My tenant recently informed me that they believe their rental unit has bedbugs. My tenant signed an addendum at the beginning of the lease agreement stating that this unit is free of bedbugs. The tenant would like for me to cure this issue. Can I charge the tenant the cost of the inspection and work done after I resolve this?
The answer depends upon whether you have identified the source of the bedbug infestation. If the bedbugs migrated from another unit into the current tenant’s unit, it may prove difficult for you to justify charging the tenant the cost of the inspection and subsequent remediation work. The tenant may not have caused the infestation, but may merely be a victim of the infestation. Since the landlord has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that there is no vermin infestation within the building and to remedy it (warranty of habitability), it would be inappropriate to assess the charge onto the tenant. However, if the landlord is able to demonstrate that the source of the infestation is, in fact, the tenant complaining, and there is no other explanation for how the bedbug infestation occurred (no bedbugs in any other unit in the building), then I think you would have a more likely chance of successfully requiring the tenant to pay for the inspection and remediation costs. The best approach would be to deduct from the security deposit after the tenant vacates (if possible). This would alleviate the potential conflict that often arises when a tenant disputes the demand for reimbursement for out of pocket costs for landlord repairs/pest remediation.
- Daniel Bornstein, Bornstein & Bornstein
The information contained in this article is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. As published in Rental Housing, the magazine of The East Bay rental Housing Association.