In recent years, many New York properties have been affected by bedbug infestation. When bedbugs invade a home, the inconvenience and expense caused to residents can be severe. To remedy the condition, it is typically necessary for residents to leave their homes temporarily and for the premises, as well as for all of the residents’ personal property to be fumigated. Where a multiple dwelling is involved, the bedbugs may spread requiring adjoining units, common areas, or even the entire building to be treated. For the landlord or property owner, the result is substantial expense and often reputational damage to the property, especially since landlords are now required to disclose the bedbug history of the property to prospective residents.
Sometimes the cause of an infestation cannot be ascertained or proved. At other times, however, a landlord is able to show that the infestation was caused by a particular resident and was the foreseeable result of conduct such as poor sanitation, hoarding, or bringing belongings from the street into the building. Property owners in buildings affected by infestation should explore any potential remedies they may have, including submitting a claim under any applicable insurance policies.
There has been recent press coverage of a case in which a landlord sued a tenant whose apartment was at the center of a “severe” bedbug infestation. According to the landlord’s complaint, the tenant’s apartment was one of five infested apartments in the 24-unit building and had the worst level of infestation. When the landlord sought to treat the problem, the tenant allegedly ignored the exterminator’s instructions. Among other things, the landlord asserted that the tenant refused to seal infested clothing and personal items in plastic bags and instead placed them, unsealed and untreated, in the hallway. The tenant also allegedly refused to dispose of infested property, did not allow the exterminator to use certain chemicals in the treatment, and left the unit of his infested door open. The tenant allegedly also refused to allow the exterminator to treat the tenant’s car, which was also infested; this may have led to still more bedbugs being brought into the building. The complaint seeks more than $300,000 in damages, legal fees, and an injunction against the tenant’s further interfering with the extermination of the bedbugs.
At the same time as the landlord filed its complaint, it sought emergency injunctive relief to compel the tenant to refrain from interfering with the extermination process. The result was a so-ordered stipulation in which the tenant agreed, among other things, to immediately cooperate with the process for exterminating the bedbugs, to take all necessary actions to keep the premises free from insects and pests, and to provide access to both his apartment and his car to the exterminator and comply with the exterminator’s directives.
The case is 2 Riverside Drive LLC, v. Behan, Index No. 150352/16, pending in the Supreme Court, New York County. We will monitor the case and report on any court rulings in a future Client Advisory.