A Missouri appeals court ruled that an apartment owner did not do enough to eradicate bed bugs and must return a tenant’s rent. The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision and ordered the apartment owner to return the tenant’s rent of $405. The company had sought an additional month’s rent and cleaning fees as well, since the tenant broke the lease.
A few weeks after moving in, the tenant notified the apartment owner that a dermatologist had determined the red welts on her and her daughter’s bodies were caused by bed bugs, and that she planned to leave the apartment.
The apartment owner called a pest control company, which said it found no evidence of bed bugs, but sprayed the rental unit. Court records indicated the property owner did not follow the pest company’s recommendation to spray the apartment two to four times to kill any bed bugs that could be present.
The apartment owner then notified the tenant that there were no bed bugs and she should look for a different source for the bites. Instead, the tenant moved out and the property owner filed suit. The tenant won, and the company appealed the decision.
Bed bugs are back, and they are a real challenge for rental property owners. It will be interesting to see what other lawsuits and regulations spring up in response.