Sanity from the City of Chicago on Bedbugs

bbugWell, thankfully sanity has prevailed for now on the issue of bedbugs.  The Chicago Tribune is reporting that alderman on the City’s housing committee have declined, for now, to pass an ordinance that would declare bedbugs a nuisance and fine landlords up to $2000 a day for renting infested unit.  The alderman were smart to step back and reconsider the issue.

Now, everyone agrees that bedbugs are a major problem.  And no, I don’t think landlords should rent out units with bedbug infestations.  However, to place the responsibility solely on the landlord as proposed in the ordinance is pretty unfair.  Where have we seen that in Chicago landlording law before?

Chicago law actually already places a burden on landlords to eradicate these pests when present in two or more units in a building.  Most landlord and tenant advocates agree that it is difficult to pinpoint or prove the source of bedbugs and an infestation of bedbugs does not automatically mean that a tenant is “dirty”.  Bedbug problems require landlord and tenant cooperation to solve.  The bedbug issue is complicated.

I try to put provisions in my client’s leases requiring tenants to notify the landlord when bedbugs are spotted and requiring tenant cooperation in a landlord’s efforts to remove the pests.  Is that enough?  Maybe.  Will a law on the issue help?  Actually, it probably will – assuming the law is fair to landlords and tenants.  The ordinance proposed was not.  Kudos to the alderman who decided to rethink this important issue.

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