Q. My tenant has lived in my rental for 6 months. Recently, the tenant complained about bedbugs. What should I do? If there’s a costly, extensive extermination, who pays for it?
A. Colorado’s Implied Warranty of Habitability Act says that as a landlord, you promise that your unit is fit to be lived in. Habitability is defined, in part, as providing a dwelling that is generally pest-free and rodent-free.
Further, the Warranty of Habitability Act says that if a tenant reports a “breach” or violation of the habitability standard, you are responsible for remedying it. So if your tenant reports signs of bedbugs, you need to call an extermination service, regardless of whose fault it is.
At the same time, the Warranty of Habitability Act requires that tenants maintain a property in a reasonably clean and sanitary condition. So, if you can prove that the tenant in some way caused the bedbugs to enter the property, you may be able to ask your tenant to help pay for the extermination.
In addition, your tenant may need to help by removing clutter from rooms, providing access for insecticides, laundering garments at high temperature and throwing away infested items that can’t be cleaned.
Q. I’m a tenant, and I suspect bedbugs – what should I do?
A. As a tenant, under the Warranty of Habitability Act, you are required to promptly inform your landlord of any breaches of habitability. So, if you suspect bedbugs, inform your landlord of the breach immediately and in writing.
Q. I own a multi-unit building. We found – and eliminated – bedbugs in one unit. Am I required to inform tenants in the other units of the problem?
A. You are not legally required to notify adjacent tenants of a bedbug infestation, or extermination. However, practically speaking, because bedbugs can migrate from unit to unit, it would be a good idea to inspect all adjacent units and ask tenants to notify you immediately if they see signs of an infestation.
Q. I don’t have bedbugs, but I’m worried about them. How can I prevent them?
A. Short of inspecting every piece of furniture that comes into your property, it’s difficult to totally prevent bedbugs. Still, you can take some prophylactic steps.
First, talk to your tenants about bedbugs and how to prevent their arrival in the home. Bedbugs often show up in used furniture and bedding. So you can caution the tenants – or prohibit them – from acquiring used furniture, especially beds and couches, and especially items left out on the street.
You can also warn them about how bedbugs hitchhike in luggage from travel and provide literature about how to look for bedbugs when they travel.
Finally, ask tenants to sign a lease addendum that limits your legal liability for damages that may occur as a result of bedbugs and their extermination. The addendum may also reiterate your tenants’ responsibility to inform you of any infestations and provide access to the property for pest control.