A few weeks ago, we discussed the rising number of bed bug cases in Baltimore. Coincidentally, the Baltimore Sun published an article yesterday naming Baltimore as the Number 1 city for bed bugs in the entire country!
Recent cases filed in the Baltimore City Circuit Court highlight the rising problem of bed bugs around the country. For instance, a guest staying at a local hotel filed suit in the Baltimore City Circuit Court alleging that the hotel was infested with bed bugs which “fed” on her. The plantiff is seeking $75,000 in damages.
Bed bug victims have been successful in claiming damages in court. For instance, in 2011, Faika Shaaban developed an itchy rash when she moved into an Annapolis apartment. She was infected with bed bugs. What made the case compelling was that the landlord had been notified of the infestation prior to renting the apartment and did not take steps to correct the issue. Consequently, the jury awarded Ms. Shaaban $650,000 in punitive damages along with $150,000 in other damages for a total award of $800,000.
In a 2002 case, a jury awarded almost $400,000 to a brother and sister who were besieged at a Motel 6 that management knew was infested. More recently, in April 2014, the owners of an Iowa apartment building settled a class action lawsuit for approximately $2.45 million. Three hundred current and former residents of the building sued the landlord for its slow reaction to a bed bug infestation that began in 2007 and spread across the building. Many of the tenants were elderly or disabled.
Although these cases focused on landlords who knew about an infestation and ignored it, many times landlords are not aware of a bed bug problem until someone is infected. In order to address this problem, landlords are trying to shift liability to tenants. Some leases now have clauses that if the bed bugs are not apparent at the time the tenant moves in, he or she must pay for extermination. In addition, some leases allow landlords to evict a tenant if the landlord can provide that the tenant brought bed bugs to the premises. If you are a tenant, it is important to check your lease if you have become infected with bed bugs to see if any of these provisions apply. However, even if your lease has such provisions, landlords owe tenants a duty of habitability. Consequently, if they ignore a bed bug problem or refuse to rectify it, they can be held liable. It is also important to note that renter’s insurance can protect tenants against any property that is destroyed due to bed bug infestation.
If you are staying at a hotel, the property also owes you a duty of habitability which includes a room that is free of bed bugs. If hotel management finds bed bugs, it is responsible for rectifying the problem and compensating guests for bites and property damage.
If you have been the victim of a bed bug attack, we encourage you to contact us at 800-776-4529 so we can evaluate your claim. We’re here to help.