The North Carolina General Assembly is considering a new bill that will clear up some of the “gray areas” in disputes between tenants and landlords involving bedbugs. Under current guidelines, it’s difficult to sort out who is responsible when the bedbugs bite: is it the landlord, who is required to provide fit and inhabitable premises, or the tenant, who may have carried the bedbugs into the rental property in their mattresses clothing or furniture?
Some landlords maintain that tenants are not always cooperative when bedbugs are discovered. Even when property managers and owners are aggressive in eradicating bedbugs, tenants must still launder all clothing and bedding. If they don’t, the bedbugs will come back fast.
North Carolina law requires landlords to correct problems with insects that affect human habitability. When they fail to do so, tenants are entitled to compensation. The new bill, if enacted, will prevent rental property owners from offering for lease any premises that, at the time the landlord and tenant enter into a rental agreement, the landlord knows to be infested by bedbugs.
The bill further provides:
- Prior to leasing the premises, the landlord may obtain a certificate from a licensed pest control company that certifies the property is free from bedbug infestation.
- The tenant is required to notify the landlord in writing within five days of suspecting the presence of bedbugs. If there was no certificate provided and notice is given less than 30 days of taking possession, then the landlord must contract with a licensed pest control company to exterminate any bedbugs.
- If the landlord did provide a certificate and 30 days or more have passed from the time the tenant takes possession until the day of the tenant’s notice, then the tenant will be responsible for exterminating the premises.
- The tenant is also responsible for subsequent infestations after the premises have been treated and deemed free of bedbugs.
- If the pest control company determines that the source of the bedbugs is an adjacent unit, then the tenant in the source unit is responsible for exterminating the bedbugs.
- A tenant’s security deposit may be used for damages due to the tenant’s violation of his or her obligations under the terms of the law.
Landlords and property managers can probably expect additional legislation as bedbugs continue their crawl across the country.