Fighting landlord following bed bug infestation

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Who's responsible for bed bug treatment and can you make the landlord pay for the cost of replacing furniture, thrown away because of bed bugs? We got an opinion from one of Richmond's chief judges.

The tiny blood sucking predators tormenting people as they sleep make themselves at home in the best of places.

"You can have the cleanest house. You can have OCD and still have bed bugs. They don't feed off filth. They feed off human bloods," said tenant Takeisha Henley.

Henley is fighting a bed bug infestation. That's why all her belongings are in plastic bags.

She's also fighting to force the landlord to pay. The landlord is allowing her to break the lease and move. But Takeisha wants damages.

"I can't take this furniture with me because I will be held liable if I infest someone else's property," she said. "I would like for them to replace the furniture that is in our rooms and the upholstery furniture that is in our living room."

Recovering damages requires a judge's ruling and the tenant has much to prove, including negligence.

"To win a case you have to prove that the bed bugs were there when you moved in? Is it as simple as that? And that the landlord knew about it," said judge Robert Pustilnik.

"The law is not on anybody's side. You have to get to the point where you can show the landlord knew or something that landlord did and failed to do anything about it or failed to disclose it in order to hold the landlord liable."

In Virginia, the tenant is responsible for exterminating and is required to promptly notify the landlord at the first sighting of pests. Takaeisha voices a common complaint...

"It's really becoming very expensive for me," she said. "I have to take everything out of my home. Take it and get it washed. Not only that you want me to buy bed covers, you just want me to choke up a lot of expenses that I shouldn't."

"I didn't bring them here and I wasn't the cause of the infestation," she said.

A tenant maybe able to recoup the cost of exterminating in court, after the fact. But it depends on the circumstances.

Judge Pustilnik says he has yet to try one in Richmond.

"Until the problem comes to the attention of the people who make the laws, laws can't deal with the specific problems," he said.

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