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Jack R.
Jack R., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  Mediator, part of the Ohio Save the Dream Foreclosure project
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My stepson and girlfriend recently (less than 30 days) moved

Resolved Question:

My stepson and girlfriend recently (less than 30 days) moved into a new apartment. They have been getting bug bites ever since. It has recently become severe. More than 30% of their bodies are covered in bites. We have determined they are bed bug bites. My question is what legal options or remedies are available to them under the law?

Can they break the lease without penalty and can they get damages for all items they will have to discard because of the infestation?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Jack R. replied 9 months ago.

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The landlord is obligated to eliminate the bedbug problem in an expeditious manner. You need to file a written complaint with the landlord explaining the problem and demanding that the landlord take care of the situation. You should also, file a claim with local health department, housing department or code compliance department or department of building and safety. The inspectors will also require the landlord to eliminate the problem or the landlord may face fines.

 

The law requires landlords to cover the costs of eliminating the infestation. California law allows tenants to "repair and deduct" repairs that are less than the cost of one month's rent when the problem impacts health and safety as your infestation seems to be causing. The limit however is the repair must be less than one months rent, and you must have informed the landlord in writing of the problem.

 

The landlord must be allowed to remedy the situation. Bed bugs are eliminated by heating the area to a temperature which kills all of the bedbugs. This can be done expeditiously fixing the problem. The landlord is also required to repair cracks or other places the bed bugs are originating. Bed bugs are probably in other units as well as yours. A rule of thumb is that the landlord has up to 30 days to remedy a problem.

 

Another option is to move out of the unit immediately . You still need to give notice to the landlord to eliminate the problem, and inform the landlord in writing they are vacating under Civil Code Section 1942 and request a final walk through. This approach however can lead some legal repercussions as the landlord may sue of breach of the lease agreement. The tenant would defend based on the fact the that apartment is not habitable with the infestation. In any case you should contact a local attorney if you just plan on vacating to make sure there are no local rules that could be a problem. You will probably need to sue in small claims to get your deposit back. I would also recommend taking pictures of the bites on your person to demonstrate the severity of the infestation.

You can also take picture of the bedding etc to show how bad it is.

 

As far as damages for your property if you can show the bed bug infestation was not caused by you but by the landlords failure to keep the property bed bug free you can sue the landlord for the damage or loss. This can be demonstrated by talking to neighbors and see if there have been outbreaks in other apartments .

 

Since bed bugs are killed by heat many people just run all their clothes and bedding through a dryer at high heat to kill all the pests.

 

If you found this answer informative please accept my response with a rating of 3 or higher so I may get credit for my answer. If you have further questions please ask.

Jack R., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 6147
Experience: Mediator, part of the Ohio Save the Dream Foreclosure project
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