Are Bed Bugs Covered by Renters Insurance?

Homeowners aren’t the only people who can benefit from insurance coverage.  With most policies priced between one and two hundred dollars per year, for many tenants renters insurance is a cost-effective way to protect themselves against liability for personal injury occurring on the premises, while simultaneously insuring their personal possessions.  In short, renters insurance steps in to fill the gaps left by the landlord’s insurance, which only covers damage to the actual building itself – not the contents inside.  It’s well known that bed bugs can cause extensive (and expensive) property damage – but is coverage for that damage included in a renters insurance policy?  Our apartment bed bug lawyers explain.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

Census data indicates that about one third of Baltimore’s housing is comprised of apartments and other multi-unit structures.  While ABC News reported that about 34% of American renters were covered by renters insurance policies as of 2013, there are no reliable sources citing the percentage of Baltimore tenants with renters insurance coverage.  Although exact statistics for the Baltimore area are currently unknown, the portion is likely significant as many rental property leases contain a clause requiring the purchase of rental insurance.

Of course, your landlord cannot decide to alter the terms of your lease after you have already signed, nor can a landlord force you to sign a lease.  However, he or she can legally update and modify the clauses in the lease when renewal time rolls around.  If you aren’t comfortable paying for renters insurance, you can always look into other properties which do not carry this requirement.  The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that the average renters insurance policy ranges from $15 to $30 per month.

Renters insurance generally protects against damage to personal property (including beds, TVs, computers, clothing, jewelry, and furniture) which is caused by the following conditions and issues:

  • Explosions
  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Smoke
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Water Damage
  • Wind Damage (e.g. Tornadoes)

You may have noticed something missing from the list: bed bugs.

Unfortunately, damage caused by bed bugs (and other household pests) is typically not included in renters insurance, as most insurance companies consider bed bugs an upkeep issue rather than an uncontrollable “peril” (like fire or theft).  As the Insurance Information Institute stated on its blog in 2010, “From [an] insurers’ perspective the cost of getting rid of bed bugs, like other vermin, is considered part of the maintenance associated with owning a home and generally is not covered by standard homeowners and renters insurance policies.”  Furthermore, renters insurance imposes a “duty to mitigate damages,” which means taking reasonable steps to minimize the potential for a loss to occur.

But are you, personally, responsible?  Or does that responsibility fall to your landlord?

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What Does Your County Code Say About Landlord Liability for Bed Bugs?

The answer depends on (1) which county you live in, and (2) what sort of structure you live in.  Many of Maryland’s county codes contain pest control provisions stating that landlords are responsible for bed bug extermination costs – not tenants.  Generally speaking, only the tenants of single-unit structures are responsible for extermination, while the owners are usually responsible for extermination in multi-unit buildings.

To reiterate, this is just a generality and does not constitute legal advice.  Because each county follows different standards, it’s very important to familiarize yourself with the county code specific to your county.  We’ve posted guides to Prince George’s County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City.

As county codes are subject to change and can furthermore be difficult to interpret, it’s critical to consult with an attorney who has experience handling bed bug claims in your county.  Your attorney will be able to step in and defend your rights if your landlord is abusing his or her power by falsely claiming that you are liable for extermination.

Bed bugs can be very destructive to property, and as we’ve already noted, renters insurance will usually not cover bed bug-related property damage.  However, if you were injured after being bitten by bed bugs, you may be able to recover compensation – not only for your medical expenses, but also for the cost of replacing infested personal property.

If your landlord refuses to help you, renders negligent treatment for bed bugs, or threatens you with retaliatory eviction, our attorneys can intervene on your behalf.  We have years of experience handling landlord negligence and bed bug injury claims, and give free initial consultations.  To start discussing how we may be able to help you, call the bed bug litigation lawyers of Whitney, LLP today at (410) 583-8000.  While our law offices are located in Towson, MD, we handle apartment bed bug cases and renter’s bed bug cases throughout much of Maryland, including Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Prince George’s County, and more.