pests need to e treated by a licensed pesticide applicator.
Unless the apartment employee who enters your home is fully licensed and certified, there are cases where this might be illegal.
Illegal activity by any unlicensed professional includes:
- The use of dangerous pesticides (or other potentially toxic chemicals)
- Wide Scale Heat treatments
This includes not only bed bugs, but any control pests that are similar such as fleas, cockroaches, rats, mice, etc..
Now that you know what to do when your apartment is infested with bed bugs:
Lets take a step back and understand….
What actually are bed bugs?
Bed Bug Details & Facts
Bed bugs are small insects that feed on blood from humans.
Plain and simple.
They are also nocturnal and tend to hide during the day.
Bed bugs will build up their nests while their victims sleep and prefer dark and damp areas to digest after a feeding.
Bed bugs can be identified by their musty, unsatisfying smell, where droppings or bed bug shells have been left behind.
Typically, these insects are a dark brown color and have flat bodies, however when they feast….
They tend to SWELL and become more rounded.
After a feeding, bed bugs can balloon up to…
Over 3 times their original size.
How Do I know If I was Bitten By Bed Bugs?
It’s not always easy as seeing bumps or welts on your body.
There may be NO immediate indication that you were bitten.
There are instances where these bites don’t show up for weeks after being bitten.
Causing no physical reaction in the short term.
These insects actually have a numbing chemical in their saliva that prevents victims from feeling pain while they’re feeding.
They’re also able to feed on your blood for minutes at a time because their saliva contains an anticoagulant that prevents blood from clotting at the spot of attack.
If you’re unsure whether you were bitten by bed bugs but suspect you may have been victim to an infestation.
You should monitor your body closely.
If you start feeling strange symptoms, seek medical help right away.
There are rare circumstances where bites can be dangerous.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
When bites are visible on your skin.
They will have the following appearance:
- Will show up as welts, bumps, or blisters.
- Bites look like they’re in a zigzag pattern or straight row.
- They can show up on any part of your body.
Be aware that….
There are cases where people reported allergic reactions to bites.
(Although this is very rare)
If you’re curious whether bites are from bed bugs or some other insect.
Pay attention to the bite pattern, level of irritation, and shape of the bite.
Flea bites can be much itchier in the short term while bed bugs typically last longer on the skin.
Bites can show up instantaneously or sometimes not until days after the incident occurred.
Try not to scratch bed bug bites as they can fester and turn into sores.
Do Landlords Have to Disclose a Bed Bug Infestation?
Usually they do.
In most states.
Landlords should typically disclose a previous infestation to new tenants.
In the case of a multi-unit complex, the property owner may also be required to disclose an active infestation in an adjacent apartment.
If there are any current hazards present in your new apartment you could have a right to be informed about it.
If you’re not properly informed….
you may have the right to sue for failure of the landlord or property owner to disclose a previous infestation.
How to Sue Your Landlord for Bed Bugs
You might be eligible to take the following steps to suing a landlord or apartment owner for an existing or past bed bug infestation.
(as long as it’s within the statute of limitations).
To accelerate your case and increase the chances of a successful lawsuit….
You should take the following steps immediately after a bed bug incident:
- Seek immediate medical attention for all injuries. Make sure they are properly treated so that you can begin the recovery process.
- Take pictures or videos of your bites.
- Try and locate the origin of the infestation (ideally the nest).
- Keep a copy of the lease agreement
- Double bag your belongings and make sure everything is cleaned accordingly
- Report the problem to your landlord or property owner
- Get in touch to get connected with a lawyer who can give you a free case evaluation.
Landlords will often times try to cover up the situation.
Like withholding rent or security deposits if you try to break the lease.
Establishing Landlord Negligence
In most situations there are levels of evidence required to effectively establish negligence in a bed bug lawsuit.
There consists of the warranty of habitability laws and breach of duty.
You’re able to file a premises liability claim against the owner if you prove that…
They knew about the bed bug problem and decided not to take the proper measures to eliminate them.
Can I Get Compensation For Suing My Landlord?
There are situations where bed bug cases can be worth over $200,000 in compensation for
- medical expenses
- psychological damage
- and physical injuries
As long as you’re able to prove that bed bugs were present prior to moving in….
You have a stronger case to get compensation for your losses.
Let us connect you with a licensed attorney in an apartment or hotel.
We will proceed with discussing you case and reviewing your eligibility to receive compensation.
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