Bed bugs and the law in New York City

Bed bug cases in New York have become a serious issue. There are many inquires on this matter, in regard to legalities. While we are not equipped to provide legal advice, we hope this discussion can help you to locate references to help you in your bedbug battle. These sources and references cover a range of topics including residential renbed bugs, new york, manhattan, brooklyn, bed bug, bedbugs, bedbug.comtals, actions that should be taken by tenants and address popular questions such as: Who should take care of the bed bug infestation? What are the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, New York Real Property Law and the New York City Health Code.

  • There are a series of concerns and questions regarding dwellings with a landlord/tenant relationship, including:
  • What are the practical remedies available to tenants when landlords refuse to help?
  • What if the infestation continues unabated for months and even years?
  • What about a tenant who wants to move out and break their lease?
  • Can I sue for bedbug damages?

How can I best compel my landlord to take action against the perceived source of the infestation within the building? What if that source is thought to be the apartment of an uncooperative tenant?

The policy perspective holds an interesting point of view, noting the apparent inadequacy of law provisions towards and management of bed bug infestations. When it comes to bed bugs, there are various factors that bring about complications.  Bed bugs easily spread between apartments, making it vital to inspect and identify other apartments that may be infested in order to eradicate the infestation. Detecting  bed bug infestations is difficult in cases of low-level infestation, so city housing inspectors may not even see the bed bugs, and therefore there would be no violation cited. Because eradicating bed bugs is so difficult, even skilled bed bug management practices may fail to fully exterminate the bugs. This is due to the fact that the tools and skills currently available are inadequate, because the preparation requirements placed on tenants may be difficult to comply with, and because new infestations may develop, so that even the landlord’s good faith efforts may still fail. The conventional wisdom is that bed bug infestations are extremely hard to get rid of, that they are regarded strictly as a job for professionals. Tenants are discouraged from trying to treat a case themselves, and it is even illegal for landlords who are not licensed pest control professional exterminators to apply certain bed bug treatments. Further, professional bed bug eradication is prohibitively expensive.

The best course of action when it comes to bed bugs is prevention, primarily in the form of mattress encasement’s and other various entomologist approved products.

Bed bug References and Information for renters and landowners

bed bug laws, bed bugs nyCo-ops and Condos

For a discussion of co-op and condo responsibilities, please refer to Richard Siegler’s and Eva Talel’s article, Dealing with Bedbugs (PDF), New York Law Journal, November 5, 2008.

The New York State Multiple Dwelling Law

The New York State Multiple Dwelling Law applies to cities with populations of more than 325,000. (Cities of less than 325,000 inhabitants and towns and villages are covered by the New York State Multiple Residence Law.)

A multiple dwelling is defined as a dwelling which is either rented, leased, let or hired out, to be occupied, or is occupied as the residence or home of three or more families living independently of each other.

A very useful summary of the statutory rights of tenants is maintained by Stuart Lawrence of Housing Conservation Coordinators.

Right to Repairs and Clean Premises

Multiple Residence Law § 174

Multiple Dwelling Law §§ 78, 80 [NYC]

Landlords shall keep all and every part of a multiple dwelling (three or more residential units) and the lot it is on in good repair, clean and free from vermin, rodents, dirt, filth, garbage or other matter dangerous to life or health. Tenant is also liable if the tenant or tenant’s guests willfully or negligently cause violation.

To find out more of what the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, Section 78 holds, click here.

The New York City Housing Maintenance Code

The New York City Housing Maintenance Code applies to all dwellings, see Article 1, Section 27-2003. Confusion may have arisen because Section 27-2005. The New York City Housing Maintenance Code is not as clear and straightforward as the Multiple Dwelling Law, but it does expressly discuss bed bugs.

The New York City Health Code

Please see the New York City Health Code, Article 151, Pest Prevention and Management (PDF) and the revised §151.01(c) defining a “person in control” as an: owner, part owner, managing agent or occupant of premises or property, or any other person who has the use or custody of the same or any part thereof. The original Article 151 listed bed bugs much in the way of the New York City Housing Code. Now it is simply pest, meaning “unwanted insects, rodents or other pests as determined by the Department.”

The Warranty of Habitability

Interestingly, the only information on the warranty of habitability available on the New York City website is in a FAQ from the legal department of the city’s Commission for the United Nations Consular Corps & Protocol.

What can tenants do?

In the event of a dispute with your landlord over a bed bug infestation, you should consult a lawyer or tenant advocacy organization about the facts of your own situation.

Inquiries concerning the role of 311 are often misunderstood. The first step  would be to report the bed bug infestation to your landlord and ask for a professional pest control service. Many landlords are aware of their responsibilities and are ready to fulfill them. If this is not the case, some may be persuaded with reasonable appeals to their self-interest, informing them that it is more cost effective to deal with an infestation before it spreads and that these methods have worked for others.

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  • personal injury lawyer in new york  On November 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this website. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. 😉

  • maria  On March 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    i have a tenant in a 6 family house who has bedbugs. his apartment is unclean and has storage boxes piled high from the floor to the ceiliings. the bugs are crawling out from under his door. he refuses to clean his apartment . he is handicapped, but has a wife. after extermination, is he liable to clean his clothing and other linens in order to get rid of the bugs

    •  On December 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Hey Maria,

      This is a good question. I believe it depends on the state. Further, as mentioned in the article, we are not equipped to provide legal advice. However, I approved your comment in the hopes that someone will be able to help you further.

      Best of luck!

  • goldbhaskar2011  On September 12, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Work Injury Compensation
    Human societies are always smart enough to tap onto whatever profitable pathways they see,
    and the same ideology has led to the opening of many Compensation Law Firms.
    The local newspapers are generally filled with reports about cases being contested by
    representatives from various compensation law firms so much so that any tourist scanning
    over the city newspaper supplements is bound to be a bit
    surprised by the prominent face of these law firms.

  •  On March 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Hey Ms. Cirone,
    Although we do not give legal advice as aforementioned, I have approved your comment in the hopes that someone who is more able to give this advice will be able to respond to you. If you would like to get compensated for this though, I would recommend contacting a lawyer who specializes in bed bug litigation.

    Good luck!

  • bettina cirone  On March 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    can the landlord chsarge or sue the tenant for compensation of landlord expenses to vacate personal items from apartment to be cleaned offsite and the return of those items expected to be in the mid five figures? i am rent stabilized. my rent with mci’s and new lease i signed but landlord has not signed will be a few dollars less than $2,000 per month. this is a landmark building at 240 central park south. i have done everything to help expedite bed bug infestation removal although landlord has denied this fact in writing to all tenants in building.

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