There you are, on the vacation of a lifetime. You are staying in a lovely room with a view of all that the city has to offer. After a long day of sight-seeing, you slip under the covers and drift off to sleep only to be awoken by small, itchy, red bumps all over your arms, legs, and back. Pulling back the mattress pad confirms your worst fear – your beautiful hotel room has bed bugs.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are parasites that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded hosts. Unlike other pests, bed bugs do not have wings but travel from one location to another by hitchhiking on a person’s clothing or luggage. Nocturnal creatures, they are known to eat only once then digest for 5-10 days while they mate and lay eggs. While bed bugs may be dark brown or orange, they may also be light tan or even white just after molting. While bed bugs do not carry disease, their bites are often uncomfortable, red, itchy and raised.
Where are bed bugs found?
The U.S. enjoyed several decades of bed bug-free living before pesticide restrictions and an increase in global travel reintroduced bed bugs to hotels, apartment complexes, homes, and condos. Since bed bugs are wingless, their only means of travel are on the clothing and luggage of unwitting accomplices. Often concealing themselves in tight crevices, bed bugs can hide in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, couches, bedding, outlets, electronics, behind walls, underneath wallpaper, on bags, and on nearly every surface of a home, hotel, apartment, or other structure. While they are nocturnal, bed bugs often leave behind a rust-colored trail in and around places where people sleep such as beds, couches or chairs. More advanced infestations can be seen along baseboards, in corners of closets, or even in the carpet. Bed bugs do not discriminate and can just as easily be found in four-star hotels as they can in one-star motels or modest apartment buildings. According to bedbugregistry.com, approximately 20,000 bed bug reports have been made since the summer of 2010 for hotels in the United States.
Can I get sick from bed bug bites?
While bed bugs are not carriers of disease, they do inject a small dose of an anesthetic and an anticoagulant into the body to feed on blood, undetected, without having it clot. This pathogen, when experienced in high doses, can lead not only to itching, but also to headaches, muscle soreness, and fever. Secondary skin infections are also possible for people who scratch bites when they itch, rather than treating them with doctor-prescribed creams and lotions. Unfortunately, some people do not immediately begin itching after being bitten by bed bugs. These individuals often notice red, itchy bumps days or weeks after the bites when it is too late to take precautions against carrying the parasites home.
What do I do if I find bed bugs in my hotel room?
While it is enough to spoil any vacation, it is important not to panic if you find bed bugs in your hotel room. First, use the camera on your phone to take pictures and video of the bed bugs, any bites you have experienced, and any rust-like stains on the mattress, carpet, furniture, cushions, pillows, or other soft surfaces. If possible, catch a bed bug and place it in a container or plastic bag for further evidence. It is also important that you immediately report the bed bug infestation to the hotel’s management. Request that management creates an incident report that documents the infestation. It is important to immediately call the local Health Department and report the infested hotel room. If you have suffered any bites, seek immediate medical attention.
What is the hotel’s responsibility for bed bugs in my room?
A hotel operator’s goal is to make a profit; therefore, in many instances, they may try to conceal the bed bug problem in hopes that a guest will not notice an infestation. Failure to warn guests or to take effective measures against bed bug infestations can lead to serious legal implications. Best practice is to immediately relocate you to a suitable, clean room within the building or another location of similar quality. It is also best practice to offer to have your belongings professionally cleaned to ensure no bed bugs, larvae, or eggs have concealed themselves in your belongings. Many hotels will offer payment on the spot for medical treatment for bed bug bites. However, keep in mind that if you accept payment from a hotel and sign paperwork that includes a waiver, you will likely be barred from seeking additional compensation through a lawsuit.
What do I do if my apartment has bed bugs?
While we often talk about bed bugs and their connection to hotels that cater to highly transient populations, bed bugs can also occur in apartment or condo complexes where there are shared walls or spaces. It takes only one person bringing bed bugs home from a vacation in paradise to infest an entire building in a matter of a few weeks. Notoriously difficult to treat, extermination costs can range in the thousands of dollars to completely eradicate the offending parasites. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C.’s bed bug laws are ambiguous at best when it comes to who is responsible for the bill. Currently, the D.C. Municipal Regulations Rule 14-805 states that if the infestation is limited to your apartment or condo, you are responsible for any extermination required to eliminate the bed bug infestation. If the infestation spreads to more than one dwelling, the landlord is then required to provide reasonable care for the extermination of any pests or rodents, including bed bugs. However, the regulations also provide that it may be the landlord’s responsibility if the landlord did not keep the home in “reasonably insect-proof condition” or if there are structural defects. In certain cases, it can be difficult to assess who is at fault. An investigation by a knowledgeable bed bug lawyer is required to determine liability.
What are my legal rights as a tenant in a bed bug-infested apartment?
Because the laws are unclear and ambiguous, it is important to consult a bed bug lawyer to determine your rights and responsibilities. Any renter may contact the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and request an inspection. The inspector will check with other tenants, especially adjacent units and surrounding common areas, to determine where the infestation began and whether there are other affected units in the building. D.C. Municipal Regulations Rule 14-805.3 provides, “[i]f an infestation of a single habitation is caused by failure of the owner or licensee to maintain a residential building in a rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition, the exterminating shall be done by the owner or licensee.” Therefore, if the owner of your unit (landlord) fails to maintain the residential building, he/she is responsible for the bill. Even if your apartment is the only one affected, you may still be able to hold the source responsible for the costs of professional extermination. The Washington, DC bed bug lawyers at The Elan Law Firm will guide you through the investigation process and filing of a lawsuit if necessary.
What causes of action are available to me?
- Negligence occurs when the landlord fails in its duty to maintain its properties in proper condition, and the failure is unreasonable under the circumstances. The tenant can sue if the landlord’s breach results in an injury to the tenant.
- Battery is an intentional act that results in harmful or offensive bodily contact of another person. If the landlord is aware of the presence of bed bugs, fails to eliminate the infestation, and the tenant is bitten by bed bugs, the tenant may sue under the theory of battery to pursue damages.
- Breach of the Implied Warranty of Habitability
- A warranty of habitability is implied in all D.C. housing leases. A breach of the implied warranty of habitability gives rise to the usual remedies for a breach of contract. Throughout the lease period, the landlord must maintain the premises in accordance with all applicable laws and failure to do so will result in a breach. A bed bug infestation may render a dwelling uninhabitable, resulting in a breach and entitling the tenant to damages.
- Violations of Consumer Protection statutes
- A failure to rectify a bed bug infestation or the fraudulent concealment of a bed bug infestation by a landlord may give rise to causes of action under local consumer protection statutes.
Does a hotel, apartment or condo building, or seller of a home or furniture have to disclose a bed bug infestation?
Many states require hotels and motels to report a bed bug incident to the local health department. The health department maintains records of affected areas and informs neighboring buildings of the presence of bed bugs in the area and steps that can be taken to ensure the infestation does not spread. Hotels and apartment owners are typically hesitant to report bed bug infestations to government agencies. This is due, in part, to businesses’ desire for privacy regarding the presence of bed bugs. Of course, hotels that have bed bugs should report the findings to other guests to prevent further spread of the parasites. However, the potential mass exodus from their premises would cause a significant loss of revenue. Therefore, there is no incentive on the business’s part to make the presence of these critters known to the general public. As a result, many people find themselves unwittingly staying in bed bug infested hotels. However, these businesses also have a legal obligation to provide reasonable care to prevent injury to their guests.
The law is slightly different regarding homes or other items that are being sold with active bed bug infestations. New or used furniture infested with bed bugs can come into your home via the trucks used to carry them. Likewise, a home with an active bed bug infestation can be listed for sale. However, homeowners are required to disclose any defects in the home in their seller’s disclosure statements. Willfully misleading a buyer by failing to disclose a bed bug infestation can nullify the sale of the home or open the seller up to liability for damages caused by the presence of bed bugs. The process of sorting out liability and negligence is best left to bed bug lawyers who are well-versed in personal injury law.
How are bed bugs eradicated?
Unfortunately, once bed bugs make themselves at home, they are resistant to traditional insecticides. Sprays that are commonly used on ants, cockroaches, spiders, or other pests fail to not only kill the adult bed bugs but are ineffective against their eggs and larvae. While heat over 120 degrees and cold below 0 degrees is effective in killing both adult bed bugs and their eggs, it is nearly impossible to heat or cool an apartment or house to the temperature that would effectively eradicate them. Many exterminators who have not treated bed bugs previously may also fail to treat areas of the house where bed bugs hide. While they are commonly found in areas where they have direct access to blood – mattresses, couches, beds, and chairs – they may also live in baseboards, in carpet and rugs, beneath the floors, and in the walls of a home. Once an infestation has occurred, exterminators must be employed to ensure all of the pests, along with their eggs and larvae, can no longer affect the inhabitants of a home, apartment, condo, or hotel. These specialists often charge up to several thousand dollars and often guarantee their work for months or even years after the initial treatment.
What is a bed bug lawsuit?
It is easy for bed bugs to go unnoticed for several days or even weeks before they strike an innocent person at night. Most people who have been affected by bed bugs or who have experienced a bed bug infestation will tell you that the only thing they want is to “have their life back.” However, the process of eradicating bed bugs from a home, replacing damaged belongings, paying for any medical treatment that results from bites, or resuming a ruined vacation is difficult and costly. Many people are reluctant to file a lawsuit against the offending party due to the nature of the incident. However, an experienced bed bug lawyer will help guide the investigation and settlement with a landlord. And, if necessary, file a lawsuit and bring the matter before a jury at trial.
If you or a loved one has been affected by bed bugs, it is important to know your rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation due to:
- Pain and suffering
- Discarded property
- Emotional distress
- Long-term scarring on the skin
- Cost of ruined vacation experiences
- Lost wages due to side effects from bed bug bites
- Costs of extermination in your home
It is important to do the following if you notice that you have been bitten by bed bugs:
- Take pictures and video of the bed bugs, any bites you have experienced, and any rust-like stains on the mattress, carpet, furniture, cushions, pillows, or other soft surfaces.
- Take notes regarding the incident including the date of the first bite.
- Take detailed notes of every report you have made to management regarding the incident and anything they have done to correct it. Make sure to take down the names of any person you speak with and request that an incident report is created. Request and maintain a copy of the incident report.
- Contact the local health department and determine if any reports have been filed against the property.
- Seek medical attention for any injuries.
- Contact The Elan Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your case.
The Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC bed bug lawyers at The Elan Law Firm will make sure you receive the significant compensation you deserve.