PA 16-51—HB 5335

Housing Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF LANDLORDS AND TENANTS REGARDING THE TREATMENT OF BED BUG INFESTATIONS

SUMMARY: This act establishes a framework to identify and treat bed bug infestations in residential rental properties, including public housing but excluding detached, single-family homes. 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.

Under the act, if tenants report that they know or suspect that their units are infested with bed bugs (i. e. , Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug), landlords must retain a third-party inspector or inspect the units themselves. Landlords must hire and pay a pest control agent to treat bed bug infestations if they are unable to successfully treat an infestation themselves. Landlords who treat the infestation themselves must get a third-party inspector to confirm that the treatment was successful. The act makes tenants financially responsible for subsequent treatment costs for their unit and contiguous units if they knowingly and unreasonably fail to comply with treatment measures. It also prohibits landlords from renting units that they know or suspect are infested with bed bugs.

The act requires the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, in consultation with the Department of Public Health and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), within available appropriations, to develop and publish guidelines and best practices identifying the most effective and least burdensome ways to investigate and treat bed bug infestations.

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

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

DEFINITIONS

The act defines “certified applicator” as an individual who is certified by DEEP to apply pesticides. A “qualified inspector” is a certified applicator, local health department official, or bed bug detection team. “Bed bug detection team” means a scent detection canine team that holds a current, independent, third-party certification according to standards set by the National Pest Management Association. “Dwelling unit” is defined to exclude detached, single-family homes.

LANDLORD'S DUTIES

Under existing 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 act, landlords must:

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

2. pay for inspecting and treating bed bug infestations;

3. within five business days after receiving notice from a tenant that his or her unit may be infested, inspect or have inspected the unit and contiguous units;

4. if units are inspected by a qualified inspector and found to be free of an infestation, obtain from the inspector a written certification of such determination;

5. if inspecting the units themselves, provide tenants with a written notice within two days stating (a) whether the unit is infested, (b) that the tenant may contact the local health department if he or she is still concerned that the unit is infested, and (c) the local health department's contact information;

6. if the inspection reveals that the unit is infested, take reasonable measures to treat it and contiguous units within five business days after the inspection;

7. offer assistance to tenants who cannot physically comply with preparation for inspection or treatment procedures, for which the landlords may charge a reasonable amount;

8. offer reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities in compliance with state and federal disability laws;

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

10. disclose to prospective tenants whether the rental unit or a contiguous unit is currently infested; and

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

Under the act, a landlord's rights and duties, as they relate to contiguous units, apply only if the landlord owns, leases, or subleases the contiguous unit.

The act allows landlords to treat infestations themselves or hire a pest control agent, which it defines as a certified applicator or person otherwise specially licensed or qualified to treat bed bug infestations. A landlord who chooses to do the former must:

1. vacuum areas to be treated before treatment;

2. have a qualified inspector inspect the unit within five business days after the treatment;

3. obtain written certification from the inspector that the unit is no longer infested; and

4. if the inspector determines the treatment was not effective, hire a pest control agent within five business days after the inspection.

TENANT'S DUTIES

Under the act, tenants must:

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

2. not unreasonably deny access to their unit after receiving reasonable notice of intent to enter;

3. cover the costs associated with preparing the unit for inspection and treatment (e. g. , moving furniture or laundering clothing);

4. comply with reasonable measures, as determined by the landlord and qualified inspector or pest control agent, to eliminate and control the infestation, or pay additional costs arising from noncompliance; and

5. not remove infested material from their units until treatment is complete or the landlord gives them permission to do so.

INSPECTIONS AND TREATMENT

Landlords, qualified inspectors, and pest control agents must enter units in accordance with the law on entry into rental units. Thus, landlords must (1) provide reasonable notice of their intent to enter and (2) have the tenant's consent to enter, unless there is an emergency, court order, extended absence, or abandonment.

Under the act, landlords and qualified inspectors conducting bed bug inspections may visually or manually inspect a tenant's bedding and upholstered furniture. They may also inspect other items, including personal belongings, when they deem it necessary and reasonable, including when they find bed bugs in the unit or in a contiguous unit.

Preparing Unit for Inspection and Treatment

The act requires landlords to assist tenants who are physically unable to comply with their duty to prepare their unit. They may charge tenants a reasonable amount for the assistance, which they must disclose, and set a repayment schedule of up to six months, unless both parties agree to an extension. If a tenant fails to make a required payment, the landlord can deduct the amount owed from the tenant's security deposit at the end of the tenancy but cannot initiate summary process (eviction) proceedings against the tenant on that basis. Under the act, the landlord must treat the infested unit, even if the tenant does not agree to the charges or repayment schedule.

Tenants who unreasonably fail to comply with inspection and treatment procedures must pay for additional treatments of their unit and contiguous units.

Duties Regarding Tenant Relocation

Under the act, landlords are not responsible for (1) providing tenants with alternative accommodations during treatment or (2) replacing tenants' personal property. However, under the state's Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, landlords may be liable for costs related to relocating tenants displaced by code enforcement activity, such as code enforcement related to a bed bug infestation (CGS 8-266 et seq. ).

REMEDIES

In addition to the act's remedies below, aggrieved landlords and tenants may pursue other remedies available in law or equity. The act does not restrict the authority of state or local housing or health code enforcement agencies. It states that tenants may contact any agency at any time about an infestation.

Tenant's Remedies

If a landlord fails to comply with the act, tenants may follow existing procedures for (1) asking the court for relief, including rent abatement or an order to comply or (2) terminating the rental agreement after giving the landlord notice of the breach and 15 days to comply (CGS 47a-12 and 47a-14h). Noncompliant landlords are additionally liable for a $250 fine or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney's fees.

Landlord's Remedies

If tenants unreasonably refuse to give a landlord, qualified inspector, or pest control agent access to their unit, a landlord may ask the court to provide relief under an existing law that authorizes courts to (1) compel access or terminate the rental agreement and (2) hold tenants responsible for actual damages, including attorney's fees (CGS 47a-18).

The act additionally specifies that a landlord may, if a tenant refuses to grant access or fails to comply with inspection or treatment procedures or control measures, ask the court to:

1. grant the landlord (a) access to the unit to carry out bed bug inspection or treatment measures and (b) the right to carry out such inspection and treatment and

2. require the tenant to comply with inspection or control measures or charge him or her for the costs of noncompliance.

Under the act, the fee for initiating such an action is the same as for a small claims case (currently $95).

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.

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