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Finding a bed bug or roach infestation in your home can be a traumatizing and trying experience. Treating them can be costly at best and debilitating at worst. If you or a loved one live in a place of residence that’s become uninhabitable due to an infestation, you deserve compensation for your time and turmoil.
How do I know if I have bed bugs or roaches?
Perhaps you’ve noticed small stains on your sheets or pillowcase; perhaps you’ve awoken with mysterious welts on your arms; or, most alarmingly, you’ve spotted the small brown bugs skittering out of the woodwork or your sheets.
Bedbugs are not the result of unclean living conditions and are not a reflection of your lifestyle. They may enter your home undetected through clothing, furniture, luggage, or more. If you’re a frequent traveler or share a wall with others, you’re at risk. And unfortunately, due to their small size and flat bodies that can slip through tiny crevices, if your neighbor has them, an infestation in your own residence is most likely a matter of time.
Roaches are less subtle – you’re bound to notice quickly if you have an infestation. If you don’t spot any adults crawling out from enclosed spaces or under furniture when you turn your lights on, you may notice cylindrical fecal matter or eggs laid in crevices or near food sources. They can leave stains and also produce a musty, oily scent. They prefer dark, warm locations with access to food and water, and are famously resilient and difficult to get rid of.
Injuries caused by roaches
In addition to the mental and emotional distress finding a cockroach nest can cause, roaches feed on human food and feces, causing cross-contamination as they move. They leave a trail of their own droppings and partially-digested food, spreading filth and harmful bacteria that can cause many medical complications. Their fecal matter can cause respiratory issues such as asthma and severe allergic reactions. Horrifyingly, cockroaches can also crawl into human ears, where they are likely to get stuck and require medical attention to remove. The roach’s excretions are loaded with bacteria, fungi, and other unpleasant and harmful germs that can cause ear infections, ruptured eardrums, and fever. The World Health Organization lists cockroaches as carriers of E.coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus and other germs that cause dysentery, typhoid fever, and cholera. They can also spread parasites and pathogens like that can cause nerve damage, paralysis, and even death in extreme cases.
Injuries caused by bed bugs
If you discover bed bugs in your home, much of the injury is mental and emotional. The stress and upset caused by an infestation can cause emotional trauma with effects that linger for years. Over time, a chronic infestation and subsequent bites can lead to anemia and blood loss, especially in children and infants. Bed bug fecal matter and corpses can cause allergic responses that trigger respiratory issues and asthmatic attacks. When bitten, allergies to bed bugs’ saliva can cause mild to extreme reactions such as welts, itchiness, swelling, hives, blisters, and fever.
What do I do if I have bed bugs or roaches?
As a tenant, you’re guaranteed certain rights to live in a space that’s free of hazards and pests. Under the Implied Warranty of Habitability in the State of California, your landlord has a responsibility to comply with building and housing codes to ensure your living conditions don’t diminish your health and safety. Landlords don’t have to make things perfect, but they do have to make it so that the property is reasonably clean, safe, and well-kept.
The California Civil Code (in Section 1941.1) stipulates that, among other things, a rental must be kept “clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.”
Legally speaking, bed bugs fall into the “vermin” category. Landlords are forbidden from renting out a unit that they know has bed bugs – or that they reasonably should know has bed bugs.
The warranty of habitability is very strong in our state. In some cases, you may have the right to withhold rent from landlords that do not maintain their side of the warranty of habitability, a right not guaranteed to residents of many other states. Furthermore, the landlord cannot retaliate against you for reporting a bed bug infestation.
Not only that, but the warranty of habitability cannot be taken away by a landlord, even if you signed a contract agreeing to waive it. Do not be fooled by clauses in your lease that say you do not have the right to sue for bed bugs!
Upon discovering a breach of the Warranty of Habitability in the form of a bed bug or roach infestation, you should immediately notify your landlord. When you report the infestation to your landlord, do so in writing, preferably electronically, so you can maintain a record of notifying them. Your landlord must comply with the civil code ensuring habitability within a reasonable amount of time. In California, the “reasonable” time frame isn’t clearly defined, but correlates with the degree of emergency – for example, a major issue like flooding would require a very quick resolution, while a more minor issue like a squeaky door hinge might be able to wait a few days.
If a landlord has violated the Implied Warranty of Habitability, California tenants should report them to their municipality’s Public Health division and Department of Housing. After filing a complaint, an official inspector will investigate the property to confirm reported violations and compile a report, serve the landlord with a violation notice, and order them to fix the issue or face fines. If your landlord repeated fails to remedy the infestation and breaches the warranty of habitability, that causes you injuries, you will have the right to sue to recover those damages.
To demonstrate that the bed bug infestation was your landlord’s fault and not yours, and to bolster your case and recover all the different types of damages that you deserve, you will need to provide evidence.
Much of this involves meticulous record keeping. You should keep records of:
Remember, the more evidence you have regarding the repeated nature of the infestation and lack of adequate remediation, the better! Keep records of any proof of the uninhabitable condition, including photographs of the premises, stains on the wall or mattress, feces, eggs, the pests themselves if possible, and any injuries sustained. Visit a healthcare professional to be checked for bites and confirmation that any new health conditions can be linked to the presence of pests. Keep these medical records for further evidence. The more documentation you have, the stronger your case will be. These are the backbone of a personal injury case. The more It may be best to keep a specific journal or file folder for all your bed bug-related papers and records.
And one final tip: don’t get too down. Bed bugs are often uniquely overwhelming in the degree of stress they can cause to you and those you live with. But they are a conquerable foe, and you can get your money back, even if you need legal help to do so.
If you have a bed bug problem in your rental, don’t delay, contact the Law Offices of Jennie Levin, P.C. right away. We will do all that we can to help you. Also, if you found this article interesting and you believe that your friends would be interested in learning more about this, then share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Finally, feel free to leave us a comment, and let us know what questions you would like us to answer next!
Call the Law Offices of Jennie Levin, P.C. at (323) 951-1188
Millions of Dollars In Recoveries for Clients
U.C. Berkeley School Of Law Graduate
Formerly Represented Large Corporations
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