Bed bugs are a real problem in the Washington D.C. area and the more people learn about bed bugs the more complex the problem may seem.
An issue that we are regularly asked is who is responsible (landlord or tenant) for paying for bed bug extermination in Washington DC?
We have learned from talking to thousands of individuals with bed bugs, no two bed bug situations are the same.
We’ve heard from people who have moved into places that were infested, brought the bugs in themselves from a trip or elsewhere and often from people who find out that the bugs are coming from a neighbor.
So Who Pays for Bed Bug Extermination in Washington DC?
The first place to look is at the lease itself. As the bed bug epidemic has increased over the years, landlords increasingly have addressed bed bugs specifically in the lease. This may or may not be legally enforceable but can serve as a starting point for discussion.
Washington DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate is another resource for guidance on how to address tenant/landlord responsibility for bed bug removal.
Their mission is to “provide technical advice and other legal services to tenants regarding disputes with landlords.” Washington DC has a Tenant Bill of Rights which includes a requirement that landlords keep the property in good repair.
This is known as the “warranty of habitability.” According to the Tenant Bill of Rights “The landlord must maintain your apartment and all common areas of the building in compliance with the housing code, including keeping the premises safe and secure and free of rodents and pests, keeping the structure and facilities of the building in good repair, and ensuring adequate heat, lighting, and ventilation.”
So what does this mean for a tenant who finds bed bugs?
As difficult as it may be, If you know you have bed bugs you need to discuss the situation with your landlord and the sooner the better, as a bed bug problem can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Unless you know otherwise, don’t assume that you were responsible for bringing in the bed bugs, as our experience has shown that roughly a quarter of our Washington DC clients are dealing with neighbors who are the source of the bed bugs.
And keep in mind, both you and the landlord have a vested interest in solving this problem so ideally you should be on the same team.