Are You Screening Your New Tenants for Bedbugs?

Landlord Liability Expanding As Bedbugs Continue to Thrive in Apartments

ScratchingThe liability for bedbugs has burgeoned even in the time since we first published Bedbugs are Back and Spawning Lawsuits.

The Helmsely Hotel in New York City was one of the first businesses to feel the sting of bedbug lawsuits.

But now, as these insidious biting creatures find their way from apartment house to apartment house riding in suitcases, furniture and clothing, new avenues of liability for landlords are emerging, including:

  • New tenants who bring bedbugs to the building
  • Old tenants who bring the problem to the new landlord
  • Employees and vendors who bring the nuisance to other apartments, and their own homes

Have You Screened Your New Tenants For Bedbugs?

Sure, we all think to screen a tenant for criminal records, but have you asked if they’ve been exposed to a bedbug infestation?

Once introduced into a unit (via a mattress or other belongings), bedbugs spread as invisibly and effectively as germs throughout the other units and common areas. The cost of subsequent decontamination of your building is significant, not to mention the hassle of subsequent sweeps when remaining eggs hatch.

Likewise, lawyers are testing the theory that giving a reference for a tenant whose unit is infested may make you liable to the new landlord for their resulting infestation.

Those visiting or working on infested units are discovering just how portable bedbugs are. In fact, reports that Vancouver Coastal Health Authority now provides zip-up baggies for workers to place briefcases and equipment in when they visit potentially infested sites.

According to, one apartment building is considering a radical alternative – a bedbug sauna. This decontamination chamber is large enough to accommodate mattresses and sofas and is being built in response to the rising number of bedbug cases and the resulting liability. While bedbugs seem impervious to cold, heat does seem to do them in, along with their surprisingly resilient eggs.

The hope is that the sauna will reduce the transferability of the bugs from tenant to tenant, and reduce the need for pesticides, although the units themselves will still have to be treated.

There are no such heating units currently available on the market today, but all eyes are watching to see if this creative landlord has the solution to a growing epidemic.

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