Bed Bug Claims by a Florida Tenant: Can You Sue the Landlord When Bed Bugs Are Found in an Apartment, Leased Home, Condo or Vacation Rental?
Posted By Larry Tolchinsky on December 8, 2016
In Florida, the obligation of a landlord to a tenant with regard to providing a clean and safe living condition when leasing and renting of residential real estate, is governed by Florida statute and Florida court opinions – this includes renting in a large apartment complex, single family home, vacation rental or condo.
Be aware, bed bugs bites can resemble spider bites and mosquito bites. That’s why we recommend that you see a Doctor to determine the exact type of bite you have. Often times, people learn that those innocent looking bites are in fact caused by bed bugs.
Bed Bugs and Landlord-Tenant Disputes
Most bed bug related landlord tenant disputes stem from the landlord’s lack of knowing how to deal with an infestation in an apartment and from not having a coherent bed bug policy as to proper cleaning, extermination and the hiring of certified experts to address an infestation. (Bombing bed bugs, if done incorrectly, can simply lead to the bed bugs spreading to other areas of the home or apartment units in the complex.)
Bed bugs have been found in high end apartment complexes and vacation resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.
According to Florida statute 83.51, unless agreed in writing, the landlord of an apartment complex is required to exterminate for bedbugs. Furthermore, Florida statute 83.56 states if a landlord materially fails to comply with 83.51 “… within 7 days after delivery of written notice by the tenant specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant to terminate the rental agreement by reason thereof, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.”
However, be aware, going down this road can lead to an issue with the landlord not returning your security deposit.
Bed Bug Claims – What About Insurance?
Unfortunately, most renters insurance don’t cover claims related to maintenance issues. That’s because the costs associated with eliminating bed bugs is considered part of standard home maintenance.
Thus, Florida landlords and property managers need to properly maintain their premises, including having a maintenance program that looks for and properly treats any bed bug infestation.
Can Bed Bugs Cause a Personal Injury Claim?
Due to the invasive nature of bed bugs (they can lay several eggs per day), an infestation can lead to personal injury claims against a property owner and/or other interested parties (i.e. leasing and rental agents and property management companies).
If a tenant, shows signs of a bite, from a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction, then the landlord, property manager, or leasing agency, may be held liable for those injuries. In Florida, landlords have a duty to provide habitable living conditions (some duties can be contracted away – check your lease).
Further, a claim for damages in a bed bug lawsuit can be significant, particularly if the apartment tenant has engaged the help of a mental health professional for severe emotional distress. Those damages are in addition to claims for pain and suffering, lost wages, reimbursement of medical expenses, relocation expenses, property damage and more. To this end, be sure to take pictures or video of your bites and try to collect evidence of the infestation, including capturing a bed bug, if possible.
If you are dealing with a bed bug issue in your apartment, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights, including what information you will need to make a claim and the amount of damages you may be able to recover. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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