As of August 2010, landlords in New York State have an obligation to disclose a history of bed bug infestation to prospective tenants of a building. Practically, this means that if you intend to move into a rental in a condo, co-op or a rental building the landlord must provide you with a DBB-N (Notice to Tenant: Disclosure of Bedbug Infestation) that discloses whether there have been any bedbug infestations in the building within the past year. Both the tenant and the landlord must sign this document when leases are signed. However, landlords are not legally required to provide the disclosure to existing tenants in a building who are considering renewing a lease.
Landlords have worried that such a requirement will make it difficult to rent any apartment in a building that has seen bed bugs, regardless of how small or large the infestation was and how effective the treatment was. Supporters of the law counter that it will place appropriate pressure on landlords to properly respond to problems and point out that after one year, landlords are no longer required to disclose a history of bed beg problems. In 2009, 311 reported 33,772 bed bug related inquires. In 2010, complaints were up by over 5%. The city has spent over $500,000 on its strategy to deal with the problem which includes an information campaign and a dedicated staff.
But what happens when the problem has already occurred? Who must shoulder the responsibility of eradication? In answering this question, it is best to consult an attorney who can examine the particular facts of your situation and advise you accordingly. A local tenants’ rights organization may also be of help. That being said, there are a few generalizations that may be useful to a tenant in the midst of a bed bug crisis. You should begin by contacting your landlord immediately. If they fail to address the issue begin contacting 311 and keep records of your complaints. Keep at the landlord and document the infestation as well. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development should send an inspector in response to your 311 complaints. If the inspector finds evidence of the critters, a violation will be issued to the landlord. The violation will provide the landlord with up to ninety days to deal with the infestation (depending on the severity of the problem). If the landlord fails to respond in a timely manner, the tenant must turn to the housing part of the New York City Civil Court. A lawyer should certainly be consulted at this point.
It should also be noted that owners of condos or co-ops are generally responsible for their own pest control. However, if there is a large infestation across multiple apartments and the source cannot be identified, the building’s managing agent may sometimes be called on to address the issue at the cost of the association or cooperative. It should also be noted that there are some exceptions to a landlord’s obligations to a tenant. For example, in a building with three or fewer units, the tenant may be responsible for any costs associated with the treatment of their unit. A tenant may also be responsible if the infestation was caused by their negligence – again, if you require legal advice, seek out an attorney versed in housing matters.
- There’s Only One Way to Deal With Bedbugs: Release the Sharks (abovethelaw.com)