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Situation: I'm currently paying someone monthly rent to live in one of the rooms of their house. There is no signed contract or any records of this exchange.

Recently, the room I am in appears to have become infested with bed bugs.

I've taken reasonable steps to moderate and control this, but it is getting out of hand.

I am considering simply moving out. I respect and like the homeowner, but I can't seem to eradicate the pest on my own.

Do I have any legal obligation to pay for a professional pest control service? Morally, I'd like to, but I simply can't afford it.

EDIT: This is for the state of Texas, although I'm interested in how any jurisdiction handles this.

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If you introduced the bedbugs, liability could flow to you by way of the landlord keeping your security deposit (if there is one) and explaining when sending you notice that a portion/all of your deposit was withheld due to you causing the infestation for the purposes of remediation. The inverse is also true, in that if you do not have a deposit, you could be sued in housing/small claims court for the infestation if you were negligent in some way (grabbed the mattress curbside and didn't put a bedbug proof sealed cover on the mattress. Since you said you rent a room, my curiosity is piqued as to whether it came with the bed (mattress). If the bed came with the room, it is almost certainly not your fault. Even when there are statutes/codes/regs delineating a lessor's/lessee's obligations and rights re pest control (from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) they rarely exclude the right to general civil remedies.

I used to represent my municipality and remember reading that bed bugs are difficult to treat unless the bed is disposed of and all bedding is washed in hot water with a disinfectant and even that can not ensure their removal because if you brought them in because of access to them on a regular basis (e.g., if you are a maid at a motel), then you may continue to introduce them.

If the room had no bedbugs and you brought the bed in and now it does, it may be easier to prove who created the unsafe/unsettling condition, as opposed to ants, roaches, spiders, which can be introduced in myriad ways.

  • This all makes sense. I did not bring the bed in; it was here when I got here. They may have been introduced by me, but I have taken steps to remedy, including mattress encasements, spot-treating cracks with pesticide, and 'bombing' the room with an aerosol. – anon Aug 15 '15 at 21:18
  • If the bed was there, you likely did NOT bring them in. They likely existed, but it took a bit for you to notice them. Once you noticed them, they had probably gotten reinvigorated with your blood (Yuck i know!), then reproduced exponentially, and that is when it became untenable. The first thing the landlord should have done is replaced the bed. You have no obligations and those steps you took were more than enough. You need not even give a full notice at this point. Just a written notice of vacating due to unresolved infestation. – gracey209 Aug 15 '15 at 23:53
  • I should have mentioned that when you give written notice that you are vacating, you need to either send it certified mail, or make two copies and ask the person to sign them when you give it to them (you each keep one), so you have proof of written notice. If they refuse then just send certified. Keep a copy for yourself regardless; the certified mail receipt is the proof they received it. If they refuse the certified mail, they lose their right to adequate notice. Do not use email alone; you can also email to be extra cautious, but only as a back up WITH one of the other options. – gracey209 Aug 16 '15 at 0:51
  • Thanks for the response, @gracey209. I think I've managed to control the issue, but I will most likely look for other lodging soon. Again, I respect and like the landlord, so this is more of a hypothetical of if they can't be controlled. Luckily, this is an 'at will' arrangement, with no contract or any expectations of notice(beyond a verbal "1 month, please"). – anon Aug 17 '15 at 11:44
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You didn't list a jurisdiction, and these things vary a good deal from locale to locale. For example, in the U.S., here's a state-by-state reference.

Note, in some states (like Florida), the answer depends on who introduced the pests. A landlord would be responsible unless the tenant brought the bugs in (say, in a mattress).

Edit:

Texas

The TAA's addendum would provides structure for people on TAA leases. However, that doesn't apply to everyone (and doesn't sound like your situation). That said, Texas Property Code §92.052 discusses like conditions:

(a) A landlord shall make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition if:

(1) the tenant specifies the condition in a notice to the person to whom or to the place where rent is normally paid;

(2) the tenant is not delinquent in the payment of rent at the time notice is given; and

(3) the condition:

(A) materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant; or

(B) arises from the landlord's failure to provide and maintain in good operating condition a device to supply hot water of a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

(b) Unless the condition was caused by normal wear and tear, the landlord does not have a duty during the lease term or a renewal or extension to repair or remedy a condition caused by:

(1) the tenant;

(2) a lawful occupant in the tenant's dwelling;

(3) a member of the tenant's family; or

(4) a guest or invitee of the tenant.

(c) This subchapter does not require the landlord:

(1) to furnish utilities from a utility company if as a practical matter the utility lines of the company are not reasonably available; or

(2) to furnish security guards.

(d) The tenant's notice under Subsection (a) must be in writing only if the tenant's lease is in writing and requires written notice.

See also TX Property Code §92.056.

  • Interesting resource. It appears they have no specifics for Texas other than bed bugs being a 'public health concern'. – anon Aug 14 '15 at 19:41

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