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Tenants Rights and Bed Bugs

Summary: Tenants rights and bed bugs are forcing landlords to revisit the rules that require that landlords to maintain their properties as fit to inhabit. Who is responsible for bring bed bugs inside the apartment. Is it the tenant or the landlord?

Dear Rick:

We just rented a large expensive home two weeks ago and haven't fully moved in yet. The day we got the keys the living room, master bedroom and master bathroom were alive with carpenter ants and ghost ants. The landlord just laughed about it. The ants were everywhere.

My husband found a hole the size of a nickel at the base of the french doors and fixed it, but still just as many ants. Finally we got the management company to send out an exterminator after we filled the jetted tub with water, turned it on and out shot thousands of carpenter ants and eggs. The exterminator isn't authorized to go into the walls or attic and the management company just wants their money. I'm afraid to move in and are we currently living elsewhere and paying rent on two properties. How do I get rid of the ants? Please help! Karen; Orlando, FL writes:

Dear Karen:

The presence of carpenter ants indicates a moisture problem in the house. Often, it’s backed up gutters, but it might be a roof leak or plumbing leak, as well. Carpenter ants only attack dead or dying trees so those palms you mentioned are a red flag. The exterminator should have explained why the carpenter ants were present.
By the way. Tell your landlord to stop laughing. Tenants have a right to a pest free environment. By law! You have grounds to sue if he keeps messing with you. According to one Renter’s Rights site:

If your apartment is unfit or uninhabitable, you may use a legal procedure called "repair and deduct."


In most states the law says that if the landlord has failed to fix what can be deemed a truly significant problem, you may, without the landlord's permission and without filing a lawsuit, have defects or other problems repaired. They, you may subtract the cost of the repairs from the next month's rent. That will get your landlord's attention, for sure.

Just remember, you can only resort to the repair-and-deduct remedy if the problem is more than simply annoying. The problem has to be a threat to your health or safety. You cannot make a deduction for discovering a cockroach or two, but you can make the deduction if you are fully infested with cockroaches and the problem can be documented that it has been ongoing.

Before calling in an exterminator you are required to give the landlord notice of the problem and provide access to your apartment. Be sure to put your complaint in writing and clearly explain to your landlord that if the problem is not resolved within two weeks time, that you will schedule to have the work performed and the cost of said service will be deducted from the following month's rent. Be certain to get dated and signed receipts from the service contractor showing exactly what work was performed in case you have to prove it in court. 

The law says that landlords must keep their properties sound. That includes floors, stairways and roofs. Electrical service, plumbing and heating must operate safely. He must supply a reasonable amount of hot and cold water and he must keep pest infestations in check.


Here's the catch. If it turns out that he can prove that you are the cause of the pest infestation, you're on the hook for the service bill. If your home is not clean and he says the cockroach problem is caused by your unsanitary living conditions, and he presents pictures of your messy kitchen, the repair bill will become your responsibility. If you refuse to pay, your landlord has the right to take the payment out of your security deposit.

Tenant rights are "inalienable." This means most of the rights covered in tenant laws cannot be signed away. Your landlord cannot have you sign a lease document that denies you these rights. When renting, these rights are usually referred to as a "warranty of habitability." Should landlord fail to maintain a dwelling as fit to inhabit, the lease can be broken, and the tenant is no longer obligated to pay rent.

There are lots of good online resources on this topic such as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's website. Nearly every state in the U.S. also has a tenant's rights website online. Plus, there are plenty of books on the topic, too.

That said, do you really want to deal with the type of landlord you are facing? My advice would be to look for a different place.

For more bed bug information please click here .

Ask Rick A Question


12 Jan 2014, 15:00
ok, so i moved into my apartment complex in April in may i had noticed a bug on my sweatshirt in my closet while hanging. i put the bug in a bag then the i found another bug red in color same as the first i had found. i again then placed bug in the bag. i started Googling the bug all signs pointed to a bed bug i then took the bag to my apartment office. one of the office ladies Googled as well and she said it was a tick. at first i was thinking, a tick? i haven't been nor have my kids or fiance been in any heavy wooded areas or around trees period actually. how would have two ticks have gotten into my home. the lady in the office had convinced me it was a tick seeing how i have never seen a bed bug before in my life i felt a since of relief. a few weeks go by i notice marks on my children then a few months go by and i start noticing more little red marks all over my 5 year old daughters arm covered!!! then i started spotting a few more "ticks" as the lady stated they were!! how the Hell am i getting ticks i thought my fiance became obsessed with the bugs after researching and learning about where beg bugs hide he then went to my daughters room and lifted up their sheets from their beds and the cresses of their mattress where BEYOND COVERED with bed bugs and beg bug pooh!! all sheets ruined pillows ruined stuffed animals ruined clothes ruined mattress ruined couches ruined chairs ruined... i then went back to my landlord and then had a bag full of about 60 bed bugs. the landlord agreed to come in and do a investigation, this time but not when i was ibm with the same proof of bug in May!! it was now November!! they came in and did a treatment and came back two weeks later for a follow up. after the first extermination i had spoken with the landlord and he stated i had done a great job preparing for the extermination i then asked if the apartment building had had an investigation of bed bugs before i moved him. he then admitted to me there had been no investigation before moving in. throw follow up day had came and they were still there they exterminated a second time. now the landlord is charging me $400 for the extermination, and they are still in my apartment. i have swept my house.from top to bottom over 30 time in every corner ever vent when doing so i noticed the corners of the carpet are not stretched all the way to every corner leaving huge open spots in multiple corners of my home.. i lifted w corner a there was beg bug poop all over the hardwood flooring under the carpet.. i believe the bed bugs were here before i moved.into this place.. i do not feel responsible for the cost of something that did not help this bed bug problem at all!!! i have to lose everything i bought all brand new beds when moving in here and.sheets.and.comforter sets when.moving in!! now they will all be gone and i will get nothing back for the money spent
when moving in... please help me!! i need to know who is responsible!!!! :( my little girls are the ones who.have.suffered.because.of this:(
beth denithorne
13 Jan 2014, 15:08
After 4 months of compaing to lanlord about bed bugs n winning ruling why we didnt pay tent n living out of bags n bit everywhere she has exterminator come out sprayed in 10 min said we could be in unit when he sprayed n still have bedbugs n exterminator told lanlord he only saw a few dead ones never sprayed unit next store who had them first.What to do my life n my family are
beth denithorne
13 Jan 2014, 15:10
After 4 months of compaing to lanlord about bed bugs n winning ruling why we didnt pay tent n living out of bags n bit everywhere she has exterminator come out sprayed in 10 min said we could be in unit when he sprayed n still have bedbugs n exterminator told lanlord he only saw a few dead ones never csprayed unit next store who had them first.What to do my life n my family are
06 Feb 2014, 22:37
Before moving into the apartment I was aware that the apartment had bed bugs, but I was assured that the apartment had been treated 3 times. Even before movingly I was a little skeptical but since I was on a waiting list once I received the letter I had 3 days to move if not my rent would be raised to market rent. Now it's been less than 2 weeks and I found 3 bed bugs in the coat closet....I'm freaking out cause I'm scared of bugs, I will call management tomorrow to report the problem since I just found out question is can the landlord be sued for carelessness?? And for the stress that I'm going through?? I keep going into my kids room every few minutes just to check they don't have bed bugs on them! I haven't seen any in the rooms yet and I hope is not a big infection but I'm not sure what to do.
17 Feb 2014, 03:19
Hi! We moved into an apartment building with approx. 16 2bdrm apartments per building. We moved in the beginning of August (2013) and in December we found the bedbugs. I have called the office and reported it over and over again, and although they always promise something will be done, our apartment has never been sprayed. It's now February (2014) and I am honestly a wreck. I rarely sleep, and i am constantly searching for the little beasts. I have 3 children (the youngest born just a couple weeks after we moved in, so 6 months old and my oldest is 6) and it breaks my heart to see them so covered in bites. The same bites that are driving me crazy. We can't go anywhere, nor can we have visitors. I finally went online to leave a review of the service here and saw that someone else had beat me to it! Only in their review they mentioned their apartment had in fact been sprayed once a couple of months ago, but the bugs were back. (Btw we were informed when we moved in the apartment would be sprayed every 2 months for everything as a precaution, it hasn't been sprayed once.)
We're very clean people and we came here with out any furniture (a storm had caused horrible water damage in our storage compartment), so everything was new (just a futon in the living room, kitchen table, and beds were all bought after moving in.)
I've washed everything in hot water and in a hot dryer-at an off site laundry just in case (costing around $80, I've thrown out my brand new box springs, bought zippered hypo - allergenic bedbug mattress covers, washed everything with hot, bleach water, I vacuum constantly... I'm at my wits end! We have a year lease with 6 months left, but it seems obvious the bugs are going to keep coming back and the landlord isn't going to spray every apartment in the building, let alone mine. I really justwant to move and pay an exterminator to spray my moving truck, or a storage unit, something?! What should I do? Can I legally break my lease? Please help us....
02 Mar 2014, 09:07
hi, I have been renting an apartment since August of2013 it is now March. I found a bed bug every once in a while they started to appear in the bathroom. I found maybe 2 in the bathroom in three months a month later I found one in the bedroom soI searched everwhere I sent my landlord an email and explained everythin I also have roaches beyond control and now mice. my landlord said she would take care of it and sent the super who obviously did nothing because all these rodents are still here. when I moved in I asked about all this because I had a new born who is now 7 months old I woke up this morning to my son having a bed bug bite on his cheek and I know what they look like because I was bitten by one a few days ago and it looks exactly the same. I am trying to do my part by setting up traps and bait but I am furious my son has been bitten what can I do at this point
12 May 2014, 13:06
can my landlord make me remove my personal belongings out of my own personal dresser drawer and put that awful white powder in my drawers to prevent bed bugs and roaches? we don't have a bed bug problem but they are doing a preventative thing since other properties have bed bugs. i want to make sure that my own personal property doesn't get covered with that horrible stuff. the letter of notice they said was to bag all our stuff, wash it, clear out dressers and shelves no exceptions.
23 May 2014, 09:27
I've been living in my current apt a year now and the past few months have been getting hives. I've looked a few times for bed bugs but not see any. I looked again last night and found two nests in my mattress...I didn't even pull the box spring of the ground too look...kind of scared too. My lease says I must notify right away and pay for extermination of unit and possibly the whole building. I can't afford that and am not sure what to do. I'm not sure if I responsible or not as it's possible I could have brought them home from work (though there is not an infestation there that I know of...but we house a lot of transients)
22 Jun 2014, 02:26
Dirty filthy tenant with beg bugs should have been evicted immediately.
What filthy dirty devils. If they had a bath and purchased new furniture instead of drugs, beer and gambling they would not have that problem. Fancy renting property to that type. Eviction is the answer. Send them to the outback to live in a tent.
This Is Only For Disgusted
25 Jul 2014, 12:16
If you had any knowledge or could discern in that small brain of yours, or mercy that all these people are not transients. I am an attorney. You can get a bed bug from a dog or cat. Your an asshole. Your extremely cruel to all these innocent people.

14 Oct 2014, 21:09
I have a question... My apartment complex that I've been in for 2 years now have roaches. I'm being blamed for it because the the exterminator seen my kitchen dirty one time, while I was in the middle of cleaning up. Now 1 person moved in next door to me, and before she did the person that lived there before showed me her laundry room that was flooded for weeks be cuz maintenance didn't fix it in a proper time. Someone on the other side of me moved out, doors wide open while things were being thrown out. Also there was a very bad leak in their living room for about 3 weeks. Now Ijust wanted ur opinion about where u think they more then likely came form? Oh, also they are telling me that the roaches would have been in my walls for a year and I wouldn't have known??
I've only seen one in my living room after they put sticky stuff in the kitchen. I've done a deep cleaning in my house and found no eggs, poo or anything! Apparently my neighbors have seen more than me in their houses, and they've been complaining for about 2 weeks.
Anthony Ferguson
31 Oct 2014, 16:44
I'll make this short I rent from Jtr property on 29 and wells this landlord in never see but I had roaches for the past 2 months I have a 7 year old daughter she has never seen one but she points them out all the time told Bob about them a while back he said bug man was coming to spray this place has 5 floors and maybe about 8 apt. On each floors.I still have roaches I never home just to sleep there. The other night my daughter was at friends house I was in bed and a roach was on my bed going up my arm. I don't know what to do but he owns a place just as big across the street and another down the street also I hear that all his places has bed bugs. I only see him around rent time to collect. Even the on site manger is yelling about roaches in her place. He says no one told him and this is the first time he heard of it. So maybe I need to write I letter certified with rent then he can't say nothing. Plus I seen roaches in the walkways and stair cases. I'm so tried of this landlords who are quick to kick you out for nonpayment. I'm going to give this fool 5 days to fix it just like they give people a 5 day notice. I think that's fair. Plus in September we had no hot water for four days did he say anything to people no not even a note on my door. Where are are rights
21 Feb 2015, 20:34
My sister in law has been living in her house for years. She has told the landlord that her house is infested with cockroaches, he bombed the place it didnt work. Omg you can see them every where. Now she is going to move out can she sue her landlord for all the things shes lost.
Ask the Exterminator
21 Feb 2015, 23:04
You can sue, but you're not likely to win. It's your word against your landlord's.
30 Apr 2015, 16:17
So, I moved in with my boyfriend about 8 months ago. About 7 months ago I started waking up with itching and constant scratching. I figured it was from starting a lemon water detox, so I stopped. The itching kept coming. So, I bought benadryl, both cream and pill form. Stopped for a week then came back with a vengeance. I figured it was hives or an allergic reaction from the mold and mildew growing I between the caulk in the bathtub. He asks the apartment if they could fix it, and they said we would,d have to since it showed up while he was attending it. (He has lived in this apartment for three years now) so, we cleaned up what we could. A couple months go by, and the welts and scratching is getting worse. It wasn't until about a month ago I learned what bed bugs were, and started looking for them. No where to be found. Well, two days ago, low and behold, they are EVERYWHERE! I between the wall and bed, underneath the bed sheet, behind come I didn't see one a month before? Now here is the kicker. We asked our neighbors across the way if they have been having issues with anything and they all said no. Also, the complex doesn't know that he has a cat or that I live with him. Since we are probably the only one, we feel they will tell us we have to do it are better off dry steaming, DE, and mattress covering it and seeing if we can get rid of them ourselves? The adjoining apartments are empty and have been for a couple months. We figured the complex would have notified us if they fojnd bed bugs over in those rooms.
Ask the Exterminator
30 Apr 2015, 16:49
The landlord must provide a pest-free environment, but bed bugs present a whole different ballgame. If you cannot prove where the bed bugs came from, you're on your own. And, you cannot get rid of bed bugs without professional help. I am assuming you cannot identify all the stages of bed bugs. I am also assuming you don't fully understand where bed bugs seek shelter or what products you can use effectively. Call in a pro and have the problem properly treated.
23 May 2015, 03:37
I have lived in my apartment for 4 years. About 2 years in I discovered a roach problem in my kitchen. They live in my cabinets, they are not anywhere else. We have monthly pest control but, that isn't helping. I have mentioned it before that it was a problem and I was ignored. How should I go about this? Also, I have recently discovered bites on myself and my four year old. This only occurs when we are on our couch. Tonight I felt something butting me terribly under my shirt! I liked in my shirt and there were tiny bed bugs! I freaked out and stripped my child and I completely down. I had a better sent out a couple months ago about other units having bed bugs. It also mentioned that if we had any to call it in. I didn't have a problem then and now I do. Hie should I tell my manager? How do I prepare for exterminator? What are the steps to take with this? My child's room is in the clear (new bed beginning of the year) and I am just worried about everything! I am a single mom in school full time and don't have money to buy new furniture and clothing.. Bedding... Ect... I'm one mad mom and one stressed out mom! Please help!!!! How should I go about this all in a kind way?
Ask the Exterminator
24 May 2015, 10:35
This is a comment box. Madmom's question was answered via her email. Please use the "Ask the Exterminator Rick a Question" link found on every page.
Rob Van
20 Jun 2015, 09:58

Does My landlord have the right to make me pay for bed bug extermination?
My landlord says 4 treatments will be needed to terminate the bugs.
Why does my landlord not pay for the bug removal at his cost?
Ask the Exterminator
25 Jun 2015, 11:39
Read your lease. If there is a statement about bed bugs you may be responsible. However, if you can prove the bed bugs came from an adjacent unit, that's a whole other ballgame.
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