Are Landlords Responsible for Bed Bugs?

Are landlords responsible for bed bugs? For both landlords and tenants, knowing landlord responsibilities when it comes to bed bug infestations is not only an important part of any rental agreement.

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

Although landlord responsibilities vary slightly from state to state, landlords are still responsible for keeping their units in a “habitable” condition: This means ensuring that any damage is fixed, security and safety systems are installed, and everything is all up to code prior to the arrival of a new tenant. However, given the dearth of laws regarding bed bugs, things can get a little tricky.

When it comes to bed bugs, the landlord is to blame if there is always responsible for an infestation prior to the arrival of a new tenant. As a result, it is in the landlord’s best interest – and therefore his responsibility – to ensure that all units are completely free of bed bugs. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to alert future tenants of any prior or existing bed bug problems since failing to do so can easily result in a lawsuit. In fact, landlords in New York City are required to provide all new tenants with a one-year bed bug history report.

It is also the landlord’s responsibility to check all units for bed bug infestations on a regular basis. Even if an infestation occurs after a new tenant moves in, then there is a good chance that the landlord is responsible. To help prove that such an infestation is truly the fault of the tenant, landlords would have to prove that the bugs are only in one unit which is typically not possible since bed bugs love living in common walls. Landlord’s do have the right to ask potential tenants about prior or existing bed bug problems.

What This Means for Tenants

So, are landlords responsible for bed bugs? Yes, almost always. Tenants also have some responsibility. If a tenant fails to tell a landlord about an existing infestation or if the tenant brings bed bugs into his unit, then the landlord has the right to sue. As a result, tenants must ensure that they are free of bed bugs prior to arrival in a new apartment and make sure their landlord has fulfilled his responsibilities.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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