You moved into an apartment and discovered that the apartment is infested with bedbugs. What can you do? You need to get rid of the bedbugs as soon as possible, but you don’t want to pay for bedbug extermination and removal. Alternatively, you need to get out of that apartment as soon as possible, but you have a lease agreement that obligates you to pay rent.
- What can I do to fix the problem?
Under the Utah Fit Premises Act, a landlord must fix a deficient condition in an apartment after the landlord is given notice, within a the established “corrective period.” See Utah Code Ann. § 57-22-6. If the landlord does not fix the deficient condition within the corrective period, the tenant has two options:
- Rent abatement: If the tenant elects rent abatement, then the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord must repay rent for every day after the notice of deficient condition was served, and the tenant must abandon the property within 10 days.
- Repair and deduct: If the tenant elects to repair and deduct, he is entitled to pay to have the deficient condition fixed (i.e. pay cleaners and exterminators to eliminate the bedbugs) and deduct the cost from his rent for up to two months. The tenant must maintain all receipts and give them to the landlord within five calendars days after the next rental period (usually the fifth day of the next month).
The first step to fixing the problem is to send notice of deficient condition to your landlord.
The notice must contain the following four things:
- A description of the problem—i.e. “The apartment is infested with bedbugs.”
- A statement that the landlord has “three calendar days to correct the deficient condition.”
- The choice of renter remedy that the tenant “has chosen if the owner does not, within the corrective period, take substantial action toward correcting each deficient condition”—the tenant must choose either “rent abatement” or “repair and deduct.”
- Permission to enter the residential unit and take corrective action.
The notice should be sent by registered or certified mail to the landlord. You should make a copy of the notice and keep the mailing receipt as proof that the notice was sent.
- After I fix the immediate problem, who is going to pay for this mess?
After you have fixed the immediate problem, you may be stuck asking, who is going to pay for all this mess?
After having bedbugs, you should clean all clothing and linens that may have been exposed to the contamination. You may have to throw out some of your things that cannot be cleaned, such as sofas and other furniture. This can be expensive and you may want compensation for it. Additionally, you may have medical bills that need to be paid as a result of bedbug bites.
A landlord that rents an apartment with bedbugs has likely breached the implied covenant of habitability that inheres to every lease agreement. They may also be liable for negligence because they violated their duty to maintain clean and safe premises. Therefore, your landlord may be liable to you for damages that you incurred as a result of the bedbug infestation. You may be entitled to compensation from your landlord to pay for the costs of a bedbug infestation that they caused or otherwise allowed.
For assistance in vindicating your rights with your landlord, call Hepworth, Murray and Associates. We can help you go through the legal process to force your landlord pay to eliminate bedbugs or release you from your lease. We can also help you get compensation from your landlord for the bedbug infestation.