New Hampshire Passes Landlord Bed Bug Law
By Chris Williams on September 5, 2013.
As a result of legislation passed in June, New Hampshire residents who live in rental housing will soon have some direction and some recourse when it comes to living with bed bugs.
The new law takes effect January 1, 2014 and addresses the ongoing debate of who pays for bed bug treatment in a rental apartment. Presently, there is no specific law and no guidelines as to who is responsible when a bed bug infestation occurs. Landlords say that the tenants brought the bed bugs into the apartment, so they should pay for treatment. Tenants say they moved into an apartment that already had bed bugs, or the bed bugs came from next door, and the landlord has to fix the problem. They argue that their rental agreement provides for pest control and entitles them to a habitable dwelling. Landlords balk at having to provide control for bed bugs because bed bug control is more complicated and more expensive than control for other standard apartment pests. While the two sides argue, bed bugs move into other units in the building and soon, everyone has a problem.
So Who is Responsible for Solving the Problem?
The new law makes it clear that the landlord is responsible for resolving a bed bug problem, no matter who is responsible for causing it. Landlords will have a 7-day window to investigate a bed bug complaint and take reasonable measures to remediate the infestation. If landlords fail to address the situation, tenants can file court action to force their landlord to act. The landlord must pay for bed bug treatment, but the new law gives the landlord the right to bill the tenant for his costs if it is determined that the tenant is ultimately the one responsible for the infestation.
Seems like that takes us right back to square one—he said, she said. However, if the parties involved don’t agree on responsibility, a court will decide by looking at which units first had bed bugs, whether bed bugs are in other areas of the building, whether the landlord attempted any control prior, and whether the tenant had bed bugs in their previous home, among other things.
For their part, tenants must allow landlords into their apartments to evaluate, inspect, and treat for bed bugs. They must follow instructions to prepare their apartment for treatment. If the bed bugs are deemed to be their responsibility, they must pay for the remediation. Failure to do any of these things can result in eviction.
The new law is not a perfect solution but it is a compromise agreed upon by a working group made up of landlords and tenants. The new law avoids the situation where the landlord is always the one paying for treatment, while assuring that treatment gets done before bed bugs spread throughout a building.