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New Laws Relating to Control of Bed Bugs

District Laboratory Director Angie Nakano and vector ecologist Tara Roth attended an educational seminar on bed bugs presented by Clark Pest Control on Feb 6.  Information was provided on proactive approaches to preventing the spread of bed bugs, prevailing trends in treatment options, and legal issues relating to bed bug infestations, especially in regards to landlord/tenant issues. 

Included in this training session were valuable updates on legislation concerning how to address bed bug infestations in rental properties.  In 2017, the California state assembly law AB 551 “Rental Property: bed bugs” went into effect. This law aims to clarify the duties of landlords and tenants for the treatment and control of bed bugs, and ensure a basic level of public awareness regarding bed bugs.  It requires that:

  • Landlords cannot show or rent a unit with a known bed bug infestation. Landlords are not required to inspect the unit or common area, if they have no suspicion or knowledge of bed bugs. However, if the landlord should have reasonably been aware of the infestation, the landlord is deemed to have been on notice.
  • Landlords must include specific language in lease agreements to inform tenants of:
    • How to identify bed bugs and the biology and behavior of bed bugs
    • The importance of cooperation in the prevention and treatment of infestations
    • The importance of reporting bed bug infestations to the landlord
    • procedures for reporting infestations of bed bugs
    • Website resources on bedbugs from the US Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs) and National Pest Management Association (http://www.npmapestworld.org).
  • Tenants are required to notify their landlords, in writing, about any suspected bed bug infestation.  They must also comply with inspections for bed bugs conducted by the landlord or Pest Control Operator (PCO)- (and are to be given advance notice of the inspection), and provide any helpful information to the inspector.
  • Within two days of receiving a bed bug inspection report by a PCO, the landlord is required to notify tenants of the findings.  If bed bugs are found in a common area, the landlord must notify all tenants.
  • Landlords are prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against a tenant who notifies a landlord about a possible bed bug issue.

Athough this law went into effect for new tenants in 2017, landlords have only been required to provide bed bug information to existing tenants beginning in 2018. To date, 22 states and 1 U.S. territory have enacted laws or regulations around bed bugs.  Some city governments, such as San Francisco and New York, have enacted even more stringent requirements around who must conduct bed bug control and, in some cases, who must pay for it.  Since bed bugs re-emerged as a major pest in the United States in the late 1990s, building owners, managers, and tenants have struggled with how to best deal with these once-common insects. Now, a couple of decades into the problem, the hope is that the combination of evolved pest management practices, increased awareness, and regulatory support can finally start to reverse the spread of these tiny invaders.  

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