That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that New York City now has laws protecting tenants from these infestations. The city’s Housing and Maintenance Code requires landlords to eliminate bed bugs, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development gives them a 30-day deadline.
How well the removal process goes depends on the landlord and the pest removal company they choose. Attorney Janet Ray Kalson at Himmelstein McConnell Gribben & Joseph LLP works with clients on bed bug infestations and other environmental issues. She confirms that the laws do not contain details about how the landlord handles the elimination of vermin such as bed bugs.
Not just an irritation: a public health pest
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider bed bugs a public health pest. Bed bugs can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, skin infections, and mental disorders such as insomnia and anxiety. You have the right to live without these medical issues affecting your life.
What can you do as a renter?
New NYC tenants are supposed to receive an infestation report for the building and apartment that goes back one year. If you are signing a lease and do not receive this report, you can request it. Or you may want to consider finding a different apartment.
If you discover bed bugs in your apartment, you should report it to your landlord. How they handle removing the bed bugs determines your next step. If they do not comply with the law and completely remove the bed bugs within 30 days, you may need to hire a quality exterminator yourself.
When this happens, however, you may want to speak with a tenants’ rights lawyer before you spend money on extermination. You may be unaware of your rights and the types of action you can take to protect your health and your lease.