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Should you tell your landlord and risk retaliation? Will the landlord accuse you of bringing the bed bugs in yourself and force you to pay for treatment out of pocket?
This post will help you navigate through the important questions and answer them.
Disclaimer: Information found on this page is informational, not legal advice. Consult a licensed attorney at law before considering taking any action.
Who Is To Blame For Bed Bugs
Many a landlord has claimed that they should not be held responsible for infestations. Many try to pass the cost of professional treatment off to tenants.
It is impossible to isolate where bed bugs came from once they’ve settled in.
How Do You Get Bed Bugs
- They may have come from the neighboring apartment complex
- A single tenant could visit an infested relative
- A piece of furniture dumped out in front of the property may have been infested
We cover the most common causes of bed bugs so you know what situations to avoid.
Finding them in your own home is already a task. Expecting every tenant to check periodically is unrealistic.
With this reality in mind, the legal responsibility to pay and fix the issue falls upon the landlord.
Landlord And Tenant Rights With Bed Bugs
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued rules and guidelines prohibiting landlords from charging or subsidizing the cost of bed bug treatment.
We’ll explain those rules shortly. It is also good to know what landlords and tenants must do at the least in California.
California’s Landlord Obligations State Law
The Landlord Obligations Law of California Civil Code Section 1941.1, stipulates that landlords must provide and maintain:
- Weather protection of the roof, exterior walls, windows, and doors
- Plumbing and gas facilities
- An adequate supply of hot and cold running water
- Heat and electrical system, including working lighting, wiring, and equipment
- Clean premises free of rubbish, filth, garbage, and vermin
- Adequate trash containers
- Maintained floors, stairways, and railings
California’s Tenant Obligations State Law
The Tenant Obligations Law of California Civil Code Section 1941.2, requires that the tenant:
- Keep the unit clean and sanitary (Remember: Tidiness does not keep bed bugs away.)
- Dispose of rubbish in a sanitary manner
- Properly use plumbing and electrical fixtures
- Not willfully destroy the unit
- Use the rooms for their intended use
- Personally repair damage caused by their own acts or neglect, IF
- The tenant “substantially violated” the tenant’s obligations, and
- The violation “substantially contributes” to the defective condition.
Illegal Retaliation by the Landlord
Retaliation by the landlord is illegal when a tenant must take matters into their own hands.
California Civil Code Section 1942.5 prohibits a landlord from retaliating against a tenant if the tenant:
- Calls a governmental agency for an inspection
- Organizes other tenants
- Requests that the landlord make repairs (or in our case, treat bed bugs)
What California’s Bed Bug Laws Mean
California Civil Code Section 1941.1 protects tenants from landlords turning a blind eye on vermin, which includes bed bugs.
California offers protections specifically from bed bugs to renters in several forms. Knowing them is important as they are your rights as a renter.
Retaliation By Landlords Is Illegal
Bed bugs should be reported as soon as they are suspected to safeguard the entire building and even neighboring buildings.
In the big picture, reporting bed bugs early saves everyone money and stress. That includes the landlord.
Defending Yourself With Rent
Tenants have the legal right to withhold rent when the landlord fails to maintain habitable conditions.
This is called an Affirmative Defense to an unlawful detainer.
Filing Bed Bug Lawsuits Against Landlords
Tenants can file suit against landlords who fail to maintain rental units in a habitable condition.
What Tenants Must Prove To File Suit
- Defects exist that violate California Civil Code Section 1941.1
- The owner had actual or constructive notice
- The tenant suffered damages
Disclaimer: Consult a licensed attorney at law before considering taking any action.
Who Pays For Bed Bug Treatment
California’s Landlord Obligations Law and the case of Knight v. Hallsthammar establish that a landlord is obligated to provide and maintain residential rental premises in a habitable condition, regardless of the landlord’s financial ability, financial condition, or the availability of funds for necessary repairs and maintenance.
Sometimes landlords engage in willful negligence. They may claim that the tenant never provided notice of an infestation.
Peterson v. Superior Court held that a landlord has “constructive notice” if a reasonable inspection would have revealed the defect.
Constructive notice represents the idea that whether or not a person or entity actually knows something, they are liable for its consequences if they reasonably should have known.
In most cases, the landlord is legally required to pay for bed bug treatment in California.
- If your new unit came with bed bugs, you are protected from paying under the law.
- If you reported the problem and received no help or attempts to fix the situation, you are protected under the law.
- If the problem is out of hand and any reasonable person could tell there has been a problem, you are protected under the law.
New California Bed Bug Protections
I recently wrote about a newly enacted amendment to Section 1942.5.
You can read about it here: California’s New Bed Bug Laws.
Or, you can get the skinny on the update with this infographic:
For more useful guides and graphics like the above, give the free ebook a look!
Thanks For Reading!
Congratulations on investing in your own health and learning your rights. Best of luck in your fight towards getting and staying Debedbugged.
Leave a comment or send an email with any questions or input.
Great information !! Last year my apartment and so one of my neighbor apartment were infected with bedbugs in addition another neighbor from first floor had bedbugs 3 altogether I was force to pay $450 out of my pocket and that put me financial in a bad shape twice my apartment was sprayed. I was living in so much distress and traumatized about this creatures crawling in my body when I must get my sleep. I lost all of my furniture all of it, blankets, some of my clothes cause I couldn’t afford to do so much laundry I was physical and mental exhausted!! Horrible horrible experience on top of this I felt I was retaliated because I want my carpet to be wash eventually I was asked to move out of my apartment!!?? Legal Aid hell me to stay here I never mention to them the situation with bedbugs. I’m still upset and I feel I should get my money back plus staying out of my apartment for two days while sprayed plus additional 3 days for being soo afraid to sleep on the floor and so my two children’s. All the money it was spend in laundry, trash bags etc its to much when my income is low. Thank you so much for this free info. Sincerely yours Patricia
Glad you got through it, hope it never happens again! Thanks you for your comment.
Kwan M Leek
Let me know who is responsible for cost of exterminating bed bugs if the tenant has brought in bed bugs in
This depends on the lease and city. I recommend consulting a legal professional regarding burden of cost.
I am a social worker and we have a client, one of 3 in a 3 bedroom that had bugs in his room only. The landlord refused to pay for treatment, so our company paid it, and the client was going to reimburse us. Now, other neighbors have stated they also have bed bugs, but it is not close to their apartment where the bugs were. They are forcing the landlord to pay and in response he is raising rents and evicting our client for starting it!!
Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your tough situation. Money complicates everything and there is certainly an expense associated with these horrible pests. I wish you and your clients all the best.
Your clients are lucky to have an advocate like you who bothers to look deep into the issue at the very least.
Is a lease in California void then if a landlord did not give the required bedbug information by January 1st 2018? What are the consequences if a landlord did not give this information to tenants that have been living there for 5 years, and what are the consequences for a new tenant that moved in a couple of months ago, but did not receive this information?
This is a rather specific question, I would recommend consulting a legal professional as I am not qualified to give legal advice. Best of luck!
A friend had bed bugs approximately a year ago, she was told to get rid of everything and the landlord had the unit treated. Now the tenant has bedbugs again and landlord called out pest control and they said she had to get rid of everything within a week or she will be evicted. Problem is she bought all new furniture living room, dining room, bedroom and felt everything was fine. Now she’s wondering if the landlord had told pest control to inform her she needs to get rid of everything so they can get her out.
The tenant is trying to get an affordable 2nd opinion because she thinks maybe it was not treated properly the first time. Why would the bedbugs be back, she’s taken all the precautions so it won’t happen again. Bedbugs are nasty and a terrible crisis to go through once, let alone a second time! Any suggestions?
Sorry to hear about your friend’s situation.
There are a good few ways bed bugs could return, a few possibilities that come to mind:
•Treatment was not comprehensive and only drove bed bugs into hiding within the building’s foundation
•A neighbor wound up with bed bugs from your friend’s infestation where they hid until after treatment and eventually found their way back into your friend’s unit
•Your friend may have had bad luck and bumped into bed bugs again
While it is good that the landlord had treatment performed, if neighboring units were not treated at the same time, the treatment could very well have been a complete waste. It’s a hard situation emotionally and financially, it’s very kind of you to be pursuing answers for her. Having that impression of her landlord tells me she may be happier somewhere else either way.