Repeat Bed Bug Infestations Raise Issues of Landlord Liability

Lawyers are taught to read each and every document carefully before signing or using it at trial. So, while Northern California bedbug eradication lawyer Greg Brod knows to read beyond a headline, he found the headlines of two articles in the Stanford Daily last fall said a mouthful on their own. The first headline dated November 9, 2014 happily touts “Bedbugs in Toyon Eradicated.” Less than a week later, the same paper declares “New Case of Bedbugs Found in Toyon after Reported Eradication.” These headlines headlight two interrelated truths — controlling a bedbug outbreak is hard, but residents in rented properties (including students in dorms) have a right to a vermin free life.

University Students Face Bed Bug Problems bedbug2.jpgIn early November, the Stanford paper reported that bedbugs had been seen in two rooms in an undergraduate residence hall. However, Rodger Whitney who heads the school’s residential living team told the paper that the problem was limited to those two rooms and the pests had been eradicated. The report notes an initial attempt to eliminate the bugs had failed but a more thorough three-week process had now been completed on one room and, per student request, a week-long procedure used on the second room. A Residential Advisor criticized the school’s communication efforts and the fact that bedbugs were not discussed in RA training. Six days later, the paper reported that another case of bedbugs had been found in the same dormitory. Apparently, the report only became public after yet another unit-specific effort to treat the pest invasion.

Eradicating Bed Bugs in Residential Spaces The University of Michigan’s Extension Program, a group focused on using University resources to tackle problems throughout their own community and the state overall, provides a relevant guidesheet titled “Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs in Residences.” While some of the advice (i.e. checking backpacks to see if bugs have hitched a ride) is student-oriented, much of it is applicable to everyone. The authors note that the best way to detect an invasion is to carefully check the area around where you sleep/rest (ex. mattresses, boxsprings, bed frames, and bedding) as well as under carpet edges, in cracks, and on luggage including purses or backpacks. You may see dead or live bugs, discarded skins, fecal matter, and/or brown and red stains. Once you confirm an infestation, stop and prepare for the step of control since disturbed bugs may move and worsen the infestation.

While there are some websites that discuss ways you can fight these pests on your own, the above-cited article seems to espouse the majority view, namely that controlling an infestation is a job for the professionals. A trained pest control company will conduct a careful inspection and can use both insecticides and non-chemical controls. The latter include heat and steam treatments, measures that are effective but notably do not prevent re-infestation. Sometimes personal items and furniture needs to be removed to facilitate treatment, but if treatment is done right then disposing of items is rarely required.

Bed Bug Infestations, Tenant Injury and Landlord Negligence California law requires rental residences meet a general standard of habitability. Vermin like bed bugs can render a unit uninhabitable. Negligence in failing to properly address an infestation or warn tenants of a known problem may give rise to landlord liability and, in turn, may mean the landlord owes the tenant monetary compensation. This is particularly true when the plaintiff and/or other family members have suffered from extensive bites.

If you’ve suffered from bed bugs in a Northern California rental residence (dorms may count, although special rules apply in some college-related lawsuits) and believe your landlord’s negligence contributed to the problem, call The Brod Law Firm. As a leading bed bug attorney for San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and all of Northern California, Attorney Brod has specific experience representing renters in Northern California bedbug-related landlord-tenant lawsuits. Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
A Bedbug Primer for California Renters
Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: A Rising Problem in the Bay Area

(Image by Gilles San Martin)