New Law Would Make Tenants Liable for Bedbug Costs

Iowa lawmakers are working on a proposal that would place the burden on tenants to control bedbugs.

The bill, referred to as “An Act relating to the treatment and control of bed bug infestation under the uniform residential landlord and tenant Act,” says what many landlords already believe–that tenants must bear some of the responsibility for bedbug infestations.

As it stands today, the bill provides that the landlord and tenant may agree in writing that the tenant is wholly responsible for any and all bedbug control costs associated with, or arising from, infestation of the tenants dwelling unit.

Landlords will continue to have the duty to service units infested with bedbugs, consistent with current law. A landlord must respond to any complaints by a tenant by having the property inspected within seven days. The landlord then has 14 days to start treatment. The unit is not considered “bedbug free” unless there is no “bug activity” fifty days after the last application of any treatment.

So long as they comply with these provisions and don’t do anything considered “grossly negligent”, the landlord cannot be held liable for damages relating to the bugs.

Likewise, a landlord cannot be held liable for damages if the tenant fails to notify the landlord within 48 hours of seeing or suspecting bedbugs in the unit. The same rule applies if the tenant interferes in any way with the treatment to remove the bugs.

The proposal would add a new section to the landlord tenant code which provides that a tenant has a duty maintain the rental property free of a bedbug infestation.

Failing to report any bedbug infestation within seven days after the tenant moves in will be treated as an acknowledgment by the tenant that unit is free of bedbugs.

A tenant who “has knowledge of or should have knowledge of” a bedbug infestation, or who suspects the presence of bedbugs in the unit based bite marks or other known indicating factors, must notify the landlord in writing, as to the presence of bedbugs within forty-eight hours of obtaining knowledge.

The bill goes on to provide that the “control of bed bugs in a dwelling unit may constitute damages to the unit beyond normal wear and tear,” and the landlord may itemize and deduct the actual bedbug control costs if the tenant fails to provide timely notice. In addition, the landlord can collect beyond the security deposit if the costs exceed the deposit.

A tenant who fails to notify the landlord that they have discovered bedbugs or who interferes with the eradication efforts will be liable for all control expenses in that unit, and the surrounding units that become infested. Such expenses may include items such as:

The cost of the bedbug control treatment.

Removal and replacement of carpet or flooring.

The removal and replacement of cabinets or other surfaces.


The cost borne by the landlord of housing each resident displaced as a result.

Tenants are prohibited under the bill from applying their own bedbug control technique, including spraying units or the use of poisons or traps.

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