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My Apartment has Bed Bugs What are My Rights?
Hi, this is Dan Whitney with the Whitney Law Firm here in Towson, Maryland. If you’ve found this video, you are wondering about the question of, “My apartment has bed bugs and what are my rights?” So, I’m a lawyer that handles bedbug cases, I’ve handled many, many bedbug cases over the last 10 years. My firm has recovered over $13 million for people who have bedbug infestations in a variety of situations. But today we’re going to talk about infestations in apartments.
Typically, if somebody moves into an apartment and they encounter bedbugs, it’s most likely due to the fact that the apartment was already infested before they moved in. In other words, the way I would put it, a pre-existing infestation. So, at least in Maryland and in other states as well from what I’ve seen, because I practice primarily in Maryland, all new apartments, in other words, apartments that are new to a new tenant, all apartments need to be free of infestations. That includes mice, roaches, bedbugs, spiders, anything. The law requires that the apartment be free of infestation.
So if you move into an apartment and you discover a bedbug infestation, of course the first thing that you need to do is, if you want your landlord to fix it, which of course you should, you put your landlord on notice. Notice is a technical term. In other words, you’re informing them of the problem, and by doing that, you’re giving them the opportunity to cure the problem or to fix the problem. And also, if you want your landlord to fix it and to hold them responsible, you need to put them on notice because of course they can’t fix what they don’t know about.
Notifying the Landlord of a Bed Bug Infestation
So once you put your landlord on notice, one of two things will happen. Either they’ll say, “Okay, you put us on notice and now we’re going to take some action to treat,” or they’re going to ignore you, which happens a lot because treatment and inspections done correctly cost money, and landlords typically hate to spend money. Including seemingly for some reason on dealing with bedbug infestation. Some just don’t take it seriously.
So if a landlord ignores a tenant’s report of bedbugs, right there, that is what I would call negligence. They’ve got a duty to behave as a reasonable landlord and also to comply with the state statutes or laws. And by ignoring the tenant, they’ve now created liability for themselves and the tenant can hold that landlord, and the owner of the building, hold them responsible for any damages arising out of their negligence in failing to properly respond, inspect and treat, and get rid of the infestation.
Now, when they don’t ignore but they take action, one of two things can happen. They either take action the right way and they hire a licensed, experienced company to inspect the unit that’s infested, that the tenant is living in. If there’s an infestation, inspect the adjacent units, top, bottom and side to side to see how far it has spread, or perhaps where it’s coming from into that apartment, and once that’s detected, have proper and professional treatment performed. And if that’s done the right way, which is a big if, that may very well take care of the infestation.
Self Treatment is Usually Not Effective
However, what may also happen is they may say, “Okay, we’re going to treat this, but we’re going to have our in-house maintenance guy. He can do everything, he’s a jack of all trades. Good thing we’ve got him,” and they’re going to hire him to treat. Not hire him, they’re going to tell them to treat because they already pay him a salary, so they’re saving money.
That usually is a recipe for disaster and what ends up happening is the maintenance man will go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, or whatever, buy a bunch of stuff off the shelf, assuming they don’t already have all their home brew stuff stashed in their office, and he’ll put gallons of it down, or perhaps just a little bit. He may inspect the adjacent units, he may not. He may do one treatment, he may do 10. But the common theme to when they get the maintenance man to do a self treatment is, it usually does not end well and the tenant still has to deal with the infestation, often for months and they get badly bitten.
So, really, your rights are, one, you need to put your landlord on notice, but then your rights are that the landlord needs to take the appropriate proper action to not only inspect and treat your apartment, but also the adjacent units. And of course if they don’t do any of that correctly, they may be negligent. And of course then, you have the right to recover compensation, which includes compensation for bites, potential scarring, emotional distress. Because of course, this is distressful when all this happens and you have your new apartment and all of a sudden you’re being bitten, it’s disgusting, it shouldn’t happen. And of course any property loss, there’s lost wages sometimes, and other damages, medical bills, that too.
So I hope this has been helpful to know what your rights are when there’s bedbugs in an apartment. If this happened in Maryland, you have any questions, just give me a call. Consultations are always free. Thanks for watching, and of course feel free to visit our website, www.whitneyfirm.com. Stay tuned and perhaps select some more videos to learn about other areas of bedbug litigation. Thanks a lot, see you next time.