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Thomas McJD
Thomas McJD, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 46
Experience:  Landlord-Tenant Law Expert
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I am in Nacogdoches Texas, and I moved into an apartment

Customer Question

I am in Nacogdoches Texas, and I moved into an apartment seeming clean inside my dwelling unit. I had no bed bug problems before moving in. I moved in January 29, 2016 and later that night I found two bed bugs in the apartment. One I killed and the other I saved. I tried to contact management about the problem but have not heard from them. I talked to some other tenants in the Apartments. They said management sprayed a month or two for bed bugs. The tenants say the bed bugs where still there. The problem is management did not even notify me they had this problem before I moved in. Is there anyway by law I can break the lease without being charged.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Legalease replied 10 months ago.

Hello there --

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Unfortunately, while I know that even the thought of bedbugs gives you the creepy crawlies, these bedbugs are now very common in shared housing complexes and they are now treated by the law in the same manner as any other infestation (rodents, etc) and if the management takes care of such an infestation in a short period of time then if you move out and use the bedbugs as the reason why you did so, and then the landlord sued you for the balance due on the lease, the court will tell you that the landlord has a reasonable time frame to correct any health, safety or sanitation issues (which includes pest infestation) at the apartment and because you failed to give them the chance to do so, the court may find against you in this matter.

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My suggestion here is that you build a case against the landlord before breaking the lease and leaving. THe reason for this is because there is absolutely nothing in landlord and tenant law that gives you the absolute right to terminate a lease and not be sued in court because of it. Even if you have valid grounds, the landlord can still sign the matter up in court and you will have to defend the fact that you left the lease contract early (the landlord will claim to the court that you breached the lease contract and your defense would be that you were run out because the landlord failed to adequately take care of the bedbug problem).

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You should contact the landlord in writing and request an immediate extermination for the bedbug issue that you have found in your unit. You should also contact the local board of health / inspectional services department to see if there have been any other complaints against the landlord and inform them about the bedbug infestation and ask them to send out an officer to have a look at your unit. Keep copies of any communications from the landlord and to the landlord and to and from the board of health if they find an infestation and get involved and also take pictures of any bugs you find. If the public health inspector will not do an in depth examination of your unit then It will also help your case immensely if you can call a private exterminator out to your unit and get the exterminator to show you if there are any points of infestation (such as under light and electric switches -- they like heat and travel between walls that way). You can get a written assessment from a private exterminator regarding what your unit needs to be exterminated and if the entire building is still infested with these bedbugs (they may not have done a good job on their earlier exterminations because landlords like to do this on the cheap and so you may end up in a situation where the bedbugs go away for a while and then continue to return).

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THen if the landlord does not take care of the problem within a reasonable time frame (usually 10 days or so) or the bedbugs come back, you can then write him a letter and tell him that they have failed to take care of the infestation issues in the unit and due to that failure, you consider this to be a "constructive eviction" situation under Texas law (constructive eviction is when the landlord fails to do certain things like repairs or pest control and the law will hold on your side that the landlord constructively evicted you (it was the landlords own fault that you are leaving)). THen you leave and find another place to live and you simply have to wait and see if the landlord tries to turn around and takes you to court for breach of the lease contract -- and then you appear in court with all of your proof (the correspondence with the LL, all pictures that you have of the infestation and any assessments or estimates that you received from private exterminators for your unit. It is not enough for you to show up at court with some bedbugs in a plastic bag to show the court -- you need letters to LL, pictures and estimates from at least one exterminator to show that this was happening at your own unit and then the court will be more inclined to find in your favor and dismiss any case that the Landlord has brought against you.

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I truly wish that I could tell you that there is a law or statute there that permits you to simply walk away from a unit if it is infested with any kind of bugs -- but the law is better to landlords in this regard and any court would look to see if you gave the landlord a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem before you left the unit and the lease arrangement behind.

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