Written by attorney James C Underhill Jr.

Is it legal for my landlord to evict me for reporting bed bugs?

Is it legal for my landlord to evict me if I report bed bugs?

I had a call from a person in Denver, Colorado, asking this question. The person was in their 3rd month at the new apartment in Denver, and noticed that the place had bedbugs. The person immediately emailed their apartment manager. The manager responded quickly with an exterminator. However, shortly thereafter the manager posted a notice to quit (or be evicted) stating that the tenant had to move out because the lease had a clause that said that the landlord can periodically inspect for bedbugs and if found the landlord can terminate the lease agreement is no longer applicable and the tenant has to move out in 10 days.

No a landlord cannot usually evict on a provision like this unless the landlord can prove that the tenant brought in the bugs. In this situation, the tenant should contact the local health and housing departments and tell them what the landlord is trying to do. Usually, such a clause is designed to keep people from complaining, either to the landlord or to the government. It is a fact that some landlord's do not take care of their properties and expect the tenant to put up with problems like this.

In this situation, the manager refused to take the next rent check. The tenant in this case should keep paying your rent, mailing it by certified mail so that the then tenant has evidence that they sent the rent to the landlord. If the landlord returns the checks with notes, save all of those. Also, the tenant SHOULD NOT SPEND THE MONEY as the tenant is eventually going to have to pay the back rent.

Finally, no order to move out or "eviction" notice is legal unless the landlord has sued the tenant in court, and the judge orders the tenant out. In most states the posting is followed by an actual complaint and summons that must be served on you. In many states taping it to the door is sufficient service. If a tenant receives paperwork with a court date the tenant MUST attend the court hearing and bring evidence of the efforts to pay the rent and also be prepared to testify that the tenant is not the source of the bugs.

The tenant should contact a lawyer to go over the lease and the specific facts. Many lawyers will consult for a small fee and give you the law, your options and a roadmap.

By the way, while most lawyers require a retainer and provide "full representation" which means that they handle your matter for you and charge for everything, some attorneys sell "unbundled" or "limited" legal services where you pay for just what you need and can afford. For example, some attorneys will give you an hour or two at a set price to review your issue and give you advice based on the law, prepare letters for you to sign, or sell the paperwork for the court filings; then you can proceed on your own, but knowing that your paperwork is correct and having a road map as to how to proceed. Or who will attend a hearing for a flat fee. Neighborhood Law Office is a law firm offering unbundled legal services in Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California.


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NOTICE— The Legal Information contained in this answer is provided solely for informational purposes to assist the layperson in understanding general legal concepts and terms, it is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between you and me or my law firm. This response is provided for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. It is not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issues. Because this website format is limited, all facts necessary for complete advice are not available and the information provided cannot be complete. Questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege.

Additional resources provided by the author

Most cities and some states have websites on which you can find summaries of local landlord tenant and housing law.

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