Let's talk about BED BUGS!
Landlord's and tenant's don't always see eye to eye but one thing landlord's and tenant's can agree on is their mutual dislike of Bed Bugs.
Let's talk about Bed Bugs.
Identifying Bed Bugs
- Bed bugs are small, flat, oval, reddish-brown, wingless insects that feed primarily on the blood of humans.
- Adult bed bugs are approximately ¼ inch long, about the size of an apple seed. Young bed bugs (nymphs) are quite small and when unfed they appear lighter and almost clear in color.
- Bed bugs do not fly or jump. However, they can crawl very fast.
- Bed Bug Bites
- The bite may appear within hours or delayed up to a week.
- Bed bugs are primarily a nuisance to humans and are not known to transmit disease. Some people have no reaction to bites while other people may experience itchiness and irritation. Try to avoid scratching bites. Questions about bite marks should be directed to a medical provider.
- Bed bugs bites often occur on the arms, shoulders, neck and legs.
- The bite can usually be seen as a red bump, up to a centimeter in size and without a red puncture mark in the middle.
- The bites may occur in lines or as a cluster of three or four.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
Usually the first sign of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of red itchy welts on any bare skin that is exposed while sleeping. Next, look for small black or rusty-colored spots on bed linens, pillows, or mattress. These are blood spots and bed bug droppings. Also, look for live bed bugs, eggs, and cast skins.
Inspecting for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs hide close to where people sleep. They prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces over metal or plastic. Look for live bed bugs, eggs, cast skins, and blood or fecal spots in these locations: mattresses, box springs, head boards, bed frames, upholstered furniture, recliners, baseboards, behind pictures, under loose wallpaper, draperies, electrical outlets, telephones, radios, televisions, stacks of books, piles of papers, back packs, luggage, futons, gym bags, draperies & curtains, stuffed animals, hollow furniture legs, door frames & hinges, wall / ceiling junction.
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
Complete elimination of a bed bug infestation can be a difficult process and may require the services of a knowledgeable and licensed pest control operator. It may take several treatments to gain control over an infestation. If a “do-it-yourself” method is chosen, only use pesticide products that are labeled to kill bed bugs. Remember to always read and follow the label directions before applying any pesticide product. Here are some additional tips to help eliminate bed bugs.
Although no residence is safe, certain populations are particularly prone to bed bug infestations. A troublingly high incidence of bed bug infestations has been reported in nursing homes throughout the country.
Bed bug infestations are a concern for many seniors living in senior housing. Seniors living in a nursing home may be exposed to bed bugs through shared laundry facilities or common sitting areas, or by staying in a room near someone who may have bed bugs.
Bed bugs are attracted to heat and chemicals emitted by humans and survive on human blood. Therefore, nursing homes act as a breeding ground for bed bugs due to the high rate of residents, staff and family members moving about the facility. Furthermore, residents stay in bed for prolonged periods of time and live in close proximity, making it easy for bed bugs to survive.
Recommendations for Residents in Senior Housing
Who has to pay to exterminate Bed Bugs?
Every state and or municipality has different landlord tenant laws. Some are just slight variations and others are pretty different. I can only speak to Cleveland, Ohio as that is where all of my properties are located. Keep that in mind when reading through this blog. Ohio law is somewhat ambiguous as it gives both the landlord and the tenant the same or very similar obligation of keeping the unit in a fit and habitable condition and safe and sanitary.
(2) Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
(3) Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition
(1) Keep that part of the premises that he occupies and uses safe and sanitary;
(2) Dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner;
(1) If the tenant violates any provision of this section, other than division (A)(9) of this section, the landlord may recover any actual damages that result from the violation together with reasonable attorney's fees. This remedy is in addition to any right of the landlord to terminate the rental agreement, to maintain an action for the possession of the premises, or to obtain injunctive relief to compel access under division (B) of this section.
In the past we have had rental units that the tenants brought bed bugs into. As the landlord we paid to have them exterminated by a 3rd party company. After the extermination it was clear that the infestation was caused by a particular tenant we would then charge that tenant. If the tenant did not pay we evicted. To date we have not lost an eviction case in relation to bed bugs or any other pest infestation.
The city of Cleveland and surrounding suburbs take Ohio law a step further with local ordinances. He is an insightful interview with a Cleveland magistrate.
Landlords, Tenants & Bed Bugs
Bed Bugs are in a rental house or unit, and the question everybody asks…
“WE HAVE BED BUGS, WHO PAYS?”
Pest Police attended a Bed Bug Conference on November 5, 2015 hosted by the Cuyahoga County Bed Bug Task Force. The topic of Bed Bug Liability is serious business and important to all of us. Tackling this topic for us was Magistrate Sandra Lewis of the city of Cleveland Municipal Courts.
According to Lewis, “it depends,” was her response and she smiled knowing that’s not the answer we as Pest Control Professionals and Property Managers wanted to hear. Both landlords and tenants have responsibilities. Magistrate Lewis explained and cited some specific facts.
She explained that Cleveland and many greater Cleveland suburbs have an ordinance similar to Cleveland’s ORC.369.17 reads like this: All Dwellings must be free of breeding, harborage, and infestation of insects, vermin, and/or rodents.
She also added that Ohio law requires landlords to comply to with state and local laws, to provide…
- fit and habitable housing that is…
- safe and sanitary and that the landlord has done what is/was…
- “Reasonably Necessary” to accomplish this.
- Maintain the premise in a safe and sanitary manner
- Dispose of rubbish
- Comply with state and local laws
- She also cited the case, Anderson v. Ballard (2010), where the living conditions must NOT be “unconscionable.”
- She described the Implied Warranty of Habitability which hinges upon 3 criteria:
• Residential Lease • Statutory Obligations • They May NOT be Waived
So, WHO PAYS?
Generally speaking, the Landlord pays for extermination.
Magistrate Lewis also said that so many cases brought to the court will be very “fact specific” and may reveal that the Tenant is responsible. Many questions need to be considered such as:
– Was there an inspection before occupancy?
– Is the Landlord keeping records, a history of professional extermination/professional inspections?
– How soon after occupancy were Bed Bugs discovered?
In NYC, Landlords must provide a 1-year history of records to new tenants of Bed Bug inspections and/or treatments. They must also provide records of adjacent tenants and records of previous tenants.
She conveyed that they have a great model for landlords to follow to protect their interest.
If the dispute is not resolved between Landlord and Tenant, the eventual Mediation or Trial will rely heavily on fact-finding, referring back to records.
Landlords and Tenants need to…
- Report the Bed Bug issue in a timely manner
- Get Professional Inspections
- Get Professional Treatments – Do-It-Yourselfers will likely be at-fault for exacerbating the problem or for “failing to mitigate” the problem, as she mentioned more than once in Bed Bug liability cases.
Also, Landlords may win in a lawsuit if a tenant fails to comply with preparation and treatment required by professional pest control technicians. TENANTS MUST COMPLY.
This is great news for Landlords when there are complaints by the tenant for action, and then they refuse to clean up and de-clutter before extermination.
“Can I be evicted for failing to cooperate with extermination protocol?”
She answered without delay, “YES!” in a resounding manner.
Lastly, if tenants fail to get educated on proper Bed Bug resolution and takes unreasonable or drastic measures such as throwing away furniture or using ineffective drug-store solutions, they have failed to mitigate the problem logically. Tenants are likely to be responsible for repayment of Bed Bug expenses to the Landlord under these circumstances. She referred to the case of Spring Hill Townhomes v. Melissa Pounds (2014) for this example.