If you're renting a house or apartment, you might wonder who is responsible for insect removal. Bed bugs are a big part of this concern. We can all hope that a landlord will respond immediately to a request for extermination, but we don't live in a perfect world, so sometimes, renters need to know if a landlord can be sued for a bed bug infestation if they don't take care of the problem.
The landlord's duty in regards to bed bugs
Before you contact your landlord, it's important to know whether or not he or she has any responsibility regarding a bed bug infestation. The legality of dealing with bed bugs differs between states. In some areas, for example, the landlord of an apartment complex is only responsible for getting rid of bed bugs if they are discovered in more than one apartment. Of course, it may be in their best interest to be proactive, but some of them won't follow the law until they have no other choice.
The good news for residents of New York City is that landlords here absolutely have a responsibility for bed bug extermination. In fact, while some states may simply refer to "vermin" or something similar, NYC rental agreements specifically mention the removal of bed bugs. All you have to do is be willing to submit to a series of visits by the exterminator.
The possibility of suing over bed bugs
If your landlord refuses to take care of the problem or drags his heels, you may be in for a fight. If the problem is big enough for you to move, it's usually not too difficult to get back your security deposit, in addition to getting out of your lease. But you may be entitled to much more. In the past several years, a number of lawsuits have been fought and won by tenants who had bed bug problems that were not taken care of in a timely manner.
How much you can get will depend on the severity of the problem that you can prove. In some cases, tenants have been rewarded a sizable portion of the rent that they were continuing to pay during the infestation. In extreme circumstances, you may be able to receive punitive damages, which can be substantial. It really all comes down to what you can prove and what you experienced during the bed bug infestation.
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