Bedbug infestation is a serious problem.  It can cause sleepless nights, serious physical allergic reactions and psychological trauma and may even be a vector for disease. No one wants to visit or live in City that has a reputation for bedbug infestations. Recent studies have revealed that common assumption that bedbugs do not spread disease may not be accurate. When it comes to the landlord tenant relationship it is clear that we must put an end to the debate about who is responsible for bedbugs and focus on prompt and effective remediation.

The Implied Warranty of Habitability was created in 1988 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court back in the landmark case Pugh v. Holmes. That case supersedes any local housing code and clearly places responsibility for remedying “material health or safety defects” on the landlord once the landlord has been given written notice by the tenant. However, the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code is not entirely consistent with this in that it places responsibility on the occupant (tenant) in single family homes and in multi-unit buildings where only one unit is infested.  Waiting to find out whether more than one unit is affected can be a waste of precious time, particularly since an adjoining tenant may not see the bugs or have any physical symptoms associated with the bites. A resident in a single family home may be experiencing an infestation coming through the walls from an adjacent property. In either case, delays can result from fact that the tenant usually does not have exterminator contacts and may not financial resources to do the work.  Even if the tenant did the extermination to his or her unit, it may do no more than temporarily chase the bugs into an adjacent unit occupied by someone else.

Unless your lease states that the tenant is responsible for extermination, the landlord should get rid of the bed bugs. Of course, the tenant must cooperate with the extermination. However, the best practices of today do not require the trashing of furniture or mattresses.  Containing mattresses in a specially designed cover and preventing the bugs from getting on to your bed or couch is sometimes all that is necessary.  Bed bugs  feed on blood and if they cannot get to you while you sleep they will starve to death.

For more information about bed bugs check out the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management  website.