New Legislation for Landlords Regarding Bed Bugs

Bedbug close upHow often is it that bed bugs make the news?

Earlier this year, they did exactly that. A man in Maine, frustrated over his previous landlord’s lack of compliance with the law, reported the violation to his city’s Code Enforcement office. He had no other choice but to move from his infested residence to a new one, and wanted to ensure that the City followed up with the landlord’s violation.

Unfortunately, the office also followed up with his new landlord, since they were required to inform that building manager that their new tenant might bring bed bugs with him. After being informed that he could no longer move into his new residence, the frustrated Maine citizen returned to the city office where he angrily tossed an open jar of bed bugs onto the counter. He certainly made his point as to the severity of bed bug infestation; the office was closed and cleaned immediately.

The above story is amusing, but it makes an important point about lesser-known real estate laws. In fact, just this year our own state of California enacted new legislation regarding bed bugs! Effective July 1, 2017 for new tenants, and January 1, 2018, for existing tenants, the landlord must provide a written disclosure regarding information about bed bugs, with prescribed language as set forth in the law. Additionally, there are restrictions on what a landlord can do with a property that has a bed bug infestation. If you’re a landlord with questions, you should contact our real estate attorney and familiarize yourself with this law.

Because bed bugs can be such a pervasive problem, not to mention extremely difficult to eradicate, the new law addresses the issue from multiple angles. The first provision for a landlord to remember is that a landlord cannot show, rent, or lease any unit known to be actively infested with bed bugs. If the infestation is noticeable upon visual inspection, the landlord is considered by law to have notice of the problem.

Second, and perhaps most important with regard to leasing agreements, landlords are now required to provide written disclosure to all tenants regarding bed bug prevention and detection. Tenants should also be informed of proper procedures for reporting suspected infestations. If a landlord is properly informed, then the landlord must have a qualified inspection and, within two days of inspection, notify the tenants in writing of the pest control operator’s findings.

The form of these documents are subject to strict procedures under the law. With the new bed bug laws now in effect, all landlords should update their leasing forms and learn how to lawfully proceed and communicate with tenants. Call us if you need assistance and we can get you up to date.

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