Can I End My Lease Because of Bedbug Infestation Without Penalties?
For a long time, bedbugs have not been considered a serious problem because they don’t carry diseases. However, the fact is that they are nasty biting pests known to torment sleepers. They are a worldwide menace, and that’s why many jurisdictions categorize them as vermin. Tenants in all the states in the United States, except Arkansas, are entitled to fit and habitable housing. The presence of vermin unquestionably renders any residence unfit and uninhabitable.
Pest control is the landlord’s sole responsibility. The argument that the tenant introduced the bedbugs does not hold water as it’s something hard to prove. Such an argument is also irrelevant because the law requires the landlord to provide a residence that meets basic health standards. Such legal requirement cannot be discarded.
The persistence of the problem of the infestation of bedbugs may mark the end of tenancy at the option of the tenant. You must exercise caution to avoid being slapped with penalties for breaching the tenancy agreement. You can only sever the tenancy without incurring legal costs if the landlord fails to address the problem after you have duly notified them.
The first step is gathering evidence of infestation. It’s pretty easy to do this as you can spot bedbugs hiding in mattresses, beddings and furniture. Bites, skin irritations and blood stains in beddings and mattresses also indicate the presence of bedbugs. You can take photos of the bedbugs that you spot. The next step is to have the seriousness of the condition assessed by a qualified health practitioner or pest management company. After that, you should notify your landlord of the problem in writing and give them a reasonable time to remedy it. If you have to vacate the apartment during the pest control, the landlord is responsible for providing you with a temporary shelter.
If you have taken all these steps and no solution is forthcoming, you can terminate the lease following the procedures laid down in the tenancy agreement. You can also choose to contact an attorney to help you. Depending on the lease terms, you should write to the landlord and explain that you are moving out while stating the reasons as well. If the landlord doesn’t challenge your decision, you may treat the lease as terminated. The implication is that you don’t have to pay rent and you are not bound by the terms of the lease. You can also request for the refund of your security deposit.
Note that if the landlord can prove that they have taken all the reasonable and diligent steps to control the infestation, you are not entitled to end the lease even if the problem remains unsolved. If you abandon the lease, the tenant can sue you in court to recover damages.