Q&A: Remediating for Bed Bugs

Who is legally responsible for 1) coordinating, treating and 2) paying for treating bedbugs in a condominium unit? If one of the condo units is rented out to a tenant by the unit owner, does that change things? Once it spreads, does that change things? If the unit owner is responsible for paying, can the association coordinate and require professional treatment? Or only if the owner fails to act within a certain time?

—Bugged Out in Orange

“There is no law that specifically addresses the issue of bed bugs and condominiums,” says attorneys Gemma Giantomasi and John Suwatson, associates with the law firm of Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster in Newark. “A condominium association’s operations are guided by the contents of the condominium’s master deed, bylaws, and any rules and regulations that may have been implemented. Therefore, the answers to your questions may be addressed in such documentation.

“If your condominium’s master deed, bylaws, and any rules and regulations do not address the issue of bedbugs, please note that we have found modern practice is for condominium associations to take responsibility for extermination of infestations of bedbugs for the following reasons: 1) If unit owners are responsible for extermination, they will likely shop around and each may use a different extermination service, which may result in different outcomes. 2) Inappropriate extermination techniques, such as using a “bomb,” can spread infestation to other units or the common areas in the condominium. 3) A condominium’s board of trustees may wish to arrange for extermination services to maintain a building’s reputation. Prospective purchasers may be discouraged from purchasing in a building where bedbug infestations are permitted to spread among units because centralized board oversight is absent. 4) Boards may wish to assume the cost of extermination to avoid the potentially greater cost of litigations with impacted owners.

“Please note that in the event that one of the condominium units is rented out by its owner to a tenant, a landlord/tenant relationship would be created. In New Jersey, residential leases carry an implied warranty of habitability imposing a duty upon a landlord to maintain the rental unit and maintain its fitness for residential purposes. Included in the implied warranty of habitability is the duty to keep the premises free from insects. This duty may lead to liability on the part of the unit owner turned landlord because as a landlord, the unit owner is subject to the warranty of habitability due to the landlord/tenant relationship depending on the circumstances surrounding the bedbug infestation (i.e. liability may be warranted where there is evidence of a bedbug infestation throughout the building caused by the landlord’s actions or lack thereof, but not where there is no connection between the infestation and the landlord’s actions). See Mitchell v. Capitol Mgmt. Corp., 2010 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1322.

“New Jersey has attempted, unsuccessfully, to pass a law regarding the remediation of bedbugs. Please note, however, that under this proposed bill common interest communities including condominiums were expressly excluded.”

Related Articles

Q&A: What to Do About the Noise?

What to Do About the Noise?

The Neighbor Downstairs

Commercial Tenants in Residential Buildings

Homesharing and Insurance

What Your Board Should Know