California Bed Bugs Bites Attorney
Under California law, you can file a premises liability lawsuit if you were bitten by bedbugs while renting a property or staying at a hotel.
The damages you could be eligible to receive include medical expenses, lost wages, emotional stress, pain and suffering, property damage, and the cost of eradicating the infestation.
However, in order to successfully sue for damages from bedbug bites, the guest will typically have to prove that the owner of the property knew about the bedbug infestation, or they failed to take action to prevent it.
Bed Bugs are an ongoing concern in California, understandably so, considering that the state is home to some of the most populous metropolitan areas in the country.
Bed bug infestations can easily occur because these creatures are tiny and can enter homes and apartments virtually undetected, and they are quite difficult and costly to eradicate due to their resistance to pesticides.
That's why California is one of only a handful of states that has passed specific laws concerning bed bugs.
Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys will take a closer look below at the bed bug issue in California, including how infestations occur, the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants in preventing and dealing with bed bug infestations, and when either party could be legally liable for them.
How Bed Bug Infestations Occur
The most common way for bed bugs to enter the home is by coming in on an object that has been brought into the house, such as second-hand furniture.
It's also possible for them to enter your home by hitchhiking on clothing or other personal items—for instance, if you are traveling and staying in a hotel where bed bugs are present.
Bed bugs can even hide in public seating areas like movie theaters, trains, or buses and attach themselves to unwary users.
Contrary to public belief, bed bug infestations are not directly related to sanitary or unsanitary conditions.
They can travel undetected into anyone's home or apartment regardless of income level or cleanliness habits.
However, an unkept home makes it easier for bed bugs to hide undetected once they have entered.
The biggest challenge with bed bug infestations is in multi-unit dwellings like hotels or apartment buildings.
Once bed bugs take hold in one unit, they can easily spread to other units within the building.
California Bed Bug Laws - Landlord Responsibilities
A few years ago, 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 bed bugs.
According to the law:
- Landlords must keep records of all bed bug infestations on their properties and disclose them to prospective renters in writing;
- When having a pest control operator check the property for bed bugs, landlords must disclose the findings to tenants within two days of the report;
- Landlords cannot show, rent, or lease properties that have active bed bug infestations;
- Landlords can no longer legally penalize or retaliate against tenants for reporting bed bug problems (e.g., raising the rent, reducing services or response times, etc.).
What are the Tenant's Responsibilities?
These strengthened protections don't completely absolve tenants of responsibility for bed bug infections—and in fact, a landlord can still sue a tenant for damages if they demonstrate negligence in causing or allowing an infestation to occur. Here's what tenants are responsible for:
- Tenants have a duty of care to keep their units clean and sanitary;
- Tenants have an obligation to repair the damage they cause (including infestations of pests);
- Tenants have an obligation to report bed bug infestations to the landlord. This protects the tenant and all tenants in the building—landlords do NOT have to treat for bed bugs unless and until someone reports it;
- Tenants have an obligation to cooperate with landlords regarding pest control. (I.e., they must grant access to the property for inspection and treatment with appropriate advance notice.)
When Can a Tenant or Hotel Guest File a Lawsuit?
In the state of California, landlords and hotels are typically held liable for bedbug injuries or infestations under the following circumstances:
- Owner or operator of property knew there was a bedbug infestation, and
- They failed to take reasonable action to eradicate or prevent the infestation.
Put simply, any claims against a landlord or hotel owner are frequently based on the following reasons:
- Negligence – landlords are required to use reasonable care to protect people who are on their property;
- Breach of contract – a residential tenant could make a claim there was a breach of a lease contract in order to recover damages by bedbugs;
- Private nuisance – this type of claim states the landlord's actions interfered with their enjoyment of the property and it caused substantial damages.
Who Is Liable for Bed Bug Infestations?
Determining who must pay to treat bed bug infestations can sometimes be a tricky question to answer—and it generally has to do with proving who or what caused the infestation. In theory:
- If the infestation existed before the tenants moved in: the landlord must pay for it.
- If the tenants brought the bed bugs into the property or unit (even inadvertently): the tenants pay for it. (This is usually an easy determination if it's a single-family home or yours is the only unit in the building with bed bugs.)
- If the infestation spreads to your unit from someone else's unit: the landlord pays for it.
That being said, it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause or source of a bed bug infestation because these bugs are so good at hiding.
This question often creates the most difficulty in landlord-tenant disputes about beg bugs.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Regarding Bed Bugs
Depending on the circumstances and the cause of a bed bug infestation, both landlords and tenants may have legal grounds to file a lawsuit against the other.
If your landlord believes you caused a bed bug infestation into their building which affected both yours and other units, they may try to sue you for the cost of treatment and property damages.
On the other hand, if you are a tenant and you experience a bed bug infestation that can be traced to negligence on the landlord's part (e.g., violating the protections listed above), you may be able to recover damages for property loss as well as treatment for any bites or injuries caused by the bed bugs.
A renter might be able get a court to award an injunction forcing a landlord to exterminate the bedbugs.
If you are the victim of bedbugs bites occurring in your rental property, apartment, or hotel room, then you should contact our law firm to review the details.
Injury Justice Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and serves clients throughout Southern California.
We offer a free case consultation by calling (818) 781-1570, or you can fill out our contact form.