Tenants Suing Landlord For $500,000 Over Bedbugs

by Chris on November 14, 2010

After experiencing a bedbug attack in their apartment, a Maryland couple filed a lawsuit against their landlord, demanding $500,000 to compensate them for lost possessions and emotional trauma.

The couple claim their trauma was heightened because they lived in the apartment with their three-year-old child.

To eliminate the bedbug infestation, the husband and wife claim they were forced to throw out many of their possessions, including toys.  The wife, bitten a couple of dozen times, required therapy.

Both the landlord and the property manager are named as defendants in the lawsuit.  The allegations include failure on the part of the property manager to adequately address a bedbug outbreak in an adjacent apartment.

Demanding $500,000 does not mean that the couple will  be awarded that much from a jury if the case goes to trial.  However, roughly nine out of ten litigation cases end in settlement.  Landlords who are racking up huge legal bills defending a case like this one are vulnerable, and may opt to offer a settlement in order to cut losses, and to avoid the risks posed by a sympathetic jury.

Settlements are often kept confidential, so there is no way of knowing for certain whether other landlords have paid tenants for bedbug cases.  There are a couple of sizable settlements on record, perhaps the most notable being a purported $150,000 that the Helmsley in New York paid out to a businessman attacked a few years ago, at the beginning of the current bedbug pandemic.  

A New Jersey couple was awarded $49,000 against a furniture store that transmitted the bugs via warehoused upholstery.  In Florida, a jury found that a hotel had a duty to inspect rooms for signs of bedbugs and take remedial action to avoid spreading the infestations. 

In another case, a tenant sued the landlord because he claimed the pesticides used to treat bedbugs made him sick.

With bedbugs so easily transmittable, and so difficult to annihilate, bedbug lawsuits could be a sign of things to come for landlords.

A couple of tips that can improve a landlord’s odds of avoiding or winning such a claim include:

Contract with a reputable and experienced pest-control company to perform inspections and eradicate bedbugs.  This is a two-pronged defense because it may prevent the problem in the first place, and it also shows that the landlord acted reasonably, which can defuse a negligence claim. 

Follow the prescribed treatment plan from the pest-control expert. 

Act on bedbug reports immediately, because outbreaks can spread quickly throughout a property.

Keep lines of communication open with tenants at all times.  Often, if tenants feel they can come to the property manager or landlord with problems and get results, their frustration does not boil over into a lawsuit.

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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

PKC November 16, 2010 at 6:49 am

Lets say the tenant has a Bee get in the house, some how. Then the tenants do not try to kill it, trap it, or otherwise. Soon their would be a hive of bees in the house due to the irresposibility of the tenants. Are we as landlords supposed to hold thier hand and help them kill every insect that may enter their home, even though in most cases it was the tenants that brought it upon themselves?

AC November 11, 2011 at 8:35 am

Although it seems rediculous, yes the landlord should be there just to make sure that there cannot be any areas where they can be held reliable. Landlords have duties to fullfill the premises. You cant really ever bring bees upon yourself, its a part of nature, it should be the tenants duty to let the landlord know just to be respectful.

cindy February 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

I have bed bugs in my apt my landlord is not take care it

toPKC September 13, 2014 at 10:17 am

@PKC
to address your hypothetical Bee situation:
just one (non-egg-bearing/pregnant) individual of any species will never cause an infestation. For your information on bees moreover, Bee colonies are created when 1/2 the bees from a previous colony travel with a nascent queen to a new site. This involves thousands of bees flying in a giant scary swarm which no-one would ever let into their house. An exception to this is borer-bees which can enter by digging through the walls but they primarily reside on the exterior since their food is outside. In either of these situations the tenants are not being irresponsible and are not bringing it upon themselves.

@cindy, withhold rent and sue your landlord

ivelis cruzado December 18, 2014 at 4:54 am

I moved into my apartment Feb of 2014 I Nashua nh. I noticed the bed bug problem may- June I told my landlord and he said he’ll gave someone else come in and check. At first no one came then he said they’ll be there I waited several occasion and there was no shows. The minute I wasn’t home they supposedly cams to spray I don’t know whst. When I came home it didn’t look like they did anything, and they only checked my bedroom. It is now December and I am still dealing with them I’ve thrown out my daughter bed my bed clothes blankets couch. I still have bedbugs I told my landlord he said they’ll come back 30 day like how can this be Kegan for someone to be scamming people and not tal8n care his tenants!! I have public documents going back to 2009 against him different people complaining about bedbugs heating problems I don’t understand why he’s still a landlord. I have documents,pictures ,bedbugs in jar, did I mention I have a 6 month old son n a 6 year old daughter!! I need help guidance I don’t know where to start I have done some things on my own and I’m planing to go to court. Any advice for desperate mother who just want a comfortable home. One people can come over n not be scared of getting them I have anxiety depressed because people don’t want me in theregards homes

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