It seems the darn things can infect even the cleanest and most premium of places! There is just no way to be positive that a house will forever be free of bed bugs. The tenant will blame it on the landlord, and the landlord will blame it on the tenant, but the problem, of course, will persist. Whose job is it to get rid of the pests?
That’s why some rental agreement leases signed between tenants and landlords have an addendum (or an addition) called the Bed Bug Addendum. The Bed Bug Addendum is part of the pest control section of the lease that lays down both the landlord’s and the tenant’s rights and responsibilities should a bed bug infestation occur. This article covers the tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
Please note that the bed bug addendum is strictly followed as per law in only a few states. However, all major cities usually have equivalent addendums in their rental agreements where similar rules apply. Please check with your state laws before taking action.
Bed bug addendum from the landlord’s standpoint, in a nutshell: The landlord has inspected and ensured that the house you’re renting is free of bed bugs. “And if you sign it, you officially acknowledge it.”
What are the tenant’s responsibilities?
When you sign the bed bug addendum in your rental agreement, here are the responsibilities you’re agreeing to:
- Ensure all the furnishings and personal items you’ll be moving into the house are free of bed bugs
- Check for hitchhiking bed bugs after you have spent time elsewhere
- Inform the landlord immediately if you do face bed bug issues
- Cooperate with the landlord for all pest control efforts
Here’s a form with detailed responsibilities of residents, for example.
Things to remember
You are not required to sign the bed bug addendum unless you’re certain of the absence of the pests. The addendum comes with strict rules, including agreements regarding pest control fees, attorney fees, not holding the landlord responsible for an infestation, confirmation of personal property insurance, etc.
So, before you sign the rental agreement lease, ask if the apartment has had bedbug infestations in the past. If yes, note this in your lease’s inventory form for future reference. You can have the property inspected before moving in – exterminators and pest control experts do this. Additionally, the landlord can also have pest control experts to inspect your apartment once you start living there.
Once you’ve become a resident, if you discover bedbugs in the apartment, write a signed and dated letter to your landlord; never let it be a verbal agreement. Send the letter through certified mail and request a return receipt.
Help! There’s an infestation!
Is it the landlord’s responsibility to get rid of the bedbugs?
In most cases, the landlord is in charge of dealing with the pests, given that:
- You inform them in writing
- You have been punctual with rent payment
- You’re not the cause of the infestation
Who pays for the extermination?
This depends on who is guilty of the bed bug infestation. This is where the landlord may use the signed bed bug addendum against you claiming that there were no bugs before you moved in. If there’s no proof of who caused the infestation, you and your landlord can consider splitting the pest control fees.
What if my landlord avoids the problem?
Usually, your landlord has a week to respond to your written complaint. (Confirm with your state laws.) After the week is up, you can go to the court to force your landlord to hire exterminators, pay for your expenses, and offset your rent.
Another point to remember: It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate with a resident who has filed a complaint or contacted the government or an NGO about a pest infestation. Your health and safety are more important and the landlord will face serious consequences if they take action against you.