Bed bugs are big news.
The good news is that bed bugs are benign although very unwanted pesky pests. Bed bugs do not carry disease, and they do not present the same public health threat as an unknown flu virus. However, the bad news is that there is little that can be done in recovering damages for bed bug bites.
Generally, a landlord will not be responsible unless it can be shown that the landlord knew of a bed bug problem and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it. Either constructive or actual notice must be shown.
Linda Jones discovers to her horror that she has bed bugs. She seeks damages against the landlord of her apartment for her medical treatment and the costs of the extermination and cleaning her furniture and clothing. Ms. Jones is the only tenant to get bed bugs in her building.
The landlord would have no liability unless it can be shown that the landlord knew of a bed bug problem in the building and failed to take corrective steps.
However, consider this example:
Bertram Parks finds bed bugs in his apartment. He learns that over the course of the last six months people in his line of apartments, the “A” line, have had bed bugs. The landlord was told of their problem, and he did nothing. The landlord’s position was that problem was unique to each tenant and that the landlord would not shoulder the remediation costs. Each tenant undertook his own extermination efforts.
In this case, Parks may have a viable claim against the landlord for his injuries and clean-up costs.
One problem with bed bugs is proving how they came-in. Another problem is that bed bugs are not caused by unsanitary conditions. They can appear at the cleanest and best addresses in the city.
It can be difficult, although not impossible, to prove a case against a landlord of either an apartment house or office building.
Future articles will discuss other type of bed bug cases.
Mark E. Seitelman, 9/3/10, www.seitelman.com.