If a Renter or Resident Gets Bed Bugs, You’re “Itching” For a Lawsuit.
Here’s How to Avoid Bed Bug Lawsuits!
As a landlord or vacation rental manager, one of your most important duties is ensuring that your tenants are safe and comfortable in their homes. Happy tenants are likely to stay in their homes longer and may even refer prospective renters to you. On the other hand, angry tenants can cause problems for both you and your business. In some cases, tenant issues can result in lawsuits.
One of the most common reasons for a lawsuit is bed bug infestation. Actresses sue cruise lines over bed bugs, families sue landlords over bed bug infestations, and individuals often take legal action against hotels. Bed bugs are a growing problem in the United States, and they are a hassle to get rid of. If your property becomes infested with bed bugs, you could face a costly lawsuit.
Can My Resident or Guest Sue Me For Bed Bugs?
Yes! In fact, bed bugs are such a common source of litigation that many landlords carry specific bed bug insurance. Of course, they’ll need proof of negligence (and lots of free time), but it’s always best to be prepared.
Negligence means that you didn’t do what a reasonable person would have done to prevent the problem. In the case of bed bugs, this could mean that you didn’t properly inspect the property for signs of bed bugs. It could also mean that you didn’t take action when you found signs of bed bugs. Or, it could mean you didn’t use a qualified pest control professional to treat the problem.
How Many Bed Bug Lawsuits Happen Annually?
Thousands of tenants file lawsuits every year because of bed bugs. That number is only going to increase as the problem becomes more widespread. And, fun fact? 97% of pest control specialists have treated bed bugs in the past year.
While many of the big bed bug settlements have historically been paid out by hotels and cruise lines? Landlords are also often sued and usually get caught with a bill of tens of thousands of dollars to tenants.
Most notably, an LA court ordered the owners of Park La Brea Apartments to pay $3.5 million. The16 ex-tenants had been plagued by bed bugs and won. The evidence presented? Between 2011 and 2013, the owners ignored dozens of complaints and reports about bed bugs. Each tenant received $45,000-$540,000.
In addition, the tenants only suffered “minor injuries.” Most of the damages awarded were for emotional distress. Imagine how much a severe case could cost you!
Bed bug lawsuits are a growing field. In fact, attorneys specializing in bed bug lawsuits is one of the fastest growing niches in the legal industry. Here are just a few attorneys who specialize in bed bugs:
And those are just a few with “bed bug” in their name! Many other attorneys would gladly take up a bed bug case to help an injured or frustrated tenant.
Top Reasons That Tenants Win Bed Bug Lawsuits
There are a few key reasons that tenants often win bed bug lawsuits:
1) Landlords didn’t take action when they should have.
The most common reason for a bed bug lawsuit is that the landlord didn’t take appropriate action when learning about an infestation.. They are held responsible if they find out about a bed bug infestation yet do little to nothing (negligence).
This means that a property manager or owner ignored a tenant’s complaints or didn’t take the necessary steps to get rid of the bed bugs.
2) They used an unqualified pest control professional.
Some landlords try to save money by using an unqualified pest control person (don’t do this). This could themselves (DIY) or a friend. Unfortunately, taking the cheap way can worsen the infestation.
If you’re thinking about using a professional to care for your bed bug problem, be sure to do your research. Ask around for recommendations. Or, search by your zip code on the National Pest Management Association’s website to find a local exterminator.
3) The infestation was severe and affected the tenant’s daily life.
Severe bed bug infestations can affect the tenant’s daily life. They might be unable to sleep, and feel constantly anxious and uncomfortable in their own home.
In cases where the bed bug infestation causes bites, rashes, or other physical symptoms, the tenant could also sue for medical bills or damages.
4) The property manager moved someone in before bed bug treatment.
The law requires you to disclose any bed bug infestation to future tenants, and if you don’t follow this law, you can be sued.
Bed Bug Case Examples
In 2018, a family residing in Kahala Islander Apartments in Alhambra, CA, received a $1.6 million payout after a severe bed bug infestation. The family planned to use the settlement money to pay off their son’s medical bills. Unfortunately, the son has bed bug bit scars that have been with him for over a decade.
In 2017, the owners of Park La Brea paid out a whopping $3.5 million to tenants who rented between 2011 and 2013. The managers reportedly knew of the infestation half a decade before the lawsuit but did nothing about it.
115 tenants won a class-action suit for $2 million in 2015. The Oakland, CA apartment complex had a severe bed bug infestation that went untreated for years.
How Can Landlords Protect Themselves?
While there are certainly risks of a bed bug lawsuit, there are ways to protect yourself as a landlord. Here are some things to remember:
The Landlord Is Not Always at Fault
Often, the tenant is at fault for a bed bug infestation. They could have brought them in on their clothing or belongings. Creating a bed bug addendum in your contracts will help you defend yourself in court should this issue arise.
Have your tenants agree to keep their living space clean and free of clutter in your rental agreements. This will help reduce the chances of bed bugs making their way into your property.
In the event of a lawsuit, you’ll need to be able to prove that the tenant was responsible. It is vital to have documentation, such as pictures and witness statements. Check out our Pest Notify Monitoring System that just for a few dollars per month will document pest history, remotely (without time-consuming inspections!)
Pest Control Is a Necessity
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. That’s why it’s essential to have a qualified pest control professional in your Rolodex. Treating an infestation can be expensive, but it’s much cheaper than dealing with the consequences of a lawsuit.
Ensure your pest control professional is licensed and insured, and always follow their recommendations.
Deal With Problems Right Away
If you find evidence of bed bugs on your property, don’t wait to deal with the problem. The longer you wait, the more difficult and expensive it will be to get rid of them.
Don’t hesitate to call a professional, period.
As a landlord, it’s essential to keep records of everything related to your property. Things to keep track of include communication with tenants, repairs and maintenance, and pest control treatments. Bed bug infestations happen in many different ways, so having this information will help you defend yourself if a lawsuit does occur.
Tenants don’t always tell you about bed bugs. They are notoriously difficult to get rid of, especially in multi-family housing. Make sure you’re either inspecting often, or use something like our Pest Notify remote monitoring insect traps that I talk about below.
Use Our Products!
PestNotify is a system that can help landlords and short-term rental property managers stay updated on their property and protect themselves from bed bug lawsuits. Our remote pest monitoring traps use guest and renter crowdsourcing to do the work for you. Then, you’re notified right away (before they start to itch) so you can call in a pest control professional early-on.
This takes a lot of the guesswork out of bed bug prevention. And, it will also improve your relationships with your residents and protect your reputation.
Bed bugs pose a massive risk for both tenants and property managers. But, by following these tips, you can protect yourself from an expensive lawsuit and keep your property free of these pesky critters!
Plus, by using Pest Notify’s unique bed bug monitoring system, you can stay updated on your property and take quick action if an infestation is detected. Sign up for a free trial today!