Bed Bugs Bill Tries To Hold Tenants Accountable For Infestation

KCRG.com
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

LINN COUNTY, IA - They're the tiny critters that make your skin crawl.

Bedbugs are creeping their way into the Iowa legislature as landlords try to make tenants more accountable for an infestation.

House study bill 520 would require tenants to report bedbugs within a week of moving into a new apartment or within two days of discovering the bugs. If the renter fails to notify the property manager, they could be stuck with the cost of getting rid of the bugs. The bill is still being debated in a house subcommittee.

According to a study done by Linn County Public Health, it costs about $800 for one professional treatment of bedbugs. Public Health also estimates the community spends tens of thousands of dollars a month killing these pests.

"A lot of times tenants will try to deal with the problem themselves, and then the problem gets out of control," explained Marion Landlord and former President of Landlords of Iowa, Keith Smith.

Smith says that's the reasoning behind a new bill backed by the Iowa Landlord Association. The bill tells renters they have two days to alert a property manager about a bedbug problem or risk paying thousands of dollars in pest control fees.

Linn County Public Health says it's tough to put a time frame on bedbugs.

"I really think there needs to be a robust education training program with this," said bedbug expert, Ruby Perin.

Perin says it can take two days or two weeks for a bite to show up on skin. The bugs can also hide in other areas of a home. A person could check their bed and see nothing, but still have an infestation.

"It's very landlord based," Perin said, "If I was a tenant moving in, I'd want some kind of certification this is bed bug free."

A member of the Iowa Attorney General's office, William Brauch, agrees saying he's "never seen a bill this unbalanced." But Smith says this is a study bill meant to start conversation about this problem.

He agrees education is a big part of the issue statewide.

"Yes, it's expensive," Smith said, "we understand it's expensive, but the sooner you tell us the cheaper it is to be addressed."