Can a tenants association sue a management company for failure to exterminate in a timely manner?

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Can a tenants association sue a management company for failure to exterminate in a timely manner?

I am the president of a tenants association. Over a year ago, we (the association) found out that a tenant got bed bus in her unit. She told the property manager. Her unit was exterminated. This action did not alleviate her problem. She notified the management office again but nothing else was done. She eventually moved out, but before she did, the property manager asked that she not reveal the actual reason for the move. Afterwards, her next door neighbor got bed bugs. Now, more than 15 units are infested. Tenants have been forced to throw out most of belongings as a result. Can we sue?

Asked on May 8, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

All rental units come with an "implied warranty of habitability," which is an obligation on the landlord (or his, her, or its agent) to keep the units in safely habitable condition. This warranty is held to include taking care of pest, vermin, etc. infestations, including bed bugs. If the property manager knew of the problem and did not take reasonable steps (the issue is not success; the issue is whether appropriate efforts were made), then the property manager and/or the building owner may be liable for costs  (such as to exterminate and clean), medical costs (if anyone needed treatment), and possibly for an abatement of rent during the condition; also they can be forced to take care of the situation. It would be worth consulting with a landlord-tenant attorney; good luck.


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