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bed-bugBedbugs aren’t like roaches.  Roaches have been around so long they’re almost socially acceptable, as expected in High Rise Society as in restaurants.  Last week when my friend opened her menu at a certain dining establishment, awaking the family of roaches inside, she just flipped the page and ordered

Bedbugs are the new kids in town, the bad boys of bugs getting all the media buzz because they’re mean and they bite.  I know lots of people with roaches, but none with bedbugs. But while tribesmen may make a distinction between bedbugs and roaches, the law does not.

The basic rule is if only your apartment is infested, it’s your problem, but if lots of apartments have bugs, it’s the building’s problem. Only in High Rise Society, as in The Real World, the law takes you only so far. As a practical matter, everyone assumes everyone else has (or could have) roaches and no one wants to be asked questions or have to pay, which is why in most buildings all anyone has to do is sign up for free spraying services.  But you don’t see many sign up sheets for bedbugs because no one wants to admit they — or the building — have them, which wouldn’t help apartment prices, already down in this market. So who pays to get rid of them may become an issue for bedbugs, but not so much for roaches.

bed-bugUnder what’s called the Warranty of Habitability, you have the right to an apartment fit for human habitation and if you’re sharing it with bedbugs it’s not fit so the building better get rid of them.  If they don’t you can turn the tables and turn the bedbugs into cash – though, hopefully, things won’t go that far.

 Usually what happens is the person say’s I’ve had enough and stops paying rent, and when the building finally sues for the amount due, under this Warranty he raises the bedbug defense, sort of like an accused murderer might raise the insanity defense or the twinkie defense. And if the court agrees he gets relief. 

How much depends on the difference in fair market rental value pre and post invasion, the one good thing about bedbugs is that for fixing damages they are worth more than roaches because roaches are only disgusting, but bedbugs suck your blood. One guy got 50% off his rent while the bedbugs bit him nightly, and only 20% off when they confined their feast to several times weekly. (I-c-c-k!)  Another guy got 45% off because even though he could hardly sleep on the wire mesh cot (the only “bed” the bugs didn’t infest), he could use his apartment to eat and bath and work. 

And in fact you might be protected by the Warranty even if you are the only one in the building with bedbugs, as was a man who accidentally brought them from his prior apartment, though he only got a 12% discount despite the fact he kept a bite log like a diet journal recording the hundreds of bites he supposedly sustained, because the exterminator never saw a single live bedbug in his place, and was convinced he was suffering more from bedbug paranoia than bedbugs.

 The Warranty of Habitability won’t save you from bedbugs if you live in a condo because it only applies to renters, which co-op, but not condo, owners are in the eyes of the law, though there are other avenues open to you.

bed-bug With bedbug litigation exploding more than the bedbug population, new theories are emerging. One woman went ahead and hired her own exterminator, then took the offensive and sued the board of her co-op for negligence, which is what hotel guests do when they find they’re sleeping with the enemy – and won. So if you find yourself the subject of a bedbug invasion, don’t think of it as a personal attack, but as a chance to help keep us all safe

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One Response to “Y-E-E-E-C-H!”

  1. rosie says:

    Thank goodness that I am a dog and only have to worry about fleas.

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