Bed Bug Proposal Puts Cost Burden On Residents
Monday, February 6, 2012
Bedbugs feed on human and animal blood. They can be found in
immaculate places or filthy ones. They show up in apartments,
hotels, homes and government buildings. After unknowingly being
transported on luggage or clothing, the pests can go undetected in
new a location for months.
There is no simple solution for dealing with this national
health problem. But legislation being considered by the Iowa
Legislature is not a solution either. It does nothing to reduce
infestations. Instead, it puts the financial responsibility for
dealing with these pests on renters.
House Study Bill 520 should be squashed immediately.
The bill would require tenants to inform landlords about the
presence of bedbugs within seven days of moving in. Failure to do
that "shall be an acknowledgement by the tenant that the dwelling
unit is free of bed bugs," the bill says. Tenants would also have
to report bugs within 48 hours of noticing them. Not doing that
could mean being held responsible for the costs of everything from
extermination to replacing carpet and cabinets to repainting.
These are ridiculous expectations and timelines designed to
protect landlords from liability. Bite marks from the bugs may take
as long as 14 days to develop on some people, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The blood-suckers can
live for long periods without a meal.
How is someone supposed to know within a week that an apartment
or home is infested? And what if the person is elderly or
Tenants at two Des Moines apartment buildings housing low-income
disabled tenants sued property owners after a massive infestation
of bedbugs a few years ago. They say bites scarred their bodies.
They were forced to throw away furniture. Relatives didn't want to
visit. They have been shunned by other landlords afraid to rent to
Court records show managers of the Des Moines apartments left it
up to the residents to prepare their apartments for exterminators.
About half of them couldn't complete tasks that included moving
furniture away from baseboards and bagging belongings in plastic.
Of course they couldn't. These renters include people with limited
mobility, with vision problems and with chronic pain.
Yet the legislation would have renters crawling around on carpet
or moving mattresses and furniture to check for pests. They would
be squinting to find fecal material of bugs that range from 1 mm to
7 mm long. Then if they fail to comply with procedures to treat an
infestation, they could be responsible for the costs of treating
other apartments and displacing neighbors.
Yes, bedbugs are a problem for landlords. They want someone else
to be responsible for detecting and paying for the treatment of the
They have a well-organized lobby to try to make that happen.
Renters don't. Lawmakers need to stand up for these Iowans, which
include people with disabilities. That means quickly exterminating