Who pays?

It's not as simple as you think

Who pays?

Ohio Landlord Tenant Law says that a landlord is responsible for compliance with housing health and safety codes.  However, Ohio's Health Codes don't recognize bed bugs as a health code violation.  So who is responsible?
1.  Check your local health department.  In some communities local health departments have ruled that bed bugs are a nuisance...therefore a duty of the landlord.
2.  If you are in Federally assisted housing check your regulations.  There's additional guidance that can help determine when a landlord can shift extermination costs to the tenant.
3.  In general if landlord can show that you caused the problem, you can be charged for remediation.

There's no question that bed bug treatments are more expensive than the monthly dose of chemistry which exterminators apply to "control" roaches. The cost of bedbug treatments is often shifted to the tenant who has the problem.

    Again, instead of providing leadership, the Ohio Department of Health punted on the question of who pays for extermination.
"Ohio landlord/tenant law does not address bed bugs specifically, but specifies that landlords are required to maintain buildings that comply with all local health and safety codes. The buildings must also be free of health and safety hazards (ORC 5321). The code also prevents landlord retaliation against the tenant for reporting problems to the landlord or other authorities. ORC, chapter 3767, states that 'infestation' is one of the reasons that a residence can be considered a public health nuisance, which is further defined as a menace to public health, welfare or safety. The chapter also stipulates that tenants may pursue legal recourse and place their rent in escrow until nuisance complaints are resolved. Current interpretation is that landlords may not refuse to remediate infestations, but the law is unclear as to who is responsible for paying for such treatment. Some landlords are now writing bed bug waivers into their rental agreements declaring that the unit is currently free of infestation and that the tenant is responsible for eradication should bed bugs become introduced. To the workgroup’s knowledge, this has not yet been challenged in court. Section 8 housing, under the regulation of the Public Housing Authority, must comply with the federal Uniform Physical Conditions Standards which specifically require inspections and management response to insect infestations." Source: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/~/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/web%20team/features/2011ohiobedbugworkgroupreport.ashx

 From a purely practical standpoint, making a tenant pay for extermination is the worst way to solve the problem of bed bugs.
  • If tenants have to pay, tenants will be less likely to report the problem so that the bed bugs get out of control.

  • If tenants must pay, landlords have no incentive to keep costs low and to take preventive and monitoring tasks.

  • Tenants who can't pay get evicted and the landlord is stuck with the cost anyhow.

  • Tenants should pay when they are the cause of the problem. For example: tenants who bring scavenged furnishing into the building or who shows careless disregard in permitting people from known to be infested units to enter their units.

Who pays might depend on where you live?

  • Cleveland's nuisance ordinance City of Cleveland has included bed bug infestation as a nuisance. Tenants can use that designation as grounds for demanding that landlords pay for remediation of the problem under 5321.04. There may be other municipalities that have adopted this policy. Check with your local health department.

  • Federally assisted housing (not including the Low Income Housing Tax Credi program) have restrictions on charging tenants for extermination. See below under Bed bug resouces.

  • Some housing providers want to stop and prevent the problem of recurring bed bug infestation and so have created a policy of prevention...not just a spot treatment reaction. None of the public intermediaries that address housing in Ohio have been much help in this process. RHINO has collected a list of Best Practices which public entities could provide as guidance to responsible owners. (http://home.rhinohio.com/advocate/bedbug)

  • Watch out for tricks. One management company that RHINO knows of pays for the first treatment and requires tenants to pay for the 2nd treatment. Here's the catch bed bug "spray" treatments normally require a 2nd spraying to kill bugs that hatch after the first spray. Landlord recoups all of the costs from the charges for the 2nd spray.If you are being charges for spraying, ask to see a copy of the bill before you pay. If you live in a HUD assisted property, ask HUD if they have approved the lease addendum or house rules about spraying. If no HUD approval, then landlord is not able to pass along the charge.