Bed bugs are a major and traumatizing issue throughout Missouri. They hide in crevices, cracks, mattress seams, gaps in furniture, under rugs, and other areas within a home, and inflict bites that are initially painless but soon become red and irritated. Although laws have been enacted to protect tenants from the financial, physical, and emotional toll associated with combating the bugs, landlords still turn a deaf ear or make excuses when the pests interfere with their tenants’ ability to enjoy a safe and habitable residence.
If you are a Missouri renter dealing with a bed bug infestation, here are four steps you should immediately take.
- Read and understand your rights. Senate Bill 846 (http://missouriapartmentassociation.com/332/) clearly defines the bed bug-related responsibilities and liabilities of landlords who manage multi-family residential buildings. It requires both landlords and tenants to exercise reasonable care to keep the pests out of the units.
- Notify your landlord immediately. After you alert your landlord to the presence of bed bugs, they are legally obligated to inspect the unit within seven days. If they determine that your unit has been infested, they must take steps to control the bugs within 14 days and notify your neighbors about the infestation. If they fail to do so, they can be found grossly negligent in their response to the problem and potentially liable to their tenants for damages.
- Document the infestation (Take Pictures!). After advising your landlord of the situation, make sure that you thoroughly document bed bug activity in your unit including taking notes and photographs. Make a note and (take pictures with your cell phone or other digital camera) of when and where you found nests, skins, or droppings and provide a copy of your report to the landlord. If you suffered bites that resulted in pain or discomfort, see your family doctor so that you have medical record of your injuries.
- Contact an attorney. You have every right to live in a safe, clean, and sanitary home. If your complex is experiencing a bed bug problem that has left you with painful bite marks and damaged property, Missouri law allows you to file a claim to seek compensation for the damages.
Under Missouri’s implied warranty of habitability laws, your landlord owes you a duty of care. When you rent an apartment or home, they are automatically assuring you that the place is habitable and will remain that way for the entire term of your lease. The landlord can become liable to you if –
- The rented property (through no fault of your own) encounters bed bugs and other problems that materially impact your health and safety AND
- They fail to correct the problem within a reasonable amount of time after you notify them of the issues.
This negligence would constitute a breach of their duty of care to you, allowing you to seek restitution for any losses or injuries attributable to the infestation.
Your landlord may try to blame you for the bugs or suggest that they are a frequent hazard for those who live in low-income housing or any type of shared space accommodation. Don’t back down. As a renter, you have the right to live in a a bed bug-free environment.
If you are dealing with a landlord who refuses or fails to take proper steps to contain a bed bug infestation in your complex, contact tenants’ rights attorney Bryce Bell at Bell Law today. The attorneys at Bell Law, LLC will advocate for you and assist you in seeking the compensation your case deserves.