Bed Bugs, Bites, and Landlords’ Rights
March 9th, 2017 | By: William J. Trudgeon, Esq.
Detroit continues to be in the top 10 in the nation for bed bug infestations. That’s why lawmakers in Michigan have been itching for years for ways to address the bed bug epidemic as it relates to landlords and tenants. The main issue is who has the burden to pay the costs for removal. Since in some instances multiple treatments are needed to eradicate these pests, costs can escalate quickly. Therefore, it is so important for you as a landlord to know your rights and be prepared to enforce them.
Currently, Michigan law requires that landlords provide housing that is free from vermin but there is no law that specifically addresses bed bugs. There is though the most recent bill, 2015 HB 4520 in the Michigan legislature that is being re-introduced this year.
In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself and your tenants? The first thing is to make sure your lease has specific language related to bedbugs enumerating the rights and duties of both landlords and tenants. Many of our clients at Paletz Law have had us draft separate lease addendums which cover allowing access to the unit for bed bug treatments as well as how to best dispose of infested clothing and furniture. Our clients take their responsibilities to remove these pests very seriously as, after all, it is in their best interest to do so. They should however, not be held accountable for the costs if a tenant is not being cooperative in this time-sensitive process nor be held liable for their personal property.
Once a landlord has been made aware of a potential bed bug problem they should immediately do an inspection and consult with a Pest Management Professional (PMP). As you can imagine, a bed bug infestation in a multi-family housing complex requires immediate attention and can be challenging to handle. Bed bugs can spread from one unit to another by attaching themselves to visitors who come and go to other units in the complex.
The issue when it comes to exterminating these pests inevitably turns into a blame game. Tenants point the finger at the landlord to deal with the problem when most likely the tenant and their guests may have been responsible for bringing these unwelcome visitors into the complex originally. Of course, landlords have duties under Michigan Law to keep the premises fit for their intended purpose but it then becomes an issue of how much liability and cost they should have to reasonably shoulder.
There are resources to help property owners to deal with this issue. The Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs has laid out potential solutions to this problem. For example, once bed bugs are identified, the landlord and tenant should meet to discuss a resolution and a treatment agreement may be signed that indicates the costs and duties that each party is responsible for. Also, the Property Management Association of Michigan (PMAM) is actively engaged in this issue by offering training on policies and treatment procedures. 
The Bottom line: Bed bugs bite, but you can sleep tight with the proper protections in a lease and Paletz Law is here to help.
FoxNews.com, Cities with the most bed bugs: Does your hometown rank?, January 4, 2017
The information contained in this article is only meant to be a basic overview and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without the advice of an attorney. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or otherwise be disseminated without the prior written consent of Paletz Law.