Taking Responsibility for Bedbug Control
Q In a rental apartment building, who is responsible for paying for bedbug extermination, the tenant or the landlord?
A “There is no absolute bright-line standard,” said Sherwin Belkin, a Manhattan lawyer who represents property owners. “So the issue must be decided in a case-by-case and very fact-specific manner.”
As bedbug infestation becomes more prevalent in New York City, the courts and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal have been establishing the standards and factors for determining which party bears the fiscal responsibility for the eradication of bedbugs. Owners have frequently been held responsible for getting rid of them, Mr.Belkin said, but some distinctions have been carved out. For example, he said, the housing division has adopted a policy that if bedbugs are confined to a tenant’s bedding, the eradication is the tenant’s responsibility. If there are bedbugs in other parts of an apartment, extermination is the owner’s responsibility.
At the same time, Mr. Belkin said, the courts have often relied upon the implied warranty of habitability in the state’s real property law to place responsibility on the owner. But even the law provides that if the condition is caused by the tenant, the warranty is not breached. Therefore, if a landlord can prove that the infestation originated from the tenant, no liability should be imposed on the landlord.
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