As the official onset of summer fast approaches, the season in which a small yet very nasty and hard-to-eradicate pest – the bedbug – tends to thrive is around the corner. So with bedbug season upon us, San Francisco landlord-tenant law attorney Gregory J. Brod has taken note of a major settlement this week in a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of tenants of two buildings in Des Moines, Iowa, that were infested with bedbugs.
According to the Des Moines Register, Polk County District Judge Robert Blink on Wednesday approved a settlement for $2.45 million between a class-action group of tenants and former tenants of Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Tower and First Baptist Elderly Housing Foundation, First Baptist Housing Foundation and American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, which were the operators of the two buildings in downtown Des Moines besieged by bedbugs. The roughly 225 residents of the buildings are low-income and disabled, and they will share payouts from the settlement that will be based on the amount of time they resided in the buildings between October 2007 and August 2013.
The problems with the bedbugs at the two buildings in question in Des Moines began in 2007, and the residents, assisted by a team of lawyers, employed a state law called the “Private Right of Action” to forward their case. That law permits consumers to sue businesses that engage in deceptive practices, unfair practices or misrepresentation, or that fail to disclose material facts. In 2009, Iowa became the last state in the United States to enact such a law.
The settlement was reached with the former owners of the two buildings making no admissions related to negligent conduct, which was a charge that the class-action group stood by. Landlords whose property has been found to have bedbugs routinely deny negligence and often point the finger at tenants as the party to have introduced the pests into the property, which the operators in the Des Moines case also claimed was the case.
Regardless of who has been the host to have introduced bedbugs into a building, once they are established, bedbugs can spread like a wildfire from one apartment unit to another – and they are difficult to eradicate. Oftentimes, a landlord may employ inexpensive means for getting rid of the bedbugs that not only prove to be ineffective but also may very well worsen the infestation as well as the aggravations and inconveniences suffered by the affected tenants.
Des Moines is one of many cities across the United States that has experienced significant cases of bedbug infestations. In fact and much closer to home, San Francisco has had major problems with bedbug infestations in recent years. Indeed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, in 2013 the city’s Department of Public Health received 586 complaints of bedbugs in hotels or apartment buildings, which was a five-year high. And while bedbugs are often associated with unsanitary conditions, the itch-inducing pests can even show up in top-of-the-line hotels.
Tenants have a right to reside in a property that is safe and habitable, and landlords are required to inspect their property to ensure that it is free of nuisances such as bedbugs. If you live in a rental property that has been infested by bedbugs, there are legal remedies that may be available to you. If such be the case, we urge you to contact the experienced team of lawyers at the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation.
-James Ambroff-Tahan contributed to this article.
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