$3.5 Million Awarded to Sufferers of Bed Bug Infestation
Park La Brea Apartments, a sprawling complex in Los Angeles that houses more than 4,000 units, was found liable by a jury in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the attorney who represented the plaintiffs, Brian Virag, the 16 renters who lived in eight separate units complained about the bedbugs from 2011 to 2013. According to Virag management of the complex had known about the bed bug problem since 2008.
“They failed to warn any of the tenants of the original problem,” said Virag. Nearly all of the tenants have since moved out, he said.
The jury deliberated for five days and while medical costs to treat the bedbug bites were only about $2,200, according to Virag, the jury awarded the large sum due to emotional distress.
The sixteen tenants will be awarded between $44,000 and about $580,000 each.
“It was mostly won over the sleeplessness, the anxiety and the humiliation they endured at work,” said Virag.
Bed bugs are flat, red-brown parasites, about the size of an apple-seed that feed on the blood of animals or human. When they feed their bodies swell and can appear reddish in color. They are nocturnal animals, which is why those red marks appear overnight. They live in small cracks in walls, furniture, and mattress seams and can move easily from one piece of furniture to another as well as clothes. They can be found in dorm rooms, apartment buildings, on cruise ships, or just about anywhere. Their ability to hide in these places make them difficult to find. But if you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, chances are you’ll start to see very evident signs of your new roommates.
Bed Bug Life
Over a lifetime, female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs. Each of these eggs is about the size of a speck of dust.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before they reach. maturity. Before each shedding, a bed bug requires a meal. The main, and only ingredient, for this meal, is blood. In favorable conditions, a bug can develop to maturity in as little as a month. It can produce three or more generations per year.
You should know that these little nuisances do not transmit diseases.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Signs of bed bug infestations include:
- Blood stains on sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets, mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
Bed bugs are a problem across the country in all 50 states in apartments and hotels. When tenants find themselves living in an infested apartment, they often find they are at the mercy of their landlords. They might be tiny bugs but they create big problems for everyone. Once you have identified that bed bugs are the problem you’re dealing with, you’ll need to take immediate steps to eliminate them. And if you live in Arizona, it’s actually illegal to not do something about them.
What to do with Bed Bugs
In all states except for Arkansas, under the implied warranty of habitability rule, landlords are required to provide tenants a safe and livable home. “Safe and livable” also includes exterminating infestations of rodents and other vermin – such as bed bugs – that could potentially endanger a tenant’s health or safety.
Arizona is just one of few states that have passed laws regarding bed bugs. The “Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” outlines “bed bug rules” that must be adhered to by both tenants and landlords. You’ll want to ensure you follow them exactly as you can be held legally liable for the costs of not following the correct procedures.
Arizona Revised Statutes§ 33-1319. Bedbug control; landlord and tenant obligations; definitions
A. A landlord has the following obligations with respect to a bedbug infestation:
1. The landlord shall provide bedbug educational materials to existing and new tenants. Educational materials may include:
(a) A description of measures that may be taken to prevent and control bedbugs.
(b) Information about bedbugs, including a description of their appearance.
(c) A description of behaviors that are risk factors for attracting bedbugs such as purchasing renovated mattresses, using discarded mattresses and furniture, using used or leased furniture, purchasing pre-owned clothing and traveling without proper precautions.
(d) Information provided by the United States centers for disease control and prevention and other federal, state or local health agencies.
(e) Information provided by federal, state or local housing agencies.
(f) Information provided by nonprofit housing organizations.
(g) Information developed by the landlord.
2. The landlord shall not enter into any lease agreement with a tenant for a dwelling unit that the landlord knows to have a current bedbug infestation.
B. A tenant has the following obligations with respect to a bedbug infestation:
1. The tenant shall not knowingly move materials into a dwelling unit that are infested with bedbugs.
2. A tenant who knows of the presence of bedbugs shall provide the landlord written or electronic notification of the presence of bedbugs.
C. This section does not limit any other rights, remedies and obligations under this chapter.
D. The landlord and tenant of a single family residence are excluded from the provisions of this section.
E. Except as specifically provided in this section, this section does not create a cause of action against:
1. A landlord or a landlord’s employees, officers, agents and directors by a tenant or a tenant’s guests for any damages caused by bedbugs.
2. A tenant by a landlord for any damages caused by bedbugs.
F. For the purposes of this section:
1.“Bedbugs” means any insect in the genus Cimex and its eggs.
2.“Infestation” or “infested” means that the presence of bedbugs is sufficient to materially affect the health and safety of tenants and their guests.”
Arizona Law Regarding Bed Bugs
You should not try to treat a bed-bug problem on your own. Over-the-counter treatments can actually make things worse, which can make things worse for you both legally and financially. An apartment manager must bring in a licensed professional to assess the problem and suggest treatment.
What to Do
1. Immediately contact the landlord. This must be in writing within three business days of when you initially suspect the bed bugs or see evidence of a bed bug infestation. Your landlord should be able to provide you with specific bed-bug protocol.
2. Do not buy or use any over-the-counter treatments.
3. See a doctor. While bed bugs do not spread disease, they can be a nuisance. You might want to visit a dermatologist to ensure that what is biting you is a bed bug, and not something else – like a flea.
4. Ask your landlord for how to treat your personal items such as clothing and bedsheets. The landlord should advise you in accordance with Arizona law. Typically this means washing any clothing or bedding in hot water.
5. The landlord must have a licensed pest-control professional inspection done within seven days of receiving the written notice. The licensed pest-control professional should also inspect any units near yours because bed bugs and bed bug infestations can move fast. The management company should work with you to treat your unit.
To Note About Arizona Bed Bug Law
Arizona’s bed-bug law applies only to apartments. That mean single-family homes are exempt.
Tenants Often Blamed
Tenants can discouraged to find that in Arizona the law holds the tenant responsible for proving they did not bring the bedbugs with them. Renters must comply with legally binding rental addendums that require the renter notify the landlord about bed bugs within seven days of moving in to a property. The law also requires that landlords have an opportunity to fix the problem. As a tenant, if you don’t follow the protocols given to you by your landlord, and the issue continues, your management company may be able to charge you for the full cost of treating your unit and other affected apartments. Following protocols means submitting to an inspection by a pet-control specialist. If a tenant decides to just move out and break the lease, they run the risk of having to forfeit rent payments or their security deposits. But if a renter decides to stay they have to turn over the apartment to pest-control specialists as well as submit themselves to a partial quarantine of the apartment.
What Type of Lawyer Handles Bed Bug Lawsuits?
While you are able to take your landlord to small claims court, these types of cases can be hard to prove. A landlord will often cite the “travelling” nature of bed bugs and blame the tenant, arguing that the origin of the bed bugs was not in the apartment building.
Because of how difficult it can be to pursue a claim against a landlord for bed bugs, it’s advised that you work with a personal injury attorney. These attorneys handle any number of types of cases, including: car accidents, construction accidents, and wrongful death and negligence suits.
Working with a Personal Injury Attorney
Bed bugs are a pesky nuisance that can cause a lot of problems beyond just being irritating. If left untreated they can cause damage to personal items, as well as create a larger problem for everyone living in their environment. These problems can increase in cost if left untreated. If you have realized that you have a bed bug problem in the apartment you are living in contact Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC to discuss your situation. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such a bed bugs.
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