Landlords Trying to Impose Bed Bug Policies
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Jason York and his two roommates have lived in Bel Air Court, an
East Side apartment complex, for more than four years.
"They've been fair to us," York said of their landlord,
Indianapolis-based Sexton Cos. "This is really the first trouble
we've ever really had with them."
Although the "first trouble" dealt with a small, even tiny, matter
- 5 millimeters by 3 millimeters, tops - it turned out to be, in
York's estimation, a huge one.
The 31-year-old graphic artist and his roommates had intended to
renew their lease yet again, but when the paperwork arrived, it
included a "pest-control addendum."
The addendum required the tenants to certify that their unit
contained no bedbugs - those nearly invisible, blood-hungry
parasites that have staged an unwelcome comeback here and
It further stipulated that the tenants would have to notify the
landlord if bedbugs appear. At that point, they also would have to
cooperate with extermination efforts and cover the entire cost,
including any expenses associated with the elimination of bugs that
might have spread to adjacent units.
On top of all that, if bedbugs appeared, the lease would terminate
immediately and York and his roommates would be on the street
faster than they could say, "Pass the Lanacane."
"That's harsh. What's the deal?" was his initial reaction, York
said. "It just seemed draconian."
Draconian or not, such provisions have become increasingly common
in rental agreements in central Ohio, thanks to the region's
ongoing struggle with bedbugs, said Dianna Parker, a lawyer with
the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
Parker said that York and his roommates - or any renters presented
with a pest-control addendum - have three options: Sign the
agreement as is, negotiate changes in it, or move.
Parker, however, said she doubts that Bel Air Court's management
could enforce its immediate-termination clause. Ohio law, she
pointed out, requires a landlord to serve a tenant with a "notice
to vacate" at least three days before the start of eviction
proceedings, which could then drag on for weeks.
"So there's a process here that the tenants are entitled to under
Ohio law that cannot be contracted away."
That won't be an issue, it turns out, in this case.
When WBNS-TV (Channel 10) called Bel Air Court's office to ask
about its pest policy, the person who answered the phone said,
"It's our company policy not to speak with reporters," and hung
Later that day, returning home from work, York and his roommates
found a notice stating that their lease would not be renewed. They
had 30 days to get out.
They won't need that much time. They've already found another
apartment - in a complex that doesn't require tenants to sign a
Better yet, the rent is less.