If a rental has bed bugs, who pays? It depends on the circumstance

Updated: Sep. 27, 2019 at 10:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s never good news to find bed bugs in your rental. They infest and spread like crazy and make everyone’s life miserable.

So who has to fix it? The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenact Act has all the answers about who is ultimately responsible.

“They can hitchhike on anybody. Whether it’s a guest or visitor of the tenant, whether it’s the pizza boy, whether it’s the mailman, whether it’s the maintenance person,” Martin Wegbreit said.

If you get bed bugs, it can turn your life upside down. You have to bag everything up and live out of those bags until treatment it completed. But the first thing you need to do is to report the issue to your landlord in writing, preferably in a certified letter.

Treating for bed bugs can be expensive, so who is responsible for paying?

“Most people don’t know where it came from and in all honesty,”Wegbreit said. “It is the landlord’s burden to prove by the greater weight of the evidence that it more likely than not that the bed bugs came from the tenant rather than some other source.”

If the landlord can’t prove you brought them in, they must pay for treatment. But there are two scenarios where the tenant is going to be responsible for payment.

“Number one, if the bedbugs are there due to some tenant fault or number two, they’re there because the tenant unreasonably delayed in the reporting of the bedbugs,” Wegbreit said.

Forensic experts can usually tell who brought them in. If the bedbugs are in the wall structure or behind baseboards, it’s a landlord issue. If the bugs are concentrated to the renter’s belongings, chances are the tenant will be responsible.

If the landlord tries to bill everyone in the complex, it usually means they can’t pinpoint who is responsible, meaning the landlord should pay. Killing bed bugs requires at least two heat treatments to kill all the bugs and any eggs they’ve laid. In the past, landlords have tried to make tenants pay after the third treatment.

“There’s nothing in law that limits the number of treatments,” Wegbreit said. “The same law applies whether it’s the first treatment or the fifth.”

If you have to go to the doctor because of excessive bites, you’ll most likely be responsible for the bill.

The only way a landlord is going to be responsible for your medical bill is if they unreasonably delayed treating the infestation.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Submit a news tip.