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Hiring a bed bug exterminator can be insanely expensive. According to Home Advisor, the average cost for a bed bug exterminator in the US is $1,750. It can cost as little as $300 or as much as $5,000, depending on the size of the home. That’s a lot of money – and if you’re living on a low income budget, it’s money you definitely don’t have.
Unfortunately, low income families are especially at risk for bed bugs. This isn’t because they are dirty or anything like that. It’s a myth that bed bugs are attracted to dirty homes. It’s just because low income families are more likely to use laundromats and purchase secondhand items. These nasty critters can survive for months without a blood meal. It’s common to pick them up in shared laundry facilities or from thrift store treasures.
That just adds insult to injury, right? You can’t afford fancy new furniture, so you leap at the chance for a $50 couch at Goodwill… only to get infested and face hundreds of dollars in extermination expenses. Ugh. It’s the worst!
Fortunately, we found help. State laws across the US require landlords to pay bed bug exterminator expenses. We’ll show you what the policies are in your state and how you can get the help you need right away!
Does renters insurance cover bed bugs?
Unfortunately, renters insurance policies generally consider bed bug extermination part a maintenance issue so they generally do not cover anything related to bed bugs.
Talk to a Lawyer!
Got specific questions about your situation? Low Income Relief is staffed by researchers and can’t give legal advice… but our friends at JustAnswer may be able to help! Click on over to chat with a lawyer now.
Landlords vs. Tenants: Who is responsible for hiring a bed bug exterminator?
It really depends on where you live! As bed bug infestations become more common across the US, states are enacting all sorts of laws regarding bed bugs. Almost every state has some sort of statute that obligates landlords to arrange for a bed bug exterminator.
Alabama does not have a specific law regarding bed bugs. However, there are two laws here that place a legal burden on landlords to deal with bed bugs.
First, a landlord’s failure to address a bed bug infestation could reasonably constitute a violation of Alabama code 35-9A-204(a)(2). This law states that the landlord must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition.” Since other jurisdictions have determined that bed bugs render a property uninhabitable, it could be argued that landlords are responsible for treating bed bug infestations.
Second, Alabama code 35-9A-407 states that tenants can recover damages and attorney’s fees if the landlord negligently or willfully diminishes services to the tenant.
Alaska does not require landlords to pay for bed bug exterminations. However, the state acknowledges that “it is impossible to effectively control bed bugs by treating only one unit at a time.” This is very frustrating.
Arizona laws require landlords to provide educational materials about bed bugs to new and existing tenants. Landlords are also prohibited from renting units known to have active bed bug infestations. It appears that landlords are also legally required to treat the infestation in a multi-family unit (such as an apartment complex or duplex). However, tenants are also legally required to notify landlords in writing or electronically if bed bugs are suspected.
Arkansas is notorious for its lack of tenant protection laws. It is the only state in the US that does not require landlords to provide an implied warranty of habitability.
CA law protects tenants who have reported suspected bed bug infestations. Landlords are not allowed to retaliate against these renters by increasing the rent or forcing them to move. These protections are designed to encourage tenants to report infestations early, while they are easier to control.
Landlords are required to provide pest control and exterminate the bugs. However, if it is found that a tenant knowingly or recklessly caused the infestation, that tenant can be charged for the pest control costs.
Landlords are also prohibited from renting units that are known to have a bed bug infestation. If a landlord sees a bug in the place, they are prohibited from renting it.
In Colorado, landlords are required to hire pest control services if there is any indication of pests or rodents. If you provide two written notices about the issue and the landlord does not deal with it, you have options! You may be able to move out without penalty, ask the court to force the landlord to make repairs or withhold your rent payment until it is dealt with.
Connecticut requires landlords to hire a certified exterminator within 10 days of discovering an infestation. Tenants are required to comply with steps prescribed by the exterminator (such as doing laundry), or they can be penalized under the law.
Tenants can sue their landlords in small claims court if the landlord fails to take action. In fact, Trantolo and Trantolo LLC, a licensed attorney in Connecticut, states that you may be able to legally withhold your rent, deduct the extermination costs from your rent or break your lease if the landlord doesn’t take care of the infestation within a certain amount of time.
In Delaware, landlords are required to keep all common areas in a clean and sanitary condition. I wasn’t able to find a specific bed bug law, but I did find that they are also required to “make all repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the rental unit and the appurtenances thereto in as good a condition as they were, or ought by agreement to have been, at the commencement of the tenancy.” Thus, is reasonable to conclude that landlords are responsible to help hire a bed bug exterminator.
FL law clearly states that landlords are responsible for “the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bed bugs.” If you are required to vacate the premises during the extermination, then the landlord must reduce your rent. This does not necessarily apply to single family homes or duplexes, though.
Georgia does not appear to have a definitive law on bed bugs. It appears that landlords are required to pay for a bed bug exterminator but the law is not absolutely clear. For more information, here’s a study from the Georgia State University Law Review.
I was able to find protections for tourists in hotels and temporary lodging, but I was unable to find any specific protections for Hawaii tenants.
In Idaho, a landlord must arrange for a bed bug exterminator within three days of receiving notice that a unit may be infested. If the landlord doesn’t, the tenant can sue for damages and specific performance, which is an order from the judge to fix the problem. The landlord must pay for the entire process unless they can somehow prove that the tenant was the source of the infestation.
Illinois Legal Aid has a great guide to the state’s bed bug laws. In Illinois, the tenant is required to notify the landlord in writing about a suspected infestation. The landlord is then required to pay for a bed bug exterminator.
In Chicago, you are required to notify your landlord within five days. The landlord then has 10 days to hire a professional bed bug exterminator. You will be required to cooperate with the landlord and the exterminator by allowing access to your apartment, throwing away items the exterminator says can’t be treated, putting items in plastic bags and not interfering with the inspection.
Visit the Illinois Legal Aid website for more information about the law and what you can do if your landlord fails to help.
Indiana specifically requires that landlords deliver the property in a cleana nd habitable condition. The law does not require landlords to maintain it that way. In Indiana, there’s no clear answer to who is responsible for resolving bed bug infestations.
Iowa tenants may be able to end their rental agreements if their landlords fail to eradicate bed bugs. The Iowa Legal Aid office explains how to do this.
Kansas has laws to protect guests of hotels and other lodgings, but they do not have laws to protect tenants yet.
Kentucky law requires landlords to “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition,” and “keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.” The law also makes allowances for tenants to file grievances and get damages for a landlord’s failure to comply with these requirements.
The Attorney General’s Guide to Louisiana Landlord and Tenant Law states that landlords are responsible “to maintain the property in a suitable condition for the purpose for which it was leased.” However, it also states that the tenant may “responsible for the damages caused by his fault, the fault of his guests, and those exceeding normal wear and tear.”
Maine laws clearly instruct tenants to provide written or oral notice of a bed bug infestation to their landlord. The landlord is required to conduct an inspection for bed bugs within five days of receiving that notice. If bed bugs are found, then the Landlord has another 10 days to hire a bed bug exterminator.
In 2013, a Maryland tenant won $800,000 after suing her landlord over a bed bug infestation.
Maryland law states that landlords are responsible for extermination before renting or leasing a structure. If you move into a single-occupancy unit, like a single family home, you become responsible for the extermination during the time you live there. In multiple-occupancy units, like apartments, the property owner is responsible for the extermination.
Massachusetts state law states, “The owner of a dwelling containing two or more dwelling units shall maintain it and its premises free from all rodents, skunks, cockroaches and insect infestation and shall be responsible for exterminating them.”
Furthermore, “Extermination shall be accomplished by eliminating the harborage places of insects and rodents, by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food or breeding ground, by poisoning, spraying, fumigating, trapping or by any other recognized and legal pest
Michigan State University wrote that landlords are required to “make a good-faith effort to provide housing that is free from bed bugs.”
According to LawHelp MN, tenants should notify their landlords in writing immediately. If the landlord fails to fix the bed bug problem, you can call the local housing inspector to inspect the apartment. The inspector can cite your landlord and order them to get a bed bug exterminator by a certain deadline. If the deadline passes without action, you’ll be able to file a rent escrow case.
However, there are two Minnesota Court of Appeals decisions you need to know about. One states that the landlord can order you to get rid of furniture, and you have to comply. The landlord does not have to reimburse you or replace it. Also, you are not entitled to reduced rent during the extermination process, which can be lengthy.
The Mississippi state website instructs renters to notify landlords, and landlords to contact a professional bed bug exterminator. Thus, it appears that landlords are responsible for extermination.
The Springfield Missouri website says that “there are no state or local laws regarding the presence of bed bugs in rental property.”
A House Bill No. 1849 was introduced in 2012 to change this, but it does not appear that this bill ever passed and became law.
According to Montana Law Help, the law requires tenants to send a letter to the landlord about the issue. Send it by certified mail so that you can prove it was sent. Keep records of each time you contact the landlord! They’ll have 14 days to fix the problem before you can take further action.
The law states that “the landlord shall make all repairs and do whatever is necessary, after written or actual notice, to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.”
This would seem to indicate that the landlords are required to assist with hiring a bed bug exterminator.
Nevada law requires landlords to provide safe and habitable accommodations for their tenants. Bed bug infestations are considered unacceptable under these terms. Thus, landlords are required to hire a bed bug exterminator.
Tenants are required to prepare their home so that the pest control operator can easily inspect and treat their unit.
Since 2014, New Hampshire has had strict laws about bed bugs. If a landlord willfully fails to investigate or fails to take responsible measures to remediate an infestation within seven days, it is a violation. They could be subject to contempt and contempt damages!
Once you notify your landlord about a bed bug complaint, your landlord is allowed emergency entry into your home for the next 72 hours. If there is a complaint in a neighboring unit, you are entitled to 48 hours notice.
The landlord must front the cost of the extermination. If bed bugs are only present in your unit and there have been no other reports or evidence in the previous six months, the landlord can recoup the costs from you. However, they have to offer you a reasonable payment agreement and cannot evict you unless you do not cooperate with the arrangements.
According to LSNJ Law, tenants in New Jersey are protected by a “warranty of habitability” clause that requires landlords to fix a bed bug infestation. Unless they can prove that you somehow caused the problem (which is difficult to do in multi-unit housing), your landlord will be responsible for the cost.
If you live in a single-family home or a duplex (just two apartments), it will be your responsibility to take care of the infestation. The only exception to this is if both units in a duplex are infested.
Local housing codes in New Mexico may obligate a landlord to pay for a bed bug exterminator. For example, Albuquerque law states that the landlord is always responsible for an infestation caused by poor maintenance or an infestation in a common area of an apartment building. The law also says that landlords are responsible for extermination unless they can prove that the tenant is the cause of the infestation. To find out what rules your city provides, contact your city government.
Renters in New York State benefit from a “warranty of habitability” clause in the state law. This states that “the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous, or detrimental to their life, health or safety.” This seems to indicate that a landlord would be responsible for hiring a bed bug exterminator. However, the law also states that it is not a breach of this warranty if the situation was caused by a tenant’s misconduct.
New York City has strict bed bug rules. The law specifically includes bed bugs in a list of pests that landlords are legally obligated to exterminate. Bed Bugs are considered a Class B violation and must be taken care o within 30 days.
If your landlord fails to do this, you can file a complaint with the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development or the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. You also have the option of taking the owner to Housing Court. If you can prove the landlord failed to take reasonable steps to eradicate the bugs, you may also be able to claim out-of-pocket costs and property damages related to the infestation.
Depending on where you live, your landlord may be obligated to hire a bed bug exterminator. This is true in the City of Charlotte, according to this document from the Mecklenburg County government.
North Carolina law seems to indicate that tenants are not responsible for repairs or services unless they are caused by the negligence of the tenant (or tenant’s household members or guests).
The laws of North Dakota clearly state that landlords must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.” Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that landlords must hire a bed bug exterminator in ND.
Ohio law does require landlords to provide bed bug treatment in certain cases.
The Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force recommends sending a letter to your landlord asking them to get rid of the bed bugs within 30 days. Follow up with your neighbors and ask if they’ve seen the bugs, too.
If 10% or more of the units are infested, the landlord can be compelled to hire an exterminator. If the landlord doesn’t hire an exterminator, you can follow up with your local city or county health department.
Landlords in Oklahoma have to pay for extermination of pests if the infested unit shares a wall with another unit (like an apartment complex). If it is a single family dwelling, it is the tenant’s responsibility to eradicate the infestation.
The Oregon Community Alliance of Tenants issued a handout that states, “Oregon state law provides that landlords have a duty to provide housing that is habitable. A landlord is responsible for promptly treating a unit infested with bed bugs… Some landlords might try to charge a tenant for the cost of the treatment of a tenant’s unit. In order to charge you for the treatment of your unit, your landlord will have to prove that you are responsible for the infestation.”
The handout also indicates that certain areas, such as Portland, Gresham and unincorporated Multnomah County, have additional rules that may apply.
In Pennsylvania, every lease must include a warranty of habitability. This means that all landlords must provide “safe and sanitary conditions” for their tenants. A tenant cannot waive this right and a landlord can’t avoid it. If your landlord refuses to hire a bed bug exterminator, contact your local Code Enforcement, Building Standards or Public Health office. According to North Penn Legal Services, your landlord can be cited for failing to comply.
In Rhode Island, your landlord’s responsibility is determined by how many units are included in the housing unit.
The Rhode Island Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code states that tenants are responsible for extermination in single-family dwellings.
However, if there are two or more units involved, then extermination is the responsibility of the building owner. Any common areas that are infested are always the responsibility of the building owner.
If your landlord or building owner refuses to comply, the Rhode Island Department of Health recommends contacting the Minimum Housing Program in your local city or town immediately.
South Carolina state law requires landlords to “make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.” The law also makes specific allowances for the landlord to provide pest control services during the hours of 9 am to 6 pm. This seems to clearly indicate that a bed bug exterminator is the responsibility of the landlords in South Carolina.
The South Dakota Office of the Attorney General states that all landlords are “required to keep rental premises in reasonable repair and fit for human habitation.” If your landlord fails to do so, you can break your lease or deduct expenses from your rent.
It is recommended that you send written notice to your landlord via certified mail so that you can prove you provided notice. Be specific in your notice.
It is also recommended that you check with your local housing inspector or city government about potential code violations stemming from the infestation. The law specifically prevents landlords from retaliating against tenants with eviction, increased rent or decreased services, so they can’t harm you if you make that call.
Tenants in Tennessee have legal protections. Tennessee Code Annotated Title 66 Chapter 28 states that landlords must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.”
If your landlord fails to do so, you can take action. If you live in a county with at least 68,000 residents, then you can file a complaint with the Tennessee Consumer Affairs Division. Of course, anyone can reach out to Legal Aid Society for assistance. You can find the contact info for the various Legal Aid Societies around Tennessee here.
If you are current on your rent and you inform the landlord in writing, the landlord has to hire a bed bug exterminator. The only exception is if the infestation is proven to be caused by you or one of your guests.
Texas Law Help recommends sending a signed and dated letter to your landlord as soon as you discover bed bugs. Send it by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can prove your landlord received it.
Your landlord has seven days to respond. If they don’t, call your local health department, code inspector or pest control company. If an inspection confirms that there are bed bugs in your apartment, send a second letter to your landlord and demand an immediate resolution.
The law protects you from retaliation. Your landlord cannot raise your rent, evict you or otherwise punish you for contacting a government or nonprofit agency about this issue.
Although Utah state law doesn’t specifically mention bed bugs, many county and city ordinances do. Utah state law also requires property owners to maintain an environment that is suitable for habitation.
According to Utah Legal Services, landlords have to pay for a bed bug exterminator. The landlord can try to recoup the expense by claiming that the tenant caused the infestation, but this is very difficult to prove when multiple units are infested.
If your landlord fails to act after you notify them in writing about the bugs, you can contact your local health department for assistance.
Landlords are legally required to “ensure that the premises are maintained in a decent, safe, sanitary condition.” The landlord is legally required to hire a bed bug exterminator. If an exterminator can determine the unit of origin, that tenant can be held financially responsible for the extermination.
Although Virginia law doesn’t specifically mention bed bugs, it does say that landlords must keep the housing fit and habitable. This means landlords are responsible for getting rid of bed bugs.
The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) states that tenants must keep their units pest- and insect-free. If you do not promptly report that you’ve found bed bugs, you could be responsible for the added cost of treatment due to your delay in reporting. Be sure to report it right away!
In Washington State, infestations are considered a repair issue. The Landlord-Tenant Act requires landlords to control the infestation, except in single-family dwellings or when it can be proven that a specific tenant caused the infestation.
In DC, your landlord is responsible if you live in multi-unit housing and at least two units are infested.
However, if you live in single-family housing or your unit is the only one infested, you will be responsible for extermination. The only exception to this is if the infestation is due to the owner’s failure to “maintain the residential building in a rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition.”
Your landlord is required to take “reasonable steps” to eradicate the bed bugs. Tenants are legally required to notify their landlord as soon as bed bugs are found. Tenants are required to cooperate with the landlord’s extermination efforts.
If your landlord does not take steps to exterminate the bugs, you should contact your local health department. You may be able to sue them for damages or break your lease because of it. For more information, visit Legal Aid of West Virginia.
In Wisconsin, state law requires landlords to provide habitable housing for their tenants. If the tenant is not at fault, the landlord must pay for the bed bug exterminator. If the tenant is at fault, the tenant may be expected to pay.
However, it is important to realize that city and county ordinances can be more specific. For example, Madison General Ordinance 27.07(2)(d) states that “whenever infestation exists in any residential dwelling other than a single-family dwelling, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.”
Several reports I found indicated that Wyoming laws favor landlords. However, the law does require owners to “maintain that unit in a safe and sanitary condition fit for human habitation.”
The law also instructs renters on how to file complaints. You should notify your landlord in writing about the infestation. If they don’t respond within a reasonable time, send a “notice to repair or correct condition” via certified mail. This notice should:
- Repeat the previous notice you sent
- State how many days have passed without a response
- State that the conditions have not been corrected
- Demand that the condition be corrected immediately
- State that if the owner fails to take action within three days you will “seek redress in the courts”
At that point, you can take legal action against your landlord for failing to comply.