Who Is Responsible For The Bed Bugs: Exterminator, Landlord, Or Tenant?

What do you do if your long-term tenant suddenly has bed bugs in your rental unit?

That very question was asked to Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King in this webinar with Zillow.

Have a listen and read the transcription below to hear his thoughts.

Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information presented here were provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in the audio and from the webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.

Transcription of the audio file above

Interviewer: My tenant now has bed bugs after five years. As the landlord, can I bill him for the cost of getting rid of the bed bugs?

Josh from Avvo: This is a tricky one, and also gets into communication. I know this is a huge issue. I mean, thank God, we don’t have bed bugs here in Seattle, at least not yet. Seattle’s surprisingly bug-free, if you’ve ever been out here, by the way, but the East Coast has a huge problem with bed bugs. I mean, this is… It’s a massive bugaboo, so to speak, and you, as the landlord, you obviously have obligations, broadly, to keep your units free of the vermin. And vermin includes rats and roaches and bed bugs, and all that kind of stuff.

So, usually, you would want, if you live in an area where there’s any sort of problem, and frankly, it’s probably good practice anywhere, to have specific provisions about how you’re going to deal with vermin. So you can’t just simply pass all of the responsibility off to your tenants, but you certainly can have something where you essentially have, within the lease, that you are going to deliver them a unit that’s going to be free of vermin and you’re going to do things with the building writ large to ensure, to the extent you can, that the building is going to be free of vermin, but that if they are doing things with the unit that are inviting vermin in, whether it’s things they’re bringing into the unit or how they’re keeping it maintained, that they are going to have some responsibility for that.

And so, that’s one where I would encourage you to look at whatever issues are specific to where you live, which could be mosquitoes, it could be roaches, it could be bed bugs. You might want to think a little bit, maybe even talk with a real estate attorney about how to word that provision, so that you could have a little bit of shared responsibility. And then, again, it gets to the communication aspect of explaining to your tenant sort of what you expect from them. You know, “Hey, we live in an area where bed bugs are a real problem. You’re probably aware of this as a new tenant, but you want to be mindful of these three things in order to keep the unit as free from bed bugs as possible.”


Our thoughts at RentPrep :

We’ve written on this subject in detail in a previous post on pest control for landlords

As Josh lays out, it’s a balancing act on who is responsible for the pest control and much of the fine details depends on the way your lease is written up.

If you have unique concerns with your situation, you can search and consult with a landlord/tenant lawyer by clicking here.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.