Who Is Responsible for Bed Bugs in a Rental House?

A person cleaning a mattress with disinfectant spray and cloth.

Affordable housing plays a crucial role in ensuring that individuals and families have access to safe and comfortable living spaces. However, like any other rental property, affordable housing units can also face issues like bed bugs.

When bed bugs infest a rental property, it raises questions about responsibility and compliance with fair housing laws in the United States. 

The clear answer to “Is it the tenant’s or landlord’s responsibility to get rid of Bed Bugs?” is – It depends.

If the bed bugs were present before the tenant moved in, then it’s typically the landlord’s responsibility to address the issue as pest infestation is one of the most common Rental Health Code Violations. 

However, if the landlord proves the tenant brought the bed bugs with them, then they may need to take the necessary steps to communicate this issue as early as possible and get the problem eliminated themselves.

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In this blog, we will explore who is responsible for bed bugs in a rental house from the perspective of US fair housing compliance, with a focus on the affordable housing sector.

Understanding Bed Bugs

Before delving into the responsibilities, it’s essential to understand what bed bugs are. They have a feeding habit of consuming the blood of both humans and animals. Known for their resilience, they can easily infest different areas of a house, such as mattresses, furniture, and walls. Bed bugs can cause discomfort, itching, and allergic reactions, making their presence a significant concern for tenants and landlords alike.

Landlord’s Responsibility Before Infestation

In the context of US fair housing compliance, landlords have certain responsibilities when it comes to bed bugs in rental properties, including affordable housing units. While specific regulations may vary from state to state, there are general principles that landlords should adhere to:

Ensuring a Unit Free from Bed Bugs 

Landlords are typically responsible for ensuring that the rental unit is free of bed bugs at the time of move-in. This means that before a new tenant takes possession, the landlord should inspect and, if necessary, treat the unit for bed bugs.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

Landlords should conduct regular inspections and maintenance of the rental property. If a bed bug infestation occurs during the tenancy, the landlord should promptly address the issue by hiring a professional pest control service.

Educating Tenants

Landlords should also educate tenants about preventing bed bugs. This can include providing information on how to recognize signs of infestation, proper storage of personal belongings, and reporting any issues promptly.

Landlord’s Responsibility After Infestation

Arranging an Exterminator’s Visit

The tenant should promptly notify the landlord as soon as any indications or signs of a bed bug infestation are discovered.

In such cases, your landlord has a legal obligation to hire a licensed pest control professional who will first conduct a thorough inspection of the affected areas and then proceed with an appropriate treatment plan. 

As a tenant, It is important to know about a landlord’s responsibility for entering a tenant’s house for repairs or maintenance work.

The tenant has the right to receive proper notice of entry from your landlord before an exterminator visits to inspect your unit. 

Typically, a pest management professional will examine the main bed bug site (mostly mattresses), as well as other common bed bug hiding places. 

The professional will effectively map the infestation, which will also help in recognizing where the problem started and who is at fault for bed bug infestation.

Keeping other Tenants Informed to Prevent the Spread

The landlord must inform all tenants about the presence of bed bugs in the building. 

By doing so, the issue can be addressed without delay, and everyone can take appropriate measures to prevent a re-infestation. 

The landlord should also provide instructions to the tenants on how to prevent the spread of bed bugs. 

Ensuring Complete Extermination

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the complete eradication of bed bugs from all affected areas before the tenants start moving in again.

This includes not only the infested unit but also the surrounding units and common areas, to prevent the infestation from recurring. 

What to do if my landlord refuses to address the issue?

Suing the Landlord

If your landlord refuses to cooperate with you regarding bed bug treatment, you may take legal action. 

However, the feasibility of pursuing such action is subject to the state laws or lease agreement in place.

Reporting the landlord to the Local Housing Agency

If your landlord does not comply with your requests or solve any issues you may be facing, you have the option of filing a report with your local housing agency. 

They will conduct an investigation of your case and will determine who is responsible for the infestation of bugs.

In case the council concludes that the landlord is responsible for the presence of bed bugs, they may compel the landlord to bear the expenses of the bed bug treatment and compensate for your losses (damaged furniture or mattresses) caused by bed bugs.

Hiring a Professional Exterminator

Sometimes, you don’t have to wait for your landlord to take action. You can hire a bed bug exterminator yourself and have them treat the infestation.

Although this may sound costly, a bed bug infestation can cause serious damage to your health and property. 

Taking action quickly is the best way to protect yourself and your home from bed bugs.

Find another place to rent

Some landlords may be too stubborn to cooperate and take action. Your budget may also not allow you to hire an exterminator. In such cases, finding another place to rent may be best.

When moving out, inspect the unit for bed bugs and document any existing infestations. This will ensure that you are not liable for bed bug treatment costs.

You should also ensure your belongings are bed bug-free before moving them out of the unit. It is best to treat your belongings for bed bugs professionally to ensure they do not spread to your new unit.

Tenant’s Responsibility

Tenants also have a role to play in preventing and addressing bed bug infestations. US fair housing laws generally require tenants to:

Maintain Cleanliness

Tenants should keep their living spaces clean and clutter-free, as clutter provides hiding places for bed bugs. 

Report Infestations Promptly

If a tenant suspects or confirms a bed bug infestation, they should inform the landlord immediately. 

Prompt reporting is essential to prevent the infestation from spreading.

Cooperate with Treatment

In the event of an infestation, tenants must cooperate with the landlord’s efforts to eliminate the bed bugs. 

This may include preparing the unit for pest control treatment and following any instructions provided.

Fair Housing Compliance

In the affordable housing sector, it is essential to ensure that all actions related to bed bug management comply with fair housing laws. 

This means that landlords cannot discriminate against tenants based on their experiences with bed bugs or their requests for treatment. 

All tenants must be treated equally and receive the same level of assistance when dealing with infestations, which helps to build a strong and thriving housing community.


Bed bugs can be a nuisance in any rental property, including affordable housing units. 

So, landlords are generally responsible for providing a bed bug-free unit, conducting regular inspections, and addressing infestations promptly. 

Tenants, on the other hand, should maintain cleanliness, report infestations promptly, and cooperate with treatment efforts.

By working together and adhering to fair housing principles, the affordable housing sector can effectively manage bed bug issues while ensuring the well-being of all residents. 

You can access more such free resources on affordable housing and law compliance, with free fair housing webinars on our website by registering for a free account.

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