Bedbugs are Back, and Spawning Lawsuits

Landlords are Feeling the Bite as Bedbugs Reach Epidemic Proportions

ScratchingBedbugs, once a scourge of by-gone eras, are back and have some landlords up in arms as they figure out how to eradicate these night-crawling blood-suckers.

Apartments, hotels and dorm rooms are nirvana for bedbugs, which can remain dormant for more than a year in floor cracks, drapery pleats, or recycled furniture, only to crawl into the next tenant’s warm bed for a feast.

While the bites are largely seen as an annoyance rather than a health concern, some people do have extreme reactions.  But everyone is equally annoyed by the swollen, itchy spots they wake up with in the morning.

You cannot feel a bedbug as it bites, nor are you likely to see one during the day.  Their bodies are specially shaped to meld into cracks and crevices and remain undetected.  Bedbugs love to travel, in luggage, clothing, and buses.  They will crawl from one tenant’s mattress, and wait patiently for the next tenant to move in or venture down the hall and snuggle into the neighbor’s bed.

Landlords Are Being Blamed

After the Helmsley Hotel chain settled a lawsuit brought by a resident riddled with bedbug bites after staying in a posh, upscale hotel room, tenant lawsuits are popping up everywhere.

Landlords have a legal obligation to offer habitable premises, and for some tenants, being a midnight snack is going too far.  Some judges agree.  In one New York case already, a judge allowed a significant rent abatement to a munched-on tenant. Many tenants in these lawsuits are requesting that the judges award them punitive damages against landlords who were dilatory in addressing the problem.  Health codes and local ordinances may also require a landlord to take steps to protect tenants from these creepy throw-backs from a old nursery rhyme.

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