How to Deal with Bed Bugs at Your Rental Property

Recommended by Ronald Stiles, Published on October 13th, 2019

Should the landlord or the tenant deal with bed bugs found on the property?

Id like to apologizein advance if reading this makes you itchy, but this topic is one that frequently comes up for landlords.

Theres been a bed bug renaissance of sorts across the country because these disgusting critters have become resistant to pesticides.

The cities with the worst bed bug infestations in 2014, according to the number of Terminix service calls (source), were the following:

Even if you dontown property in one of the top 15 cities, your rental property could still get bed bugs in various ways. One common way is your tenant bringing them in after traveling. (Note: travelers can check the Bed Bug Registry before choosing a hotel.)

Bed bugs can attach to your tenants clothing, luggage and backpacks and can be transported back to your rentalproperty that way. Because it can be difficult to determine how the bed bugs arrived, especially in an apartment building, you shouldnt concern yourself too much with that question.

Ring Ring I think wehave bed bugs!

If your tenant calls you in a panic, stating that there are bed bugs, keep calm.The problem might not be bed bugs; itcouldbe fleas or roaches.

Call an exterminator to diagnose the problem. The exterminator should look at all mattresses and bedding in the rental property. He should also look in couches, drawers, closets and shelves.

The first step is to treat the problem before it gets worse. You can always figure out the responsibility later.

Related: How to Kill Roaches in a Rental Property

Responsibility should fall on whomever brought them in the house.

An exterminator might be able to tell you how the bed bugs arrived. For example, if a swarm of bed bugs is found in the tenants luggage and he just got back from a business trip, then you certainly could hold the tenant responsible.

But generally speaking, faultis difficult to prove, particularly in an apartment building. In this case, a resident of another unit could have brought in the bed bugs, and those bed bugs could have then traveled from the infested apartment to your rental through floorboards or small cracks in the walls.

The question of who brought in the bed bugs is easier to determine if the rental in question is a single-family house. Buteven then, a maintenance person, not the tenant, could have brought in the bed bugs.

If the bed bugs were present before your tenant moved in, you need to pay for an exterminator.

If you do nothing about the bed bug infestation, your tenant can take actions against you, such as paying for an exterminator and deducting that amount from the rent or even breaking the lease or suing you for not providing a livable dwelling under the implied warranty of habitability doctrine.

If the tenant brought in the bed bugs, the question of who pays for an exterminator might depend on the state in which you live. As of April 2014, 22states and one territory have laws addressing bed bugs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

If your state has no regulations and you can prove the tenant brought in the bed bugs, you can charge your tenant for the cost to remove them.

Getting rid of bed bugs is a time-consuming process that your tenant must be on board with.Once your tenant notifies you of the bed bug problem, you need to act immediately. The longer you wait, the worse the problem becomes.

Here are steps to have your tenant take:

Heres what the exterminator should do:

Once the bed bugs are gone, your property can become infested again. Make sure your tenant knows not to bring in mattresses and other furniture found on the street.

You might also wish to share with your tenant some best practices when traveling:

This useful video shows you how professionals get rid of bed bugs.

Your tenant might be able to break the lease if he or she told you about the bed bug problem and you did nothing about it.

Your tenant needs to giveyou proper notice (which varies by state) of his or her intention to break the lease and time to fix the problem.

You should never knowingly rent property infested with bed bugs. You could be sued for doing that. If your tenant can prove you knew, you might be ordered to pay damages.

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How to Deal with Bed Bugs at Your Rental Property

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