New Law Pinpoints Bed Bug Responsibility in NH
By Chris Williams on December 30, 2013.
Effective January 1, 2014, New Hampshire apartment residents and other renters who have been living with bed bugs may get some much-needed help. House Bill 482 finally goes into effect and places the responsibility for alleviating a bed bug infestation on the shoulders of the landlord…no matter who originally caused the problem. Without argument, the landlord must pay for any necessary bed bug treatment.
After January 1, if you ask your New Hampshire landlord to treat for bed bugs, he/she has 7 days to investigate and remediate the problem. If your landlord fails to respond, you can then file court action to force the landlord to act. And your actions will now be backed by the weight of this new legislation.
No one is trying to punish landlords. The point of the new law is to be able to resolve bed bug problems quickly, before they grow out of control. Before this legislation, the question of who was responsible—the owner or the renter–and who would pay for bed bug extermination, often had to be decided in court. And we all know that can be a slow, tedious process. By the time the issue was decided, bed bugs had often spread to many other apartments in the building and getting rid of them was then much more difficult and much more expensive.
For their part, tenants must allow the landlord emergency access to their apartment for 72 hours after notification of a bed bug problem. Tenants must follow the landlord’s written instructions for preparing their apartment for pest control efforts. Failure to prepare can result in eviction.
Making the landlord financially responsible upfront doesn’t mean that the tenant gets off scot-free. The new law gives the landlord the right to bill the tenant for his costs if it is determined that the tenant is the one responsible for the bed bug infestation. You are deemed to be responsible for the infestation if only your apartment has bed bugs and there have been no other bed bug complaints from your apartment or any other apartment in the last six months. If you don’t agree with the finger-pointing, a court will decide if you caused the problem by looking at the history of bed bugs in the building and in your previous home, among other things.
Failure to pay for the treatment, if you are deemed responsible, can also result in eviction. Your landlord, however, must offer you a reasonable repayment plan. The new legislation relies on New Hampshire tenants “owning up” and taking responsibility for a situation that could cost them financially. If a tenant chooses not to report his bed bug problem and the bed bugs spread to other apartments, that tenant could ultimately be help responsible for treatment of a much larger problem when it comes to light.