Will New Finding Change Landlords’ Liability Concerning Bedbugs?

by | May 16, 2011 | Tenant Screening

Doctors Discover Bedbugs With Drug-Resistant Disease

Although not conclusive, doctors have come across evidence that bedbugs could spread infectious diseases.

Bedbug infestations have become commonplace lately, probably due to an increase in international travel coupled with the creatures’ increasing resistance to pesticides as well as the ban on the more potent pesticides used to control their populations.

Up to this point, the medical community has agreed that, while bedbug bites are annoying, the bites are harmless to a tenant’s health.

This assumption has governed the way local governments, landlords and pest control companies approach bedbug remediation in apartments, and so far has kept monetary awards in bedbug cases against landlords to a minimum.

Three  hospital patients who became the focus of a new study were found to have contracted drug-resistant Staph infections — MRSA and VRA. Coincidentally, the patients also complained about bedbug bites.

Hospital researchers decided to test a hypothesis that the bedbugs could have spread the infections. Some of the bugs were collected, and did test positive for both strains.

Researchers are quick to point out that it is impossible to determine whether the patients were infected by the bugs. It is quite possible that the infections came from elsewhere, including the hospital. Regardless of where the infections originated, it is still a concern that the bugs may be harboring these germs, and researchers say it is conceivable that infected bugs could spread the infections if they bite other people.

While more research is needed to establish a conclusive link between the bug bites and the transmission of the infections, the study still gives landlords cause for concern.  Public health officials may become more involved in tracking outbreaks of bedbugs.  Also, tenants may begin to perceive bedbugs as a health hazard. That may warrant establishing or reviewing rental property policies concerning bedbugs:

Requiring cooperation from tenants is key to early detection and effective treatment of bedbugs.

Landlords can investigate whether renters insurance would cover any loss of furnishings or possessions that could occur during remediation and require tenants to carry such a policy.

In areas with high concentrations of bedbugs, landlords may want to take more aggressive steps when screening tenants to ensure that they are not carrying the bugs into a property with their furnishings. A Vancouver housing authority has developed a bedbug sauna room where large items can be decontaminated before entry.

Heat treatment of bedbugs is proving to be a viable tool for extermination. These methods are considered safer and more effective than pesticides, but must be conducted by professionals with the proper equipment and training. For more, see Turning Up the Heat On Bedbugs.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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