Written by attorney Steven Warren Smollens

The Subject is Bedbugs: Part 2

New York State has begun to fight back against the bedbug. A new Bedbug Notification Law requires that landlords inform incoming tenants whether the apartment being rented or another apartment in the same building had been infested with bedbugs within the previous year. New York City landlords must now tell a new tenant about a building's recent bedbug history. The law (passed by the NYS Legislature on June 24, 2010) added a new provision [Section 27-2018.1] to New York City's Administrative Code. Effective immediately, the law applies only to newly rented apartments in New York City, where the new tenant signs a so-called vacancy lease. The law is enforced by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which is required to create the form for providing the bedbug history. Presumably, the new law will affect only new tenants in rent stabilized apartments, because the new notice is only required to be furnished to new tenants, and only a new tenant may level a complaint that the form was not presented at the time the lease was signed. Notwithstanding the new rights granted to a certain group of future tenants, all residential tenants in New York State, are entitled to live in residential premises that are not dangerous, detrimental or hazardous to the tenant's life, health and safety. That is a requirement throughout New York, and the law is known as the Warranty of Habitability. New York City, has determined that in buildings subject to the rules and regulations of the City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development that in the housing cooperatives supervised by HPD that the cooperatives are to assume the responsibility for eliminating bedbug infestations. In the modern era, there are all but two cases found reported in New York State involving bedbugs and the law of landlord and tenant. Lest the paucity of decisions suggest that we are not about to hit the wall with bedbugs, the New York City maps show dramatic increase in the number of complaints and violations relating to bedbugs in New York City from 2005 to 2009. Something is going on. Bedbugs have spawned blogs and websites dedicated to alerting the nation to the coming of the bedbugs. New York State does not have standards for the reconditioning for resale of prior used mattresses. Many sources believe that bedbugs hang tough in the recycled mattress business, in the trade by ordinary people of furniture and bedding, in the hotel and motel industry and in travel in general. We are being informed that the return of the bedbugs is due in large measure to how we choose to live. In the matter of the bedbugs versus our way of life, it is not possible for the ordinary person to prevent the bug from making its way to their home, if as a city we are content to believe that the bedbugs are immobile and confined only to persons who have somehow had something to do with their predicament. News stories should lead us to an accurate understanding that the surest way for us to protect our own homes is to become knowledgeable about the working of bedbugs and to recognize swiftly its presence should our thresholds be crossed. New York City has a statute relating to the mandatory eradication of pests insects and rodents. Sec. 27-2017 Definitions When used in this article: a. Eradication means the elimination of rodents or insects and other pests from any premises through the use of traps, poisons, fumigation or any other method of extermination. b. Insects and other pests include the members of class insecta, including houseflies, lice, bees, cockroaches, moths, silverfish, beetles, bedbugs, ants, termites, hornets, mosquitoes and wasps, and such members of the phylum arthropoda as spiders, mites, ticks, centipedes and wood lice. c. Harborage means any condition which provides shelter or protection for rodents or insects and other pests. Sec. 27-2018 Rodent and insect eradication; mandatory extermination a. The owner or occupant in control of a dwelling shall keep the premises free from rodents, and from infestations of insects and other pests, and from any condition conducive to rodent or insect and other pest life. b. When any premises are subject to infestation by rodents or insects and other pests, the owner or occupant in control shall apply continuous eradication measures. c. When the department makes the determination that any premises are infested by rodents, insects or other pests, it may order such eradication measures as the department deems necessary. It would seem from a straightforward reading of the statute that there is a shared primary burden on the tenant and the landlord to assure the mandatory eradication of these pests. In some way, we may still be of the mindset that every one of us knows the proper way to rid their home of those unwanted annoyances. However, the literature associated with pest control suggests that the problem should not be attempted to be dealt with by the amateur. On the other side, it should be clear that the landlord has the primary burden for eradication of pests where the problem is beyond any one "dwelling."

© Steven W. Smollens 2007, 2010.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer