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Multi-Unit Dwelings

Bed bugs are blood-sucking pests that invade almost all kinds of spaces — whether a single unit home or multi-dwellings like apartments and condominiums. Getting rid of them is extremely difficult and expensive, which is why tenants and landlords often turn to California bed bug laws to find out who’s responsible for shouldering the costs.

So what does California's bed bug law say about infestations in multi-unit dwellings? The state of California has adopted a few bed bug laws to help both tenants and landlords of multi-dwelling units in the long run. Civil codes 1942.5, 1954.602, 1954.603, 1954.604, and 1954.605 are the bed bug laws in California that both tenants and property owners should be aware of.

Overview of CA Bed Bug Laws for Multi-Units Dwellings

According to the 2018 Bugs Without Borders Report of the National Pest Management Association, about 97% of pest control professionals have responded to a bed bug infestation at least once. These pesky critters are found almost everywhere, but multi-unit dwellings are more vulnerable to a bed bug problem than most kinds of establishments.

Multi-unit dwellings like an apartment complex are prone to bed bug issues because people are coming in and out of the premises all the time. This gives the bed bugs a stable food source. Even if a rental unit is left vacant for some time, the adult bed bugs may attack nearby units just to survive.

If you’re staying in a multi-unit dwelling in California, there are a few bed bug laws to keep in mind in case there’s an infestation in the place you’re staying at.

Civil Code 1942.5

This bed bug law prevents landlord retaliation in cases of bed bug infestations. This means that the property owner isn’t allowed to kick out the tenant who reported the suspected bed bug infestation for any reason (like nonpayment of rent) until the bed bug problem is fixed.

Before this bed bug law was passed, landlords easily got away with evicting the tenant who notified them of the suspected infestation. Most of them don’t want to admit that their negligence and inaction led to a severe bed bug infestation in the apartment building. They often blamed the tenants for the bed bug problem after breaking their lease agreement and kicking them out.

Civil Code 1954.602

This California law prohibits a property owner from renting or even showing a dwelling unit that they know or suspect has bed bugs to a prospective tenant. Before this law, most landlords got away with renting an infested room in the apartment complex to a new tenant.

This law doesn’t require landlords to hire a pest control operator to inspect the rental unit for bedbugs, but they’re liable for negligence if they fail to act on the bed bug issue after the new tenant has reported it. Before renting out the unit to an individual, landlords should get a bed bug clearance document from the pest control provider or sign a bed bug addendum with the tenant to avoid a bed bug lawsuit. 

Civil Code 1954.603

This law requires a landlord or property manager to give a specific bed bug notice to the new and existing tenants in the rental property. It should include detailed steps for reporting the suspected bed bug infestation in a part of the rental housing. The bed bug notice should also spell out the landlord’s responsibility and the tenant’s obligations when it comes to preventing and treating the bedbug infestation.

For example, seeing one or more adult bed bugs is already considered an infestation. One or more blood spots in the mattress seams are a potential infestation. Either of these cases should be reported to the property manager so they may contact a pest control agent as soon as possible.

Their notice should be copied from the initial passage of the bed bug civil code section which talks about bed bug identification and appearance, life cycle and reproduction, bed bug bites, common signs and symptoms of a possible bed bug infestation, and websites that provide additional information about vermin and pest infestation. Landlords are also encouraged to add additional bed bug prevention tips and precautions that are customized according to the rental agreement and the property.

Civil Code 1954.604

Landlords and tenants should cooperate and allow the bed bug exterminator to perform inspection and treatment in the affected rental unit. The California landlord should also schedule follow-up bed bug treatments of the infected rented unit and other surrounding areas until the pest control professional confirms that there are no bed bugs in the building anymore.

This law is extremely helpful for landlords because it provides them with a legal recourse against stubborn tenants who won’t let pest professionals into the rented unit. Before this bed bug law took effect, uncooperative tenants often sue landlords for their failure to fix the bed bug problem.

Civil Code 1954.605

It’s a landlord’s responsibility to keep the unit habitable, which is why they should contact pest control services to inspect the affected unit within two days after the renter reported a suspected infestation. They should also issue a bed bug disclosure notice that includes the pest control operator’s findings and proposed bed bug treatment plan.

The full report of the bed bug exterminator should be given to the tenants exactly as it is to avoid misunderstandings about the situation. The management shouldn’t attempt to change anything in the report for the sake of transparency. They should also mediate between the tenants and pest control company about the chemicals used in the treatment to avoid triggering certain allergies during and after the extermination.

Who Pays for Extermination Costs?

An insect or pest infestation in the property is considered a breach of the warranty of habitability that’s punishable by state laws. As long as the tenants weren’t the ones who caused the infestation in the building, then it’s up to the landlord to pay for the extermination costs and other damages to compensate the tenant.

If their landlord doesn’t respond to the bed bug infestation reports of the renter, they have the option to:

  • Withhold rent
  • Call a bed bug exterminator and deduct the extermination costs from the rent
  • Break the lease agreement and move out early (constructive eviction)
  • Sue the landlord for any harm incurred

But before you choose any of these options, it’s important to consult with a bed bug lawyer first to find out what’s allowed by local laws. Bed bug cases are also tricky to handle, which is why it’s important to include a bed bug attorney in your legal team.

However, if the landlord proved that it was the tenant who introduced the bed bugs into the property, then they’re responsible for the extermination bill. Renters’ insurance usually doesn’t cover bed bug-related damages, so the renter is required to pay everything out of their pocket.

What to Do if There Are Bed Bugs in the Unit

Renters in an apartment complex are required to report the suspected bed bug infestation to the landlord within two days after discovering it. They should also give the property owner ample time (usually about 30 days) to respond to the issue before filing a complaint. Here are some important steps to take if there are bed bugs in the multi-dwelling unit:

  • Gather proof that there’s an existing bed bug infestation in the unit. It may be photos of adult bed bugs, a bed bug bite, or bloodstains in the mattress seams. Make sure to keep a record of the written complaints that were sent to the landlord.
  • Call a pest control professional to inspect the unit and assess the severity of infestation.
  • Tell the landlord about the problem and wait for them to fix the problem for about 30 days.
  • If the landlord doesn’t act even after multiple attempts to report the infestation, write a letter that expresses your intention to move out. State the reason and inform them that breaking the lease due to a bed bug infestation is legal under California law. Mail it to them along with the unit’s keys. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter in case you need to go to trial.
  • Move out of the apartment complex. The lease agreement is already void at this point unless the landlord presents enough evidence to challenge the constructive eviction.

Professional Bed Bug Extermination for Multi-Unit Dwellings by California Bed Bug Exterminators

Finding the right bed bug exterminator is crucial for multi-unit dwellings because owners must ensure that the bed bugs won’t disturb and cause nuisance among their tenants. California Bed Bug Exterminators has the right tools, bed bug extermination techniques, and years of experience under our belt to get rid of the pests safely and effectively.

Worried about a suspected bed bug infestation in your apartment? Call California Bed Bug Exterminators today for accurate inspection and safe treatment techniques.