That is because today’s question is “Who Is Responsible For Bed Bugs?”
Bed Bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. Cimex lectularius, the common Bed Bug, is the best known as it prefers to feed on human blood. When it does, it leaves behind itchy bites and welts as well as an overwhelming desire for revenge.
So, from whom can bite victims get revenge?
There are actually two legal questions we should discuss: (1) who is responsible for exterminating Bed Bugs and (2) who can be responsible for harm that the Bed Bugs cause to people or property?
Who Is Responsible For Exterminating Bed Bugs?
Who has the duty to exterminate Bed Bugs depends on where you live. That is, the law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Many states and local governments have imposed a duty on landlords to maintain their buildings free of “rodents and vermin” or, in some cases, specifically to exterminate Bed Bugs. But in some locations, the landlord’s responsibility to exterminate only arises if more than one unit is infested.
If you have a Bed Bug infestation, before trying to figure out your jurisdiction’s law on this subject, look at your lease which may make extermination your landlord’s responsibility. Remember to look for terms such as “rodents and vermin” as well as just “Bed Bugs.” If there is no answer in your lease, there may be a local housing or health department that is familiar with local law and can help you. Of course, you can also consult a lawyer who can determine the law in your area and protect your legal rights.
Is Anyone Legally Responsible For Harm Caused By Bed Bugs?
There are a number of legal theories that can be a basis for a legal claim against your landlord for harm done by Bed Bugs.
You can make a premises liability claim. More specifically, you can claim that your landlord was negligent by allowing the condition to exist or by failing to warn you of the danger.
There is also a doctrine in the law called the implied warranty of habitability. Under this doctrine, every residential lease is presumed to include a warranty that the premises are fit for human habitation. If Bed Bug infestation makes your property uninhabitable, you can sue your landlord for damages.
The Maryland Consumer Protection Act also gives a new tenant who moves into an undisclosed bed bug infestation a right to receive damages.
Of course, you have to prove any claim you make to receive a legal remedy. Proof of a Bed Bug problem could include such things as preserving the Bed Bugs themselves, making photos of the infestation and making photos of the bite marks and welts that the Bed Bugs caused.
If there is evidence that the landlord knew of the infestation when you moved in, the landlord could be liable not only for compensatory damages but also for punitive damages.
In May, 2013, an Annapolis jury awarded a 69-year-old woman $800,000, $650,000 of which was punitive damages, for bites, lesions and the resulting scarring she suffered as a result of Bed Bugs that the landlord knew about before she moved in but took no action to eliminate.
Can Neighbors Be Responsible For The Harm Done By Bed Bugs?
If you can prove that your Bed Bug infestation originated from a neighbor’s premises, you could sue that neighbor under the legal doctrine of private nuisance. Nuisance means that if you use your property in a way that interferes with my right to use my property, you may be liable for damages.
Here, also, you have to prove your claim, and it might be difficult to prove that your Bed Bugs came from your neighbor’s property. That is, unless the Bed Bugs agree to testify.
**This article is designed to provide helpful information that can be read within 2 minutes. It is neither a full explanation of this subject nor legal advice. To learn more, and to get legal advice on which you can rely, contact me or another lawyer.