If you suffered bed bug injuries and related expenses while renting a house or apartment, can I sue the landlord or property owner?
Generally, the answer is YES. Not only can the landlord /property owner be liable, but there may also be a management company and extermination company that could be liable as well. Constructive Eviction is one such legal theory that a victim of a bed bug infestation or attack can sue his/her landlord. Constructive eviction occurs if the landlord or property owner does something, or in the case of bed bug lawsuits or claims fails to provide a service the landlord has a legal duty to provide that renders the property uninhabitable, the tenant (you) may terminate the lease and seek damages.
Depending on the state the infestation occurs in, the condition may be caused by the landlord, neighbor or third party’s actions, and the tenant may vacate the premises within a reasonable time. In many states, if the landlord’s actions render the property uninhabitable, then the tenant may terminate the lease and seek damages. The condition must be the result of the landlord’s actions and not those of a neighbor or third party, and the tenant must vacate the property within a reasonable amount of time.
Courts across the country, have upheld constructive eviction actions based on bed bug infestations. Another legal doctrine under which a bed bug lawsuit can be brought is commonly known as the warranty of habitability. Almost every state in the country has some variation of the warranty of habitability and implies such covenant into residential leases. In most jurisdictions this warranty is non-waivable. The duty of the landlord is tied to local housing codes. Generally, if the warranty is breached, the tenant may:
- Terminate the lease.
- Make repairs, in the form of hiring an exterminator to remediate the bed bug infestation and offset the cost against future rent.
- Abate the rent to an amount equal to the fair rental value in view of the defects in the property.
- Remain in possession, pay rent and sue for damages.
It is possible to file a lawsuit against a landlord for breach of the warranty of habitability without proving constructive eviction.