What are the Legal Repercussions of Bed Bugs?

January 21, 2014 by Doug Moore

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  • What is my obligation if an infestation in my condo or apartment leads to an infestation next door?

The question, “Who’s responsible for a bed bug infestation?” has no clear answer. It’s hard even to identify who’s technically at fault because bed bugs can enter a space in so many ways. Landlords and property owners do have legal obligations to provide safe and habitable accommodations for tenants. Bed bugs may be an unacceptable condition. Tenants have an obligation to cooperate with owners and landlords. This includes preparing the apartment so the pest management professional can easily inspect rooms and treat if necessary.

You are legally liable if you misapply an insecticide or apply it without a license to the property of others—including common spaces in apartment buildings. In most cases, landlords, owners and building managers cannot legally apply insecticides unless they are licensed to do so.

Laws are changing and every situation is different. Local health departments and law offices have the best answers to legal questions. The only thing that’s for sure is that bed bug problems won’t just work themselves out. Left untreated, they will spread. The best way to cover all bases is to inform all who are potentially involved early on—managers, neighbors, friends… and contact a pest control professional for help.

And take steps to solve the problem:

  • Call the local health department to find out what regulations apply.
  • Call a professional pest control company.
  • Document everything.

Landlords and tenants should make sure bed bug work is specified in their lease. For example, an agreement that requires tenants to do thorough preparation for bed bug treatment and to leave the living space while a pest management professional (PMP) works can go a long way if bed bugs arrive. The PMP should visit all rooms or units that share a wall (including directly above and below). Everyone needs to cooperate. Having a plan ready can save time, frustration, and money.

If you are a landlord, inspection should be done often with the permission of the tenant. Some tenants will not view bed bugs as a problem. It can get ugly if their infestation spreads to other units and unhappy tenants report that they have bed bugs. Inspect often to find infestations before they spread. Consider hiring a canine scent detection service to help determine exactly where the problem is.

Safety is always the #1 priority. Bed bugs aren’t known to spread disease. Don’t put yourself or PMPs in danger on account of bed bugs. Anyone who inspects apartments must be cautious of sharp objects or weapons under mattresses or in furniture. Always look with a flashlight before touching.

Document ALL prevention and control in a unit. This helps prove you took precautions and helps PMPs evaluate the situation.

For more information about bed bugs, heat treatment, and canine bed bug scent detection, click here.

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