Can I refuse to rent to someone with a history of bedbugs?

27 Replies

Help! I've been in property management for years but haven't run into this problem until now. I had an applicant whose landlord verification came back showing that she had an infestation of bedbugs and roaches. It was treated a few weeks ago but her current landlord is not renewing her lease due to the pest problem and now the applicant is threatening legal action if we don't rent to her.

Most people that threaten legal action are doing that: threatening. Unlikely they actually get a lawyer. I don't think bedbug carrier is a protected class. 

Lol I know it's not a protected class but she is continually harassing me saying that it was treated and all is good. (:-  We have had maybe 3 cases of bedbugs in 5 years and I plan on keeping it to a minimum.

Bedbugs + roaches + already threatening legal action = Pass!

@Barb Niehaus Are the bedbugs seriously the tenants problem? Shouldn't the landlord take care of this? I know roaches MAY be attributable to the cleanliness of a home, but I do not believe that bedbugs exist due to any fault of a tenant. I apologize if I misinterpreted the question. Also, roaches sometimes come in from neighbors when houses are close. And here in Florida even the cleanest of homes have Palmetto Bugs. IMO pests are the responsibility of the landlord to manage. It is excessive to deny a new tenant because their prior residence had an infestetion!

You are doing yourself a favor by standing your ground now before this person becomes a tenant. Things are only going to go downhill once they move onto your property. You are not violating Fair Housing Laws, and filling the vacancy with a more qualified tenant (if you can find one) will save you countless hours of time and a significant amount of money in the long run.

@Barb Niehaus . I would ignore all calls and messages from these potential tenants. A tenant whom is threatening you before they even move in is not a tenant that you want. Keep looking for a tenant. Eventually these potential tenants will go away.

Stick to the things that matter, credit history, eviction history, income verification. I am guessing you can find another way to reject her application without even bringing up the bedbug issue.

@Jamie Engledow Bedbugs as well as roches can either come from the current tenant or the surrounding tenants depending on severity. I have seen residents who buy brand new beds and all of a sudden they have bed bugs. Most leases should have something saying the tenant is responsible for any remediation.
Originally posted by @Jamie Engledow :
@Barb Niehaus Are the bedbugs seriously the tenants problem? Shouldn't the landlord take care of this? I know roaches MAY be attributable to the cleanliness of a home, but I do not believe that bedbugs exist due to any fault of a tenant. I apologize if I misinterpreted the question. Also, roaches sometimes come in from neighbors when houses are close. And here in Florida even the cleanest of homes have Palmetto Bugs. IMO pests are the responsibility of the landlord to manage. It is excessive to deny a new tenant because their prior residence had an infestetion!

 This is wrong. I have had a tenant bring her own bedbugs. I deliver homes pest-free, and it is the responsibility of the tenant to keep it that way. We will assist with things that may be endemic to the property - i.e. filling a hole in a foundation to keep out mice - but our lease clearly states it is the responsibility of the tenant to keep the place clean and pest free. As for roaches, there's no may about it - a dirty person will attract and encourage roaches. Roaches need food and water, and they can't get either from people who keep their place clean. Palmetto bugs are a different story, they just come in when someone opens a door, like a moth or a cricket. 

Originally posted by @JD Martin :
Originally posted by @Jamie Engledow:
@Barb Niehaus Are the bedbugs seriously the tenants problem? Shouldn't the landlord take care of this? I know roaches MAY be attributable to the cleanliness of a home, but I do not believe that bedbugs exist due to any fault of a tenant. I apologize if I misinterpreted the question. Also, roaches sometimes come in from neighbors when houses are close. And here in Florida even the cleanest of homes have Palmetto Bugs. IMO pests are the responsibility of the landlord to manage. It is excessive to deny a new tenant because their prior residence had an infestetion!

 This is wrong. I have had a tenant bring her own bedbugs. I deliver homes pest-free, and it is the responsibility of the tenant to keep it that way. We will assist with things that may be endemic to the property - i.e. filling a hole in a foundation to keep out mice - but our lease clearly states it is the responsibility of the tenant to keep the place clean and pest free. As for roaches, there's no may about it - a dirty person will attract and encourage roaches. Roaches need food and water, and they can't get either from people who keep their place clean. Palmetto bugs are a different story, they just come in when someone opens a door, like a moth or a cricket. 

Couldn't agree more with JD on this. If a landlord is providing a safe, clean, bed bug free place to place it is expected that the tenant will reciprocate. This isn't some thing people pulled out of a hat. This is acceptable practice in our daily lives! 

I would not rent to someone who was harassing me or threatening legal action, this is a bigger issue than the bugs IMO. 

You checked her landlord references and one of them did not come back favorably, and since then she has demonstrated she is the harassing/threatening type. Move on and ignore her calls. 

There’s a book by Gavin de Becker “The gift of Fear” that has some good advice on dealing with people who make threats of any type.  

I have no intention of renting to her but didn't want any legal threats. I've been a property manager for over 15 years and I don' "do" bugs. I tell tenants that our lovely townhomes come with an equipped kitchen but not bugs. The very very few times that we've had a tenant infested with roaches and bed bugs is because they brought them in. I am fastidious about our complex and will not waste time with a tenant that is dirty. Thanks all

I would be apprehensive on history of bed bugs

I would say no if a previous landlord gave me a bad review

and anyone in the world who threatens me out of some perceived moral high ground in an effort to intimidate me so they can get what they want at my expense, well they are surely to receive only my most vile behavior in return.

I wouldn't just turn this person down, I would ask to meet in an empty parking lot and fist fight.

but then again, that's just me, and I'm feeling particularly hostile today.

real answer: you should pass, and stop communicating with this person

I avoid giving specifics on non-credit/income denials.  After notification of denial, I won't respond to phone calls or pleading.  If they harass me, I put them on block, and with google voice, they get the "this phone has been disconnected" message with the chime.

@Barb Niehaus Dearest applicant : after a careful revIew I regret to say I have decided against renting my apartment to you because you did not meet our tenant criteria . I wish you the best in your future endeavors and hope you find the rental you are looking for . Sincerely ; Big boss man landlord

Bed bugs travel in furniture and clothes.  If you deliver a clean, unfurnished property and then bed bugs show up its almost certain they were brought there by the tenant.  And if the tenant is coming from a property where they had bed bugs its very likely bugs and eggs are in their stuff.

Originally posted by @JD Martin :

I don't think bedbug carrier is a protected class. 

Oh my God, I'm laughing so hard over here. This has got to be the quote of the year on BP!

And I would absolutely agree. Not protected, no way for them to sue and win. And do most people who are renting actually sue? I would think a majority aren't doing well enough to buy, so how would they possibly afford a lawyer?

Originally posted by @Chuy Gonzalez :

Bedbug prone tenants are not a protected class. NEXT!

 But what if the bedbugs are service bugs? ;-)