OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 952

AN ACT CONCERNING THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF LANDLORDS AND TENANTS REGARDING BED BUG INFESTATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes a framework for identifying and treating bed bug infestations in residential rental properties. It sets separate duties and responsibilities for landlords and tenants, including notice, inspection, and treatment requirements. It also gives landlords and tenants remedies when either party fails to comply with these duties and responsibilities.

The bill requires landlords to hire and pay for a pest control agent to treat bed bug infestations. However, it makes tenants financially responsible for subsequent treatment costs of their unit if they knowingly and unreasonably fail to provide access to their unit or comply with treatment measures. It also prohibits landlords from renting units that they know or suspect are infested with bed bugs.

The bill requires the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, in consultation with the departments of Public Health and Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), within available appropriations, to develop and publish guidelines on effective and least burdensome methods of investigating and treating bed bug infestations.

The bill makes technical and conforming changes to the statute allowing tenants to enforce a landlord's duties (CGS 47a-14h).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2013

DEFINITIONS

The bill defines “certified applicator” as an individual who is certified by DEEP to apply pesticides. A “pest control agent” is a (1) certified applicator or (2) person otherwise specially licensed or qualified to treat bed bug infestations. “Bed bug detection team” means a scent detection canine team that holds a current, independent, third-party certification in accordance with the standards set by the National Pest Management Association. “Qualified inspector” is a (1) certified applicator, (2) local health department official, or (3) bed bug detection team. “Bed bug” refers to the species Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug.

LANDLORD'S DUTIES

By law, landlords must comply with building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety and keep units in fit and habitable condition (CGS 47a-7).

Under the bill, landlords must:

1. pay for the inspection and treatment of a bed bug infestation;

2. have the unit and adjacent units inspected by a qualified inspector within five business days of receiving notice from a tenant that his or her unit may be infested;

3. take reasonable measures to treat the infestation within five business days of the inspection, including treating adjacent units and hiring a pest control agent;

4. refrain from applying pesticides themselves, unless they are certified applicators;

5. provide reasonable written or oral notice to a tenant before entering a unit for bed bug inspection or control purposes;

6. offer assistance to tenants who cannot comply with treatment procedures, for which they may charge a reasonable amount;

7. offer reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities;

8. refrain from offering a unit for rent if they know or suspect it is infested;

9. disclose to prospective tenants whether the rental unit or adjacent units are currently infested or have been treated for bed bugs in the past 60 days; and

10. upon request from a current or prospective tenant, disclose the last date when the rental unit was inspected for bed bugs and found free of infestation.

TENANT'S DUTIES

Under the bill, tenants must:

1. promptly notify their landlord, orally or in writing, when they know or suspect their unit is infested with bed bugs;

2. grant the landlord, qualified inspector, or pest control agent access to the unit;

3. cover the costs associated with preparing the unit for inspection and treatment;

4. comply with reasonable measures to eliminate and control the infestation, or pay for additional costs arising from noncompliance; and

5. refrain from moving infested material from their unit until treatment is complete or the landlord gives them permission to do so.

INSPECTIONS

Landlords, qualified inspectors, and pest control agents must enter units in accordance with state law. That is, landlords must provide reasonable notice of their intent to enter, unless there is an emergency, court order, extended absence, or abandonment. By law, tenants must not unreasonably withhold their consent.

During an initial inspection, qualified inspectors may visually or manually inspect only a tenant's bedding and upholstered furniture. However, they may inspect other items when they deem it necessary and reasonable, including personal belongings if they find bed bugs in the unit or in an adjacent unit.

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The bill requires landlords to hire and pay for a pest control agent to treat bed bug infestations. Tenants are responsible for preparing the unit for treatment (e.g., moving or covering furniture). The bill does not modify state or federal duties regarding reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

The bill requires landlords to assist tenants who cannot comply with their duty to prepare their unit. If landlords disclose the cost of assistance, they may charge tenants a reasonable amount for the assistance and set a repayment schedule of up to six months, unless both parties agree to an extension. Under the bill, even if the tenant does not agree to the charges or repayment schedule, the landlord must treat the unit. Landlords may not institute summary process (eviction) proceedings against tenants solely because they fail to make an agreed upon payment, but they may deduct the amount owed from tenants' security deposits at the end of the tenancy.

Landlords are not responsible for (1) providing tenants with alternative accommodations during treatment or (2) replacing tenants' personal property. Tenants who unreasonably fail to comply with treatment procedures may be held financially responsible for the cost of additional treatments of their unit.

REMEDIES

In addition to the remedies identified in the bill, aggrieved landlords and tenants may pursue any other remedies available in law or equity. The bill does not restrict the authority of state or local housing or health code enforcement agencies.

Tenant's

The bill makes it a rebuttable presumption that landlords breached their duty to comply with building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety and keep units in fit and habitable condition when the statutory bed bug infestation procedure is not followed (CGS 47a-7(a)(1-2). The bill allows tenants to (1) ask a court to provide relief, including rent abatement or an order to comply, or (2) terminate the rental agreement (CGS 47a-12, 47a-14h).

A landlord who fails to comply with the bill is additionally liable for a $250 fine, or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney's fees.

The bill creates a rebuttable presumption that a tenant is being retaliated against if a landlord starts eviction proceedings within six months after a tenant asserted his or her rights under the bill, unless the tenant (1) before asserting his or her rights, was served with a notice to quit possession or occupancy; (2) caused substantial damage to the unit; or (3) is behind in rent payments. The bill does not alter landlords' statutory retaliation defenses (CGS 47a-20a).

Landlord's

If tenants unreasonably refuse to give a landlord, qualified inspector, or pest control agent access to their unit, or fail to comply with inspection or treatment procedures or control measures, a landlord may ask the court to provide relief. This includes:

1. granting the landlord access to the unit to carry out inspection or treatment measures;

2. requiring the tenant to comply with inspection or control measures or charging them for the costs of noncompliance, including attorney's fees; and

3. terminating the rental agreement.

Under the bill, the entry fee for initiating such an action is the same as that for a small claims case (i.e., $90).

Any order granting the landlord, qualified inspector, or pest control agent access to the premises must be served on the tenant at least 24 hours before entry.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Housing Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

10

Nay

0

(03/14/2013)