2008-12-17, 11:15

Night, night; don't let the bed bugs bite. When Personal Parasites Get Out of Control, what are companies to do?

By: Multifamily Real Estate Industry Team
Bed Bugs are more than just a common nuisance; owners and operators of residential properties, including university and college housing, apartments, hotels and resorts, are learning that bed bugs do not discriminate and are facing costly expenditures for eradication. In fact, responsibility for remediating bed bug infestation is falling squarely on the shoulders of property managers and exposing companies to new levels of liability. With the rise in reported complaints, the housing industry faces increased costs for extermination, property destruction, rent abatement, and sometimes legal economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Bed bug related cases are quickly becoming more common place as Plaintiffs advance a variety of legal theories, including claims for overexposure of pesticide, gross negligence, battery, breach of warranty, and emotional distress.

Laws addressing the bed bug boom are also in flux because courts continue to modify owner and operator liability, and state and local housing departments are in the process of implementing and revising regulations. Some cities have even set forth strict protocols governing extermination and disposal procedures, subjecting noncompliant properties to fines, inspection orders, and even jail time. Because the law is in a constant state of change, property owners and operators should consult legal counsel to learn the applicable law, their responsibilities, if any, and develop an action plan to respond to tenant allegations of bed bug infestation.

Because bed bugs are transitory, property managers need to remain vigilant of signs of infestation and resident complaints. Teaming up with a local and reputable extermination company to treat infestation as soon as noticed can help prevent the spread. Quick investigatory responses to resident complaints will go a long way and help minimize liability.

(This entry posted by Erin Miller, John Sweeney and Sky Woodward, all members of Womble Carlyle's Products Liability Litigation team)

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