Every state in the country except Arkansas requires landlords to provide tenants with a safe, healthy, and livable home. Attorneys usually refer to this requirement as a landlord’s implied warranty of habitability.
Providing a safe, healthy, and habitable home includes exterminating rodents, maintaining a high level of cleanliness in shared areas such as walkways, and getting rid of any other thing that might endanger the tenant’s health and wellbeing.
Therefore, bedbug infestation in a rented apartment qualifies to be categorized as a habitability problem, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to take action and ensure you are not suffering.
So, what happens if you notify your landlord of the problem and he/she fails to take appropriate action? Can you sue him/her for bedbug infestation? What are your other options apart from suing?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about suing your landlord for bedbug infestation.
Are Landlords Responsible for Bedbugs?
The simple answer is “yes.” All landlords are responsible for bedbugs if the insects were already present in the apartment when you moved in. Typically, the law requires landlords to clean the house thoroughly and ensure everything is in order before allowing a new tenant to move in.
If the landlord is aware of the problem, he/she is supposed to disclose the information to you before you move in. You also need to be notified of any history of bedbug infestations and whether there have been any lawsuits filed against the landlord in the past.
If you were not informed of the presence of hazards such as bedbugs at the time of moving in, you could sue the landlord for failure to provide safe, healthy, and habitable living conditions.
Under the implied warranty of habitability, landlords must fulfill the following obligations to ensure safe and healthy living conditions for their tenants:
- Exterminate any infestations that plague the property, such as insects or rodents.
- Provide trash bins and arrange trash pickup for the property.
- Properly maintain all plumbing, electrical, and ventilation systems in the building and repair them when faulty.
- Ensure that any toxins in the property, such as lead paint and asbestos are fully encapsulated and pose no threat to tenants and their guests.
- Keep all common areas in the building clean and safe for tenants and their guests.
What Should You Do If You Notice Bedbugs in Your Apartment?
If you spot any signs of bedbug infestation in your apartment, contact your landlord immediately. Ensure the notice is in writing (email, fax, or letter) and keep a copy of it. If your landlord responds and comes up with a plan for dealing with the insects, that will be perfect.
However, if you don’t hear from him/her, you need to start preparing to take the next step. As long as you have proof that you notified him/her of the problem, don’t be afraid to exercise your rights as a tenant.
Some of the actions you can take as a tenant when your landlord fails to exterminate the bedbugs from your apartment include:
- Withhold rent until the time the issue is fully addressed.
- Hire an exterminator and subtract the cost of the work from rent.
- Leave the apartment and cancel your lease agreement with only three days’ notice to your landlord.
You should also consider reporting the infestation to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in your state. An officer from the department will come over to your place and conduct a thorough inspection of the apartment. If your landlord is found to be in violation of the implied warranty of habitability, HPD will issue you with a citation.
You can also use the inspection results to support your lawsuit against the landlord if you end up in a housing court.
Suing Your Landlord for Bedbug Infestation
The moment you decide to file a lawsuit against your landlord for bedbug infestation, you need to ensure that you have gathered as much evidence as possible to support your claims. Also, consult a landlord-tenant attorney to discuss the options available to you.
Some of the things you can do to strengthen your case include:
- Visit a hospital to get checked for allergic reactions, injuries, and infections. Since emotional distress is a critical element of any bedbug lawsuit, be sure to document your symptoms such as sleeplessness, fear, anxiety, or obsessive need to clean the apartment.
- Take photographs of your injuries and keep the receipts for medical costs incurred.
- Take photographs of the bedbugs in your apartment. Make sure you search for all possible locations where the insects might be, such as behind picture frames, electrical outlets, and underneath your mattresses, cushions, drawers, shelves, and closets.
- Retain a copy of your rental or lease agreement.
- If possible, hire an exterminator to get rid of the bedbugs and notify your landlord.
- Hire an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer to file a complaint on your behalf.
Some of the types of damages you can recover if you win the case against your landlord include:
- Economic damages: Lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage
- Non-economic damages: Emotional harm, punitive damages, and pain & suffering.
The Bottom Line
If you live in a rented apartment infested by bedbugs, don’t suffer in silence. Every renter has the right to a safe and healthy living environment. Notify your landlord, and if he/she doesn’t take appropriate action to get rid of the insects, you should consider suing him/her for compensation.
However, before you start pressing charges against the landlord, you need to be 100% sure that you are not the source of the problem. Talk to an experienced landlord-tenant attorney and let him/her advise you on the next course of action based on local laws and regulations.
Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can assist you in getting the justice you deserve!