CanI sue my ex-landlord for the bed bug problem I’m having?

I have moved and we are starting to have a problem with bed bugs again. Can I sue the ex-landlord for the problem since it started at the house we rented from him and he knew of the problem when he rented it to me?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Technically, you *may* be able to sue--a landlord has a duty, called the implied warranty of habitability, to keep residential rentals clean and hygienic, which includes a duty to deal with pest infestations when he knows of them. If the landlord violates this duty, he may be liable to the tenant for damages or costs.

However:

1) First and foremost, you are in a new location: proving the bedbugs came from the old rental, not the new premises, or, indeed, from any place or anyone else, is likely to be almost impossible. If you can't prove the source of the bedbugs, there is no case.

2) Second, landlords are not expected to be perfect--they don't have to infallibly know when there are bedbugs, or treat them perfectly. You'd have to prove that the landlord knew of the bed bugs and did not take reasonable steps (e.g. bring in an exterminator) to deal with them--since if he took reasonable steps, he'd likely not be liable even if he was unsuccessful.

3) You can only sue for you actual out of pocket costs or losses--e.g. your costs to exterminate. You can't sue for your time spent dealing with the bedbugs or the frustration of dealing them. It's therefore unlikely you could sue for enough to make it worthwhile to do so.


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