In a perfect world, bedbugs wouldn’t exist. The reality though, is that these minuscule creatures can infest any home or property without notice and cause discomfort and illnesses including allergic reactions, skin infections and mental health problems.
As a landlord, you have the responsibility to ensure the safety and habitability of your properties and the presence of bedbugs diminishes both. A law that went into effect in January 2017 now gives landlords greater responsibility and accountability over bedbug infestations. California Civil Code 1954.601 to .604, known as the Bedbug Disclosure Law, also puts responsibility on tenants to be cooperative in bedbug detection and treatment.
Landlords are under no obligation to inspect for bedbugs without a prior notice or complaint of possible infestation. However; if they do detect an infestation upon visual inspection, they are considered notified and should comply with the regulations outlined in the Bedbug Disclosure Law.
Beginning July 1, 2017, landlords must provide prospective tenants with a specific bedbug notice before any agreement or lease is entered into. The notice provides general information about bedbugs and bedbug infestation control.
Beginning January 1, 2018, a similar written notice must be given to all existing tenants.
The notice must strictly comply with the following content guidelines:
- It has to be in at least 10-point font
- It must include information on the following:
- How to detect a bedbug, its life and reproduction cycles
- Common signs and symptoms of a bedbug infestation
- Importance of cooperation between landlord and tenant in detecting and treating bedbugs
The text for the above content is provided in the law, California Civil Code 1954.601 to .604,
- The notice must include the procedure for reporting a suspected bedbug infestation and include websites that outline pest control best practices, as well as information on how to access pest control operators (PCOs).
Notice of infestation
If a bedbug infestation is found by a PCO upon inspection, landlords must inform tenants about the findings through a written notice.
- If an infestation is found in specific dwelling units, tenants of those units should be given a written notice with a copy of the PCO’s report. The notice should be provided within two business days upon receipt of the PCO’s report.
- If an infestation is detected in common areas, such as hallways, the entrance/exit points, elevators, laundry rooms and others, all tenants must be provided with a written notice of the PCO’s findings. This notice may be posted in the common area where the infestation was found, emailed to each tenant, sent to every tenant by mail or email or pinned on the door of each unit.
- Vacant dwellings found to be infested may not be shown, leased, or rented.
Best management practices and follow-up treatment of infected units
The National Pest Management Association website outlines best management practices for eradicating bedbugs which landlords and tenants are highly encouraged to comply with. Follow up inspections are typically part of the treatment to ensure the infestation has been controlled.
Tenants’ rights and responsibilities
The Bedbug Disclosure Law amends the California Civil Code, protecting tenants who complain about bedbugs from retaliatory acts by landlords, such as increasing rental fees, withholding certain services and similar tactics.
On the other hand, tenants are required to report detected bedbug infestation in the building and to grant landlords and PCOs permission to enter their units for inspection, treatment and follow-ups.