Bed bugs: no renter wants to hear those words. No matter how careful you are, however, you may find yourself facing bed bug problems, especially if your landlord wasn’t truthful about the issue when you moved in.
If your apartment has bed bugs, it’s important to know what action you may be able to take. Each case is unique, of course, but some general guidelines may apply.
The warrant of habitability
Infestations of bed bugs violate your apartment’s warrant of habitability. A warrant of habitability states that the landlord or building owner is “responsible for keeping your apartment and the building safe and livable.” In these cases, you may be able to get a reduction or abatement of your rent. Make sure you notify your landlord of the issue and that you collect evidence of the problem.
Cases of fraud
Tenants’ rights attorney Sam Himmelstein notes that when housing laws don’t protect you, common law might. In the case of a landlord who provided a false disclosure of bed bug history, Himmelstein says that the renters may have a case for fraud. Suing the landlord for damages is a possibility in such cases. Depending on the specifics of the case, landlords who provide fraudulent bed bug disclosures may be liable for moving costs, the broker’s fee (if applicable) and any increase in rent if moving into a more costly place is necessary.
What to do if you have landlord and bed bug problems
You can try to handle these matters on your own and with the city’s help, in some cases. However, remember that if you go to housing court, your landlord will likely have a lawyer. Without an attorney on your side, you will be at a disadvantage.