I moved in March 2012. Before the month was over, I found bites all over me (I have pictures). I found out they're bed bugs.
For two and a half weeks the manager, said i must have brought them in and that i would have to pay for it. Then I found bedbugregistry.com, which indicates this place has had a problem with bed bugs for years prior to my signing a lease. After much debate, he decided to call in pest control. After two treatments, they're still biting me and I'm losing work, losing sleep, and am emotionally scarred by all this.
I just want a clean home to live in. I won't find it here. So I want out, but the lease says that if I break it, it's 1.5 times the rent to break. I wasn't told of the BBs beforehand, and they're still here. Help? P.S., the 24-hour-notice for the pest control was for the WRONG studio, name, and everything.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Habitability related concerns will generally let you break a lease, if you've informed the landlord about them and if you informed the landlord of your intention to terminate the lease if the problem wasn't fixed within 48 hours. It's probably worth discussing with an attorney as to the content of the notice and delivery, the likelihood of recovering damages, and negotiating a reasonable settlement.
Licensed in Oregon. Answers provided for informational use only and are not legal advice. Advice provided is general information only. No attorney/client relationship is created unless and until we have met and entered into a written representation agreement. Feel free to contact me at www.MaugerLaw.com if you need to discuss your matter further.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
Pests, including bedbugs, can trigger habitability violations for a tenancy, which can lead to the recovery of damages and/or termination of the lease agreement. It's not an easy nor an automatic process, of course -- especially not recovering whatever damages might have been caused by the pests, including personal injury and/or property damage -- but it is potentially possible.
As my colleague indicated, breaking the lease due to habitability violations requires a formal notice, and also likely allowing the the landlord a time to cure the violation, so it is typically helpful to retain an attorney to assist you in this matter.
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Family Law Attorney
I agree with Mr. Mauger and Mr. Parks, and would add one thing:
I think it is probably not legal for a landlord to charge a lease-break fee on 1.5 times the rent. When you break a lease, you are generally responsible for the lost rent and related costs that your landlord incurs. Landlords have their own duty to make good faith efforts to re-rent the unit. For example, if you lose on your bedbugs/habitability argument and move out in July and your landlord is unable to re-rent the place for the month of august, then you would potentially be liable for August rent. However, your landlord does not get to recover his or her damages more than once. Even if August rent were due, that extra .5 is not. Now, you may be on the hook for advertising costs needed to re-rent the place, but the landlord shouldn't be allowed to recover more than their actual damages and should be held to their duty to re-rent. If you end up in court over this, and you lose the habitability argument, make sure you make this second argument to the judge. And if the reason that the landlord is unable to re-rent is because of the bedbugs and they were there before you moved in, then there's a good argument that you should not be responsible for any lost rental income.
Another possible argument is fraud and/or misrepresentation. Its unlikely you would have specifically asked the landlord about bedbugs, but if you did and the landlord told you there weren't any, that's pretty clear-cut fraud. However, if you can prove that the landlord knew about the bedbugs and didn't disclose them to you, then you may have a misrepresentation claim as well. I'd print out the specific address from bedbugregistry.com and also bring a pre-move-in checklist if you have one and it shows that the conditions were fine. Pictures of bites and bedbugs (their light-sensitive, so this second part might be difficult) would also provide good evidence, especially if the infestation is severe. Finally, you should keep and present to the judge any written correspondence where you tell your landlord about the problem and from here on out, keep written records.
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