Can I sue my landlord for bedbugs in my apartment?
If your landlord fails to address a bedbug infestation, you may have grounds to sue for failure to provide habitable housing—a basic tenant right. Not only can you leave your current apartment, but you may also be entitled to reimbursement for damaged items or additional moving costs.
Take immediate action
If you spot signs of bedbugs, contact your landlord immediately. Your landlord should have a prompt plan for dealing with bedbugs, beginning with a professional inspection from an exterminator. If an exterminator finds bedbugs, removal is the first step to dealing with the problem.
In most cases, the issue rests with the person who brought the bedbugs into the apartment or rental property.
If you can prove that you are not responsible for the infestation, you may not have to pay for any extermination fees.
If you are responsible for the bedbug infestation, you are typically responsible for resolving the issue. Proving responsibility for an infestation can be difficult, but if you've traveled recently or stayed in a place known to have bedbugs, the fault will probably stay with you. Remember that renter's insurance may cover the extermination expenses.
Breaking your lease due to bedbugsIf you are not responsible for the infestation, your landlord will need to pay for extermination costs. This act is part of the landlord's legal responsibility to provide habitable housing. If your landlord does not, you have grounds to break your lease early.
If the landlord knew your property had a history of bedbugs and did not sharethis information with you, you may have a case for fraud, depending on the laws in your state. This negligence can enable you to break your lease without any responsibility for future rent.
Suing a negligent landlord
Document all correspondence you have with your landlord about the infestation. This documentation includes photos of the infestation, receipts and other documentation from the exterminator, statements from other tenants, and complaint letters to your landlord.
The more documentation you have, the stronger your case will be.
Damages that can be recovered in a lawsuit
If your landlord refuses to exterminate bedbugs, you may have grounds to sue and receive compensation for the following:
- Bedding and other property lost or damaged due to bedbugs
- Pain and suffering caused by the infestation
- Attorney fees and court costs associated with the case
- Additional rent paid to get housing in a comparable unit
- Expenses associated with moving
Each state has different laws about bedbugs. A landlord-tenant lawyer can help you decide exactly what money you're owed and what's permitted within your state.
Some states, such as New Hampshire, have specific laws addressing bedbugs. Here, landlords mustregularly inspect for bedbugs and offer remediation action that will substantially reduce the infestation for at least 60 days. Arizona, Kansas, and Texas even classify bedbugs as a public health nuisance.
Bedbugs are a serious problem, and you should act quickly if you suspect any kind of infestation. The earlier you catch the problem, the easier you will be able to control the infestation.