What to do if you have bedbugs:
- Notify your landlord immediately;
- Write a letter to your landlord within 48 hours to confirm the conversation. In the letter put the dates of when you first noticed it, when you called, and the date of the letter;
- Ask the landlord to hire a licensed exterminator to inspect and treat the unit right away;
- Keep a copy of your letter in a file;
- Take a picture of any bugs you see, any bites you sustain;
- If the landlord does not respond and react within a reasonable, call, email, or send a contact form to my office, so I can start to help you;
- Call the local Board of Health and request an an inspection. The Board will inspect and issue a written findings sheet, and if appropriate a citation to the landlord;
- Landlords are entitled to a hearing on these issues;
- Be proactive, point the inspector to any signs of the pests or any other issues;
- If the landlord fails to fix the infestation, you may consider withholding rent until the problem is corrected. Withholding rent is not the same as not paying rent, it must be done correctly and in such a way that the credibility of the tenant is above attack;
- If there are conditions that may add to the issue of infestation excessive clutter or unsanitary conditions in the home, the tenant may also be cited, though this is unusual;
- Documenting the time line is extremely important if the landlord fails to remedy the bedbug situation: Do not rely on voice, text or in person communications! If you have a conversation or other communication, confirm it with an email or written letter.
- If the landlord fails to fix things, does not cooperate with the board of health and violates the tenants rights to a sanitary and habitable home the tenant has the right to bring the matter to the court for help;
- I see many tenants and landlords try to do this themselves and after the fact come and ask for help; unfortunately it doesn't work that way, your first bite at the apple is your best bite, don't waste it! Contact me!
- A landlord may be ordered to pay, to the tenant, a sum of money based on the length of time the condition exists. This is based on the rental value of the unit and assigned a percentage of that value. The greater the affect on the value of the unit to the tenant the more money will be awarded.
Bed bug infestations are on the rise and there is a lot of misinformation out there. In Massachusetts, landlords of more than single family homes are responsible for eradicating insects as required by the State Sanitary Code.
105 CMR 410.550: Extermination of Insects, Rodents and Skunks
(A) The occupant of a dwelling containing one dwelling unit shall maintain the unit free from all rodents, skunks, cockroaches and insect infestation, and shall be responsible for exterminating them, provided, however, that the owner shall maintain any screen, fence or other structural element necessary to keep rodents and skunks from entering the dwelling.
(B) The owner of a dwelling containing two or more dwelling units shall maintain it and its premises free from all rodents, skunks, cockroaches and insect infestation and shall be responsible for exterminating them.
(C) The owner of a rooming house shall maintain it and its premises free from all rodents, skunks, cockroaches and insect infestation, and shall be responsible for exterminating them.
(D) Extermination shall be accomplished by eliminating the harborage places of insects and rodents, by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food or breeding ground, by poisoning, spraying, fumigating, trapping or by any other recognized and legal pest elimination method. All use of pesticides within the interior of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming house, or mobile home shall be in accordance with applicable laws and regulations of the Department of Food and Agriculture's Pesticide Board, including those appearing at 333 CMR 13.00, which provide, among other things, that pesticide applicators or their employers must give at least 48 hours pre-notification to occupants of all residential units prior to any routine commercial application of pesticides for the control of indoor household or structural indoor pests.