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Tenants in Columbus, Ohio were given an ultimatum by their landlord: sign a lease addendum taking responsibility for any bed bug outbreaks, or move out.

One tenant, who has lived in the apartment with his roommates for four years, told the local news that they were shocked to be handed the addendum in their lease renewal package.

He told reporters that under the addendum, the tenants would have to notify the landlord of an outbreak, cooperate with extermination efforts, and pay the costs — even the cost of treating other units if the bugs have spread.

Bed bug extermination is a costly problem, often requiring multiple treatments to rid the rental of all the generations of bugs that may be incubating in walls and hard-to-see spaces in an apartment. Thermal heating processes are proving effective, yet many pest control companies still use pesticides, which require multiple applications, and still may not work.

Because of the nature of bed bugs, which migrate easily and can remain hidden and dormant for months, landlords who wish to hold tenants accountable for an outbreak have had a difficult time proving that the bugs came from a particular tenant. City officials are reporting outbreaks everywhere — in daycare centers, movie theatres, stores and libraries.  In areas where outbreaks are chronic, some landlords have included the question of past infestations in the pre-leasing interview, while some city governments require the landlord to disclose recent infestations to prospective tenants.

The tenants in this case did not renew the lease, according to the report.

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