Bed Bug Infestations – Landlord or Tenant Responsibility?

Bed Bug Infestations – Landlord or Tenant Responsibility?

Pest infestations in a rental (especially bed bugs) are a complicated problem. For one, it’s extremely difficult to find out when the property became

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Pest infestations in a rental (especially bed bugs) are a complicated problem. For one, it’s extremely difficult to find out when the property became infested. But bed bugs introduce a variety of issues for both landlords and tenants:

  • Who caused the problem?
  • Who is responsible to sort it out?
  • How should you go about it anyways?

With this in mind, it’s important to tackle the bugs as soon as you find out the first signs of their presence. Failure to do so will result in increasing negatives for all parties involved in the situation.

Now, let us look at the responsibilities each side bears.

When is the landlord responsible for bed bug control?

If you’re a landlord, your key duty is to ensure that tenants have a healthy environment to move in to. Each homeowner has to provide livable conditions not only upon moving but also throughout the entire course of the rental period.

That being said, in case of a bed bug problem you need to investigate whether the infestation is caused by the previous inhabitants of the property and if yes, to deal with the matter before the new tenants move in.

Bear in mind the following:

  • If a landlord refuses to handle pest problems that are his responsibility, the tenant may inform the Local Council, which in turn can serve an enforcement letter on the landlord. In case the owner fails to take matters into his own hand and the council manages the infestation*, the landlord will become legally obliged to pay all costs related to the bed bug control procedure, including the administrative expenses. So, to sum up, on top of the cost of bed bug treatment, the property owner will have to pay any administrative costs as well.
  • Landlords are responsible for the public health and wellbeing, meaning that their actions, or lack thereof, should not put at risk other residents of the building or cause any financial damages.

* It’s important to note that some councils aren’t required to provide pest control services, even if a tenant receives Council Tax benefits or Housing benefits. And there are some councils that provide pest control services only if they find it necessary in order to protect the public health and wellbeing.

From the above, we can conclude that landlords are responsible to get rid of the bed bugs if they had been introduced to the property prior to the new tenants moving in. This means that in some cases it will be extremely important to find out when the problem occurred.

When is the tenant responsible for bed bug control?

As a tenant, when signing a lease you agree to supervise the property with the same care you would if it were your own. However, not all tenants pertain this mindset and there are many cases of errors of judgement and negligent behaviour.

Tenants bear the responsibility to deal with bed bugs in the following situations:

  • If upon noticing the bed bugs, the renter fails to inform his landlord on time. This can delay the treatment, meaning that the problem will only worsen and the infestation may spread to other rooms of the rental or even to the neighbours.
  • If the infestation occurred because of negligent behaviour. For frequent travellers, for example, the risk of bringing back bed bugs increases dramatically, so they need to take extra precautions in order to avoid that from happening.  A health officer can confirm that negligence is, in fact, the cause of bed bugs and if he does, the tenant will have to take full responsibility and deal with the problem.

Then there are even those cases when you didn’t intentionally bring in the bed bugs nor have you failed to notify the landlord. However, you will be obliged to get pest control if you’ve signed the lease agreement and it’s clear that the infestation appeared after you’ve moved in.

What should a tenant do if the property is infested with bed bugs?

  1. Check the rental agreement – the contract outlines each side’s responsibilities, so this is the place you must look first if you notice any problem with the property, including bed bugs. Some tenancy agreements (but not all) contain a clause that clearly states the responsibilities around such situations, so both sides must comply with what’s written.
  2. Notify the landlord – this should be done no matter who holds the responsibility to deal with the problem. The landlord should be in course of everything that is happening around his property or else the renter risks to put a strain on the relationship.

What are your options for bed bug control?

Generally speaking, you have two options to deal with a bed bug problem – on your own or with professional help. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each one:

DIY bed bug control:

  • You have a complete control over the methods and substances used. You can choose to go the eco-friendly road and pick nontoxic products to deal with the insects;
  • If you do your research well and are methodical, you can destroy the bed bugs for a fraction of the cost of a professional treatment;

But,

  • DIY bed bug treatments are slow to work and may not be effective against an entire population. Moreover, some of the popular tips aren’t that effective – using Diatomaceous Earth is one of them;
  • If you fail, you may worsen the situation because bed bugs will disperse around the property looking for a place to hide, thus infesting other rooms. This will make them harder to exterminate. So in the end, do-it-yourself methods may cost you more in terms of time, effort and money.

Professional bed bug exterminators?

  • Professionals know what they’re doing, so they can destroy the infestation quickly and effectively, no matter how severe the problem is;
  • You needn’t do anything except some basic preparation work before the exterminator arrives;

But,

  • In most cases it will cost you more than a DIY treatment;
  • To completely eradicate the bugs, a pest controller may need to treat against bed bugs several times because of their life cycle. This can be both inconvenient and expensive.

What to do to prevent disputes?

  1. Communicate – tenants and landlords should not shy of communication. The more transparent the situation, the better.
  2. Cooperate & compromise – no matter who holds the responsibility, it’s important to continue on good terms. In the best case scenario, both parties will realize this and will put effort to see the matter resolved as quickly as possible.
  3. Inspect the property regularly – a huge amount of disputes between landlords and tenants can be prevented with frequent inspections of the property. They allow to notice problems with the unit and give you a chance to deal with them timely.