Since the 1990s, bedbug infestations have increased and are now a global problem. In Los Angeles County, infestations have been reported in hotels, short-term rentals, and multi- and single-family homes.
Bed bug bites can cause irritation and itching. Some people can have an allergic reaction to the bites and may require medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the bites, you may miss work or have to cut a vacation short. Bed bugs can damage property or require the replacement of items to end an infestation.
Bedbug infestations could quickly occur because these creatures are tiny and can enter homes and apartments virtually undetected. They are complex and costly to eradicate due to their resistance to pesticides.
Under California law, you can file a premises liability lawsuit if bitten by bedbugs while renting a property or staying at a hotel. The possible damages you could receive include medical expenses, lost wages, emotional stress, pain and suffering.
To successfully sue for damages from bedbug bites, you will typically have to prove that the property owner knew about the bedbug infestation or that they failed to take action to prevent it.
California is one of only a handful of states that has passed specific laws concerning bedbugs. If you've suffered medical issues, property damage, or other losses from bedbugs, you may wish to file a lawsuit for compensation. While California has passed several laws recently to assist those injured by bedbugs, some challenges persist if you file a lawsuit.
How Can Bed Bug Infestations Occur?
The most common way for bedbugs to get into a home or hotel room is by coming in on an object brought there, such as furniture.
It's also possible they got in by hitchhiking on clothing or other personal items, such as when traveling and staying in a hotel where bed bugs are present. They can even hide in the following places:
- public seating areas;
- movie theaters;
They can attach themselves to unknowing users. Notably, bed bug infestations are generally unrelated to sanitary or unsanitary conditions.
They can travel undetected into a home, apartment, or hotel room regardless of level or cleanliness habits. However, an unkept place does make it easier for bedbugs to hide undetected once they have entered.
The big challenge with bedbug infestations is in multi-unit dwellings like hotels and apartment buildings. Once they take hold of one unit, they can quickly spread to other units within the building.
What is the California Law on Protecting Tenants?
In recent years, California has enacted laws protecting tenants and visitors from bed bugs. Some of these laws include:
- Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants who notify either the landlord or a health department of a bedbug infestation;
- Landlords cannot show or rent an apartment if they know of a bedbug infestation;
- Landlords must notify tenants of any bed bug infestations;
- After a landlord receives a report of an infestation, they must hire an inspector to check for bedbugs. The landlord must also notify tenants of the findings of that inspection.
What Are the Challenges in Bed Bug Lawsuits?
Fulfilling a lawsuit due to bedbugs is challenging despite these protections. These are five common challenges facing those who file a lawsuit against a property owner or other organization.
The law defines proximate cause as an event closely related to an injury. In the case of bed bugs, you need to prove that a particular property caused your bedbug bites or subsequent infestation.
Cases have been reported on public transit, libraries, and even clothing stores. If you travel frequently, you may have difficulty proving a connection between a particular property and bedbugs.
You must show that a landlord or property owner knew about the infestation. That their property has an infestation is insufficient grounds for a lawsuit: You must show that they knew about it.
You can do this by finding hotel reviews that mention bed bugs, although this could cause problems for your case. Your attorney may request records or files showing they were aware of the problem, such as an invoice from a pest control company.
Short-term Rental Middlemen
Short-term rental companies such as Airbnb have grown exponentially in recent years. Not a hotel and not a traditional rental, local municipalities are still determining how to craft policies to address them. Laws can differ widely between jurisdictions and are constantly evolving.
What this means for bedbugs is that the companies, as brokers, are not liable for any bedbug infestations. You will need to sue the homeowners to collect damages.
One possible exception is showing that a company was aware of an infestation and still allowed the property owner to rent out the dwelling.
A Landlord's Defense: Awareness of the Problem
If you knew of an infestation and moved into a building, you might find damages reduced under comparative negligence. Likewise, if you can find reviews that a hotel had bedbugs, the hotel owner could argue that you could have learned of the problem before checking in. This defense and its success depend on the specific facts of your case.
A Landlord's Defense: Carrier
When you file a lawsuit for bedbugs, a landlord or property owner may say that you were the one who brought them onto the property. A landlord may even countersue and say you should be responsible for any damages.
What Are the Landlord's Responsibilities?
California passed some amendments to its existing landlord-tenant laws. Civil Code Section 1942.5 strengthened tenant protections and increased landlords' obligations in dealing with bedbugs. The law says the following:
- Landlords have to keep records of all bedbug infestations on their properties and disclose them to prospective renters;
- When having a pest control operator check the property for bedbugs, they must disclose the findings to tenants within two days;
- Landlords can't show, rent, or lease properties with active bed bugs;
- Landlords can't penalize or retaliate against tenants for reporting bed bug problems, such as raising the rent.
When Can a Tenant or Hotel Guest File a Bedbug Lawsuit?
In California, landlords and hotels are typically held liable for bedbug injuries or infestations under the following circumstances:
- The owner and operator of the property knew there was a bedbug infestation, and
- They failed to take reasonable action to eradicate or prevent the infestation.
Any claims against a landlord or hotel owner usually are based on the following reasons:
- Negligence as landlords have to use reasonable care to protect people who are on their property;
- Breach of contract as a tenant can make a claim there was a breach of a lease contract to recover damages by bedbugs;
- Private nuisance states that the landlord's actions interfered with their enjoyment of the property and caused substantial damages.
All challenges can be counterbalanced by evidence. Communications with a landlord, medical records, and photographs. The more information you can assemble, the stronger your case will be.
Landlords will attempt to claim were not liable or negligent for any infestation and try to show that they took the necessary precautions and, in some cases, followed the law on reporting and responding to bedbug infestations.
Proving liability for a bedbug infestation can be complex, so you want to hire a legal team experienced in personal injury lawsuits to obtain the compensation you deserve.
If you are the victim of bedbug bites in your rental property, apartment, or hotel room, you should contact our law firm to review the details. We offer a free case consultation. Injury Justice Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.