San Francisco Bed Bug Lawyer
Habitability Is Your Landlord’s Responsibility
Bed bugs are small wingless insects, about a quarter inch or smaller, ranging in color from yellowish-white to reddish-brown. Bed bugs feed on blood, normally during the night. Most bed bug populations congregate in cracks and crevices near where humans and pets sleep or rest. Bed bugs live in furniture such as mattresses, box springs, couches, easy chairs, dressers, and night tables, as well as electronic devices such as alarm clocks and radios. Infestations of bed bugs are not limited to homes and hotels; they can be found in public transportation, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Evidence of a bed bug infestation may include presence of the bed bugs, their cast exoskeletons, or rust-colored spots/stains on bedding, walls, or furniture. Bed bugs can live many months (adults generally live up to one year) without a blood meal while hiding in cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs are more than a minor nuisance: their presence is unsanitary and potentially dangerous if you experience an allergic reaction. While bed bugs do not transmit diseases to humans, bed bug bites can cause red, raised, itchy lesions on the skin that may take up to fourteen days to develop. Scratching bug bites can also lead to secondary skin infections. Some individuals report significant psychological distress, disruption of sleep, nervousness, and agitation when dealing with a bed bug infestation.
According to the State of California’s Department of Public Health Division of Communicable Disease Control, owners and operators of hotels and guest houses should do all the following when notified of a bed bug problem:
- Contact a licensed pest control operator (PCO) to perform the bed bug treatment.
- Comply with the PCO’s instructions on how to prepare the room for bed bug eradication, or ensure that the tenants prepare their rooms for bed bug treatment. In some instances, owners and operators may need to provide staff to assist with moving beds and other heavy furnishings.
- Never remove any items from bed bug infested rooms before inspection and treatment by a PCO. This will help to prevent relocating bed bugs to other areas within the premises.
- Ensure that the PCO inspects and/or treats all crevices, baseboards, wall voids, windowsills, bed frames, mattresses, box springs, furniture, and closets in infested rooms and rooms adjacent to infested rooms.
- Make available to PCOs all rooms adjacent to the infested room as well as storage rooms, vacuum cleaners, service carts, hallways, and laundry rooms for bed bug inspection and treatment where necessary.
- Seal all cracks and crevices in infested rooms, per PCO instructions.
The State of California’s Department of Public Health Division of Communicable Disease Control also recommends the following management of furnishings and materials infested with bed bugs:
- Do not remove infested materials designated for disposal until after the room is inspected and/or treated by the PCO.
- Remove clothing, linens, and materials designated for disposal from an infested room in sealed plastic bags. This will help to prevent relocating bed bugs to other areas within the premises.
- Wash infested linens in hot water and dry using the hottest setting of the dryer for at least thirty minutes; this will kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. If items cannot be washed, drying them on the hottest setting for at least thirty minutes should kill bed bugs and their eggs.
- Items to be dry cleaned should be placed in sealable plastic bags and the dry cleaning company informed of the potential infestation with bed bugs.
- Dispose of all vacuumed refuse from an infested room in a sealable plastic bag (including the vacuum cleaner bag). All other vacuum components should be washed with hot water and detergent.
- Have a PCO service all furniture and mattresses prior to disposal. After treatment, the items marked for disposal should be wrapped in plastic before removal from the infested room to the disposal site. This will prevent bed bugs and eggs from falling off while the items are moved.
- Clearly label infected items as “BED BUG INFESTED” prior to disposal or placing infested items curbside.
Tenant Law Group is a Bay Area law firm focusing exclusively on the representation of tenants whose rights have been violated by their landlords, and have experience holding landlords accountable for failure to follow these guidelines. Remember, in California, it is your landlord’s responsibility to hire a PCO to remediate your bed bug infestation. If your landlord fails to act after being notified of the presence of bed bugs, contact a qualified bed bug lawyer for help.
Contact us online or call (415) 915-7445 for a free initial case evaluation to determine how we can help you.
Can You Really Sue a Landlord over Bed bugs?
Absolutely. The presence of bed bugs is more than a mere nuisance; an infestation can quickly spiral out of control and can greatly disrupt the lives of tenants.
You may have legal claims against your landlord if your landlord either fails to act or fails to act according to the applicable rules and regulations after you report the presence of bed bugs in your rental unit. Again, it is the landlord’s responsibility to hire a PCO (exterminator) to perform the appropriate treatments. It is not uncommon for landlords to botch the response and/or fail to respond at all, resulting in a return of the infestation and further harm and loss to the affected tenants.
Apart from any bodily, mental, or emotional injury a tenant suffers, bed bugs can force tenants to vacate rent-controlled dwellings. In these situations, displaced tenants may be priced out not only of their city, but also, potentially, out of the entire geographic area. This is particularly likely in areas with a high cost of living, such as the San Francisco Bay Area.
What Damages Can I Recover from a Bed Bug Lawsuit?
Damages available to tenants who have been harmed by the presence of bed bugs may include the following:
- Loss of use of the rent-controlled dwelling, sometimes known as a rent differential. These damages are the difference between the fair market value of a rental unit at the time the tenant moved out and the monthly rent-controlled rent the tenant was paying, multiplied by the number of months the tenant intended to continue living at the rental unit. For example, if a tenant with bed bugs was forced to move out of a rent-controlled unit where the fair market rental value was $4,000.00 and the monthly rent was $2,000.00 at the time the tenancy ended, and the tenant intended to continue living there for another five years, rent differential damages would be calculated as follows: ($4,000.00 - $2,000.00) × 12 months/year × 5 years = $120,000.00.
- Refund of any rent the tenant paid after the landlord knew or should have known of the infestation.
- Medical expenses incurred by the tenant for treatment of bodily, mental, or emotional injuries caused by bed bugs.
- Hotel and/or other living costs incurred by displaced tenants.
- Moving expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Medical expenses.
- The fair market value of any personal property destroyed by bed bugs, such as clothing, bedding, and furniture.
- Statutory penalties for retaliation.
- Pain and suffering related to the bed bug infestation and/or loss of the rental unit.
When Should I Call a Bed Bug Lawyer in San Francisco?
If you are a tenant who has been injured and/or displaced as a result of a bed bug infestation, contact a bed bug attorney immediately to learn more about your rights and what you may be able to recover for your injuries and losses.
In the meantime, if you are experiencing a bed bug infestation and have not done so already, immediately notify your landlord in writing (e.g., letter, fax, email, or text) and cooperate fully with any and all remediation efforts. Communications with your landlord should always be memorialized in writing.
Contact Tenant Law Group for a free case evaluation to learn more about your options. From counseling you through communications with your landlord related to a bed bug infestation to pursuing money damages for your bed bug-related losses, Tenant Law Group has the expertise and experience to help you achieve your desired legal outcome.