Q: I have tenants who have not paid rent and are claiming they have bed bugs. Can I give them a three-day notice to pay rent or quit before I inspect the unit?
A: No, you should not give a three-day notice to pay rent or quit until the bed bug inspection is completed and any infestation treated. You must contact a pest control company as soon as possible to inspect the unit for bed bugs. If bed bugs are present in the unit, then you must begin treatment immediately. You should not begin an eviction until treated. If there is no sign of bed bugs, then you may serve a three-day notice to pay rent or quit and begin an eviction. You should request bed bug clearance stating that there was no sign of bed bugs from your pest control company to rebut habitability.
Q: I am a landlord and have never had problems with bed bugs in my units. Do I need to include anything about bed bugs in my leases?
A: Yes, prior to creating a new tenancy for a dwelling unit, you are required to provide the notice contained in California Civil Code § 1954.603 to all your current and new tenants. The notice provides useful information to both landlord and tenant regarding the physical appearance of bed bugs and possible signs of infestation. You must also include your procedure for tenants to report suspected infestations. Bed bugs are very small and try to stay hidden making them very difficult to detect with the naked eye. Thus, tenants and landlord should be familiar with signs of a bed bug infestation.
Q: I own an apartment complex where one of the tenants has requested a bed bug inspection for her unit. Do I have to inspect the surrounding units?
A: No, you are only required to have pest control inspect the unit of the tenant that requested the inspection. After pest control notifies you of their findings, you have two business days to pass along the information to the tenant of the inspected unit. If bed bugs are present, then you must have pest control treat the unit and perform follow up treatments until all bed bugs are removed. If bed bugs are present then you should also have all surrounding units inspected as well.
Q: I am the landlord of an apartment building that has a lot of common areas. Do I need to have pest control check for bed bugs in the common areas?
A: If you have notice of a suspected or actual bed bug infestation, then you will need to have the common areas inspected by pest control. If bed bugs are present, then you must notify all tenants of the infestation within two days of receipt of pest control’s findings. You should begin treatments of the common areas as soon as possible to avoid infestation of the rental units. Additionally, you must notify all tenants of any chemicals that will be used in the treatment process and should follow the remediation instructions of the pest control company.
Q: My tenants just moved out of my rental unit. It looks like they may have had bed bugs. Can I show the property to prospective tenants while the treatments are being made?
A: No. If you are aware that a vacant unit has bed bugs, then you cannot show, rent or lease the unit until the bed bugs are gone. You should have the pest control company issue bed bug clearance that proves the bed bugs were eliminated before showing, renting or leasing the unit. You are not required to have vacant units inspected for bed bugs. However, if an infestation is evident on visual inspection, then you are considered to have notice of the problem and must take measures to remediate it before showing, renting or leasing the unit
Q: I am a landlord and have confirmed with pest control that one of my rental units has bed bugs. The tenants are not allowing pest control to enter the unit for treatments. How do I gain access?
A: Before each treatment you must post a 24-hour notice to enter the rental unit. California law requires tenants to allow access to pest control for inspections and treatments. If the tenant continues to refuse access to the pest control company, you may serve a notice to perform covenant or quit to allow access. If the tenant still refuses to allow access after the service of this notice you may then serve the tenant a 3-day notice to quit and begin the eviction process based on the tenants’ refusal to provide access for inspection and treatments. Visit our website at www.landlordslegalcenter.com to download a 24 hour notice and further information regarding bed bugs.
Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center, has been doing evictions for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego. Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email [email protected].