When Bed Bugs Attack

Last updated: January 12, 2011 – 6:51 PM

Bed bugs have returned, invading our hospitals, hotels, public transportation, and most unsettling of all, our homes. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, bed bugs have proven to be a serious nuisance to homeowners and renters alike, across the nation.

While New York City leads the nation in reported incidents of bed bug infestations, according to an August 2010 report released by Terminix, the Windy City does not find itself far behind – we live in the fifth most bed bug infested city in the U.S. MTO can certainly attest to this, as hotline calls pertaining to bed bugs have increased dramatically in the last two years. In 2010, MTO received 313, usually very frantic, calls with complaints of bed bugs. Two years ago, bed bug calls to MTO’s hotline were nonexistent.

In response to this sudden reemergence of bed bugs in Chicago, MTO has led efforts to create a roundtable of representatives from HUD, EPA, Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and other invested agencies and community organizations. MTO is actively working with this group on creating a policy proposal for HUD subsidized buildings. Among other recommendations,  MTO has proposed the following to be included in a HUD policy on bed bugs:

-Landlords should disclose any known bed bug infestations within the previous 12 months to prospective renters,

-HUD should support an initiative for an educational campaign on bed bugs and pest control,

-Landlords should hire certified/licensed pest control professionals for both bed bug inspections and treatments,

-Landlords should encourage tenant notification of bed bug sightings by never retaliating against tenants (e.g. imposing fees, threatening eviction, etc),

-and HUD should allocate a long term source of funding to help landlords and renters combat bed bug infestations.

MTO is working on the bed bug issue at the state level as well. Meron Kahssai, an MTO Healthy Homes Organizer, has been appointed to the Illinois Subcommittee on Bed Bugs, a subcommittee of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Advisory Council. MTO will serve on this subcommittee as the voice of renters and will provide the necessary insight on the plight of renters to the other members of the state’s bed bug subcommittee. The goal of this subcommittee is to create a report with recommendations to the IL General Assembly on the prevention, management, and control of bed bugs which include recommendations on an educational campaign, proper transport and disposal of bed bug infested materials, and best practices of treatment and eradication.

Tenants who have dealt with bed bugs are encouraged to join MTO’s bed bug committee. This committee is open to anyone who is interested in serving the need of renters affected by bed bugs by pushing policies for both subsidized and market rate renters. Please contact Meron Kahssai at 773-292-4980 ext. 229, if interested.

Bed bugs will be the topic of discussion at the January 20th Tenant Congress meeting at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan). Following a presentation on bed bugs, the floor will be open for a question and answer session. This meeting is open to the public.

All 9 Comments

  1. I am the owner of a condo unit in a 30 unit building. I rent this unit out. The association property management company notified me two months ago that there was a bed bug infestation, claiming it began in my unit and if I did not get my tenant to cooperate with the remediation process it could spread. I involved my property management company and was under the impression the tenant was cooperating as I heard nothing back from the association property management company. They association property management company stated they would provide me with a status update following the remediation. I never received any status update. After two months I’ve now received notice from the association’s attorney stating that I will have to pay for the remediation and that a second remediation will have to be done that I will also have to pay. They have stated that if a third remediation occurs I will have to end my lease with my tenant. Additionally they are saying that I will need to cover the lawyer’s fees as well. What right’s do I have as an owner/landlord/condo member?

    1. Your email raises several questions. First is why does the condo association believe that it is your tenant that brought in the bed bugs. It is very difficult to determine if there is any fault.

      I am not sure what your condo rules are regarding pests and who pays for the extermination. I think that you may want to contact an attorney. Condo associations all have different bylaws and I am not familiar with laws governing condo associations.

      As for is the tenant cooperating, have you or the management company given the tenant anything in writing describing expectations? If the tenant is not living up to those expectations, has there been a follow-up letter re-enforcing the rules around extermination and the consequences for not following the rules? I cannot tell from your letter who is dropping the ball. Have you contacted the tenant to find out their side of the story? If there is a problem why hasn’t the management company contacted you?

  2. Do landlords have the responsibility to pay the bill for a bed bug infestation??
    It’s a 3 floor building. Do I pay for my apartment and he pays the other two or how can that be worked out??


    1. In general if the bed bugs exist in more than one unit then it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay for their eradication. The landlord attempt to say that the tenant caused the infestation. It is very difficult to document the source of bed bugs as they can come from almost anywhere.

      1. Could you or someone who is knowledgeable on the matter provide the reference law, city ordinance or statute that addresses this issue? It is necessary to provide a clear, legal statute that is fair and just to all. Presently, with respect to this unfortunate issue, I believe that most organizations and agencies (non-profit, legal and/or governmental) tend to arbitrarily strive to protect the Tenant and place exclusive responsibility or onus on the Landlord. Most organizations will place responsibility on the Landlord, by default, irrespective of the source of the problem. This practice is unjust, for it does not provide satisfactory recourse to the Landlord when it may be proven that the Tenant has brought the infestation to the unit.

    1. Currently no such law exists that would allow a tenant to break a lease because the landlord failed to inform you of bed bugs in the building. Under the Chicago law tenants can break the lease if the infestation makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. MTO believes that landlords should have to inform tenants of infestations and are working towards that goal. If you are interested in working to pass tenant protections regarding bed bugs, please contact us.

    2. If it were me, and there were bedbugs and if the landlord did not tell me about them, and if the landlord is not doing what obviously needs to be done, I would not sit idly by and just “grin and bear it.”

      I do believe that a lawyer absolutely should be consulted if such a problem exists and MTO has a referral list that can help to find a lawyer. Lawyers on the MTO referral list SHOULD be more then willing to talk on the telephone to discuss the matter, and there may be more then one way to get a proper result.

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