Responsibility for bed bugs

User Forum Topic
Submitted by EconProf on January 4, 2013 - 12:40pm

As a landlord, am I responsible for remediating a tenant's bed bug problems? They have rented my apartment for about 6 months, and the bugs were probably left by the previous tenant. When they moved in they complained about bugs and I accordingly had a pest control company treat the apartment. But the problem persists, they claim they replaced bedding and mattresses, and seem to be on the verge of demanding compensation. And the pest control company said they warned us upon the initial treatment that this may not do the job, since once entrenched, bed bugs are hard to eliminate. Aaarraauugg!
What to do? Anybody else have this problem?

Submitted by flu on January 4, 2013 - 1:51pm.

You know, I think this is a case in which I would personally just take care of it.

Even if you can manage not to take care of it and manage to get the tenant to do it, you really don't want to leave this particular problem in your tenant's control.

The last thing you want is an infestation (which would persist, if your tenant gets fed up and leaves)...

You mention "apartment", which means if it gets bad, it could end up going into other units...You don't want to be on the hook for that either (though it would be interesting to prove)...

This is one case I'd say, bite the bullet and take care of it.

Bed bugs are just nasty.

Submitted by zk on January 4, 2013 - 2:37pm.

Flu, I've read it can cost $7,000 to eliminate a bed bug infestation. Would that change your opinion?

Submitted by no_such_reality on January 4, 2013 - 3:29pm.

If you're sure the problem is your unit, it actually may be more effective to pay your tenant to leave, nuke the bug problem and then get a new tenant.

Trying to treat in situ may be pointless as depending on the length of infestation, they'll be in everything, luggage, bedding, clothes, hamper, mattresses...

Submitted by EconProf on January 5, 2013 - 9:17am.

Having read up on bed bugs, I have decided to get very proactive. Called in the original pest control company to re-treat premises and possessions, and stressed they had to solve the problem. Part of their job is teaching the tenants their role in this--especially washing and drying at high temperature all bedding, clothing, etc. Their kids have sores from the bites, and I doubt they brought in the problem--it was the previous tenants--so they are the victims and this is more than just a legal problem. If necessary, I will pay them an agreed upon amount to leave, throw out all carpeting and nuke the place before the next tenant comes in.
To other Piggs: still want to try landlording?

Submitted by flu on January 5, 2013 - 10:24am.

EconProf wrote:
Having read up on bed bugs, I have decided to get very proactive. Called in the original pest control company to re-treat premises and possessions, and stressed they had to solve the problem. Part of their job is teaching the tenants their role in this--especially washing and drying at high temperature all bedding, clothing, etc. Their kids have sores from the bites, and I doubt they brought in the problem--it was the previous tenants--so they are the victims and this is more than just a legal problem. If necessary, I will pay them an agreed upon amount to leave, throw out all carpeting and nuke the place before the next tenant comes in.
To other Piggs: still want to try landlording?

Yes. Because shit happens. Everywhere

Submitted by CA renter on January 5, 2013 - 8:02pm.

EconProf wrote:
Having read up on bed bugs, I have decided to get very proactive. Called in the original pest control company to re-treat premises and possessions, and stressed they had to solve the problem. Part of their job is teaching the tenants their role in this--especially washing and drying at high temperature all bedding, clothing, etc. Their kids have sores from the bites, and I doubt they brought in the problem--it was the previous tenants--so they are the victims and this is more than just a legal problem. If necessary, I will pay them an agreed upon amount to leave, throw out all carpeting and nuke the place before the next tenant comes in.
To other Piggs: still want to try landlording?

Sounds like you're willing to do the right thing for your tenants, EconProf. I looked this up after seeing your post yesterday, and in some states, it is mandated that LLs take care of the problem. Didn't look specifically at CA, but this is definitely a problem none of us would want to have.

FWIW, I did read that diatomaceous earth can be helpful in keeping down (hopefully, eliminating) bedbug populations. This should be used in conjunction with professional treatments.

Best of luck getting rid of those pests!

Submitted by ucodegen on January 5, 2013 - 10:42pm.

CA renter wrote:
FWIW, I did read that diatomaceous earth can be helpful in keeping down (hopefully, eliminating) bedbug populations. This should be used in conjunction with professional treatments.
It does by abrading the bugs as they move. Also helps with fleas.

  • I would recommend moving the tenants out.
  • Suggest they replace all beds, couches.. or have them leave them in when you bomb the place.
  • Have them wash everything else at a laundromat and dry at high temp. Be very careful of handling because the clothes they are wearing when cleaning 'may' also have bugs/eggs on them (handle things short sleeved?).
  • Bathe and switch clothes. Make sure you then clean the clothes you took off.. treat them as 'contaminated' until cleaned (put them in plastic bag immediately after taking them off - try to avoid them dropping to the floor when taking of).
  • Do not bring cleaned clothes back into the house. (Hotel?)
  • Steam Clean carpet.. bed surfaces and couches if they are there. - dry.
  • Work Diatomaceous Earth into the carpet, bed surfaces(w/o sheets), couches - vacuum after the bombing.
  • Bomb the place. (could also work Hartz flea spray into the carpet before bombing.. ) The Diatomaceous Earth could potentially aid in getting poison into the bugs because it abrades the bugs as they move. The Hartz can help prevent them from surviving the bombing if deep in the carpet.
  • Now replace the carpet.

    The reason why all of the 'duplicate' effort, is that all it takes is a few eggs.. or a few to survive. You want to reduce the likelihood of eggs or bedbugs falling off the carpet or transferring to the workers when the carpet is being removed.

  • Submitted by Blogstar on January 6, 2013 - 10:05am.

    I put 100% tile floors in my rental. If I get another one it will be all tile or tile, wood and sheet flooring of some kind. Every third or fourth tenant will not be suitable for carpet, so prepare for them in advance.

    Submitted by TenaciousSD on January 7, 2013 - 10:34am.

    Take care of the bedbugs (see CCS 1941 below) within 30 days and you should be fine. I agree with ucodegen and would recommend moving the tenants out. End of story.

    What happens if you don't? Lets say they already provided you a letter in writing letting you know that they have bed bugs. They can just take pictures of the infestation and provide a letter letting you know that they are vacating (using CCS 1942) and request a final walk through. You'll receive a prorated rent check through the last day with the memo portion saying "Civil Code 1942 termination prorated". If you go to court, it will cost you more, and you still have to take care of the bed bugs.

    Civil Code Section 1941.1 paragraph 1, Health and Safety Code Sections 17920.3, 17920.10.

    A rental unit may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it ... is a substandard building because [of] ... inadequate sanitation, or a nuisance endangers the health, life, safety, property, or welfare of the occupants or the public."

    http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landl...

    Submitted by ctr70 on January 9, 2013 - 9:47pm.

    How can it be proven whether the bed bugs were there or bought in by the tenant?

    Submitted by ctr70 on January 9, 2013 - 9:52pm.

    What a nightmare Econprof. Keep us up to date on how you resolve this. You just made me feel a lot less confident about being a landlord!

    Submitted by scaredyclassic on January 10, 2013 - 7:33am.

    Who first said

    Sleep tight don't let the bedbugs bite.

    How can one stop the biting?

    Dumb advice probably from a financial advisor.

    Submitted by EconProf on January 10, 2013 - 12:36pm.

    Update: Had a pest control company treat today for the bed bugs. They sprayed all corners of carpets throughout apt, plus mattresses, etc. Tenant is being tolerant & putting up with a lot--I know I wouldn't like some guy to be spraying blue liquid on my mattresses. But, as another poster pointed out, there is no proof as to how the bed bugs got here in the first place. That is my ultimate defense if this gets in front of a judge.
    If this doesn't work, I will probably negotiate some monetary settlement to have him leave, then throw out the (nearly new) carpets, & treat the apt. fully.

    Submitted by mike92104 on January 12, 2013 - 1:20am.

    If I were a tenant, I feel I would be satisfied with being allowed out of my lease, and an immediate refund of my deposit in order to put it down on a new place.

    For now, I would suggest buying some good microfiber mattress encasing. It might not get rid of the bugs, but should help provide some relief.

    You're an awesome landlord for wanting to take care of your renters.

    Submitted by TenaciousSD on January 14, 2013 - 10:47am.

    EconProf wrote:
    But, as another poster pointed out, there is no proof as to how the bed bugs got here in the first place. That is my ultimate defense if this gets in front of a judge.

    I'd recommend getting a 3rd party company (like San Diego Pest) for treating bedbugs. I'd also recommend asking the prospective tenant (before they move in) to sign a bedbug addendum saying that they've checked the apartment for bedbugs.

    If down the road there is a bed bug issue, have the bedbug issue taken care of and bill the resident. If they argue that its your fault/responsibility, you can point to the fact that they themselves signed a document saying there were no bedbugs present when they moved in. The hope is - this is the end of the story.

    What happens if you get pulled into court? Lets say the resident sues you for damages to their property. The burden of proof is on them to show that you the introduced the bedbugs - which is very difficult. They could have been on their moving truck, on the used furniture they bought on craigslist, or on something they bought at the flea market. Its very difficult to pin down the source.

    Submitted by outtamojo on January 14, 2013 - 1:54pm.

    TenaciousSD wrote:
    EconProf wrote:
    But, as another poster pointed out, there is no proof as to how the bed bugs got here in the first place. That is my ultimate defense if this gets in front of a judge.

    I'd recommend getting a 3rd party company (like San Diego Pest) for treating bedbugs. I'd also recommend asking the prospective tenant (before they move in) to sign a bedbug addendum saying that they've checked the apartment for bedbugs.

    If down the road there is a bed bug issue, have the bedbug issue taken care of and bill the resident. If they argue that its your fault/responsibility, you can point to the fact that they themselves signed a document saying there were no bedbugs present when they moved in. The hope is - this is the end of the story.

    What happens if you get pulled into court? Lets say the resident sues you for damages to their property. The burden of proof is on them to show that you the introduced the bedbugs - which is very difficult. They could have been on their moving truck, on the used furniture they bought on craigslist, or on something they bought at the flea market. Its very difficult to pin down the source.

    A piece of paper saying there are no bedbugs would carry more weight imo if it was signed by someone who actually knows how to look for bedbugs. I would get the place certified bedbug free by a pest company rather than Joe tenant.

    Submitted by TenaciousSD on January 14, 2013 - 2:47pm.

    outtamojo wrote:
    TenaciousSD wrote:
    EconProf wrote:
    But, as another poster pointed out, there is no proof as to how the bed bugs got here in the first place. That is my ultimate defense if this gets in front of a judge.

    I'd recommend getting a 3rd party company (like San Diego Pest) for treating bedbugs. I'd also recommend asking the prospective tenant (before they move in) to sign a bedbug addendum saying that they've checked the apartment for bedbugs.

    If down the road there is a bed bug issue, have the bedbug issue taken care of and bill the resident. If they argue that its your fault/responsibility, you can point to the fact that they themselves signed a document saying there were no bedbugs present when they moved in. The hope is - this is the end of the story.

    What happens if you get pulled into court? Lets say the resident sues you for damages to their property. The burden of proof is on them to show that you the introduced the bedbugs - which is very difficult. They could have been on their moving truck, on the used furniture they bought on craigslist, or on something they bought at the flea market. Its very difficult to pin down the source.

    A piece of paper saying there are no bedbugs would carry more weight imo if it was signed by someone who actually knows how to look for bedbugs. I would get the place certified bedbug free by a pest company rather than Joe tenant.

    A resident signed bedbug addendum is useful when making the case to the resident that they should pay for the bedbug treatment.

    If it goes to court, even if a place is certified bedbug free - the problem remains - how are you going to prove that the resident/landlord is at fault for the introduction of the 'new' bedbug infestation? Its nearly impossible.

    Submitted by earlyretirement on January 17, 2013 - 6:49pm.

    Wow EconProf. I'm really sorry to hear about this. As a property owner of many rental properties, this kind of thing is my worst nightmare.

    You did the right thing being so honorable. I'm sure it was a nightmare for the rental tenant as well.

    It IS important to note that there are some scam artists out there as well that try to lie about this in order to get free rent. I found this out first hand a few months ago.

    In one property I own where I do high end short-term rentals I recently had a guest that tried to claim she got bit by bedbugs. I found it shocking since no one ever complained about anything let alone bedbugs. And I happened to use the property myself on a business trip and most definitely there weren't any problems at all my entire 10 day stay.

    She was demanding a full refund. I gave it to her but demanded she leave immediately so I could call a specialist. I gave her a full refund and the point I knew it was probably a scam was when she wanted to finish her stay in the apartment! She threatened to post online if I didn't give her a refund so naturally I gave her a full refund.

    When the specialist that dealt with bedbugs went in he did a full inspection and he said there wasn't any bedbugs. He did a few things over the course of 2 days and he said definitely there were no bedbugs. It is a penthouse apartment with no neighbor next door either.

    No subsequent tenants had any problem at all. I was prepared to totally change all the mattresses in the apartment if I needed to but I was relieved that it was only a scam.

    Through it's a small world, I spoke to another owner of a property they rented and they pulled the same scam on that owner.

    The thing that really sucks is you're so helpless as an owner. A tenant even hinting that you have bedbugs can totally kill your reputation and business and this lady knew it.

    It was just a horrible feeling. I imagine there are probably people that go around scamming property owners and also hotels trying to claim this and trying to stay free.

    Submitted by Hobie on January 24, 2013 - 8:13am.

    Stumbled upon this. Uses dry ice to determine if bed bugs are present. Maybe useful for a tenent sign-off agreement.

    http://www.continentalcarbonic.com/get-r...

    Submitted by Tony Burnell on February 15, 2013 - 6:46am.

    Is it the landlords responsibility to take care of bed bugs when it is the tenants who have brought them into an apartment.

    http://www.rentalprotectionagency.com/te...

    Submitted by EconProf on February 15, 2013 - 7:23am.

    Tony: Yup, I know. Same with the more common problem of roaches.
    Update on my situation. Pest control company has treated apt. and tenant's belongings twice, two weeks apart. No further infestation or biting observed. Will treat one more time in couple of weeks as insurance, when pest control company promises a written guarantee, but with a $45/month continuing monthly service. I'll opt for that, at least for a few months, just to keep the tenant happy. The first 3 treatments are $95 per treatment, which were pretty thorough.
    All in all, I am getting off cheaper than I had feared, and tenant is likely to stay.

    Submitted by svelte on December 21, 2013 - 1:19am.

    The itsy bitsy spider came out the water spout
    Out came the rain and washed the spider out
    Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
    And the itsy bitsy spider walked up the spout again

    Submitted by CA renter on December 21, 2013 - 1:34am.

    :)

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