Taking the Bite Out of Bed Bugs

August 6, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

*Authored by Ashley McDonald, J.D.

Bed bug infestations are increasingly common in large cities across the United States. The Portland metropolitan area has become a prime location for bed bugs to thrive due to its large population and a steady flow of new residents resulting in a booming rental market. Unfortunately, many people affected by bed bugs are too embarrassed to seek help or blame themselves for the problem. Knowing your legal rights is an important step in the recovery process so that you are not taken advantage of by an unscrupulous landlord.

Bed bugs are small blood-sucking insects that get into beds and linens. Tenants often don’t notice bed bugs when they first move into a new house or apartment because bed bugs are very hard to see. Many people first discover that they have bed bugs when they notice blood stains on their bed linens and mattress or experience bites and itching.

It is important to immediately notify your landlord, preferably in writing, as soon as you first discover evidence of bed bugs so that appropriate action may be taken. Bed bugs rapidly reproduce and can quickly spread through floor boards and cracks or by attaching themselves to luggage, clothing, or a person. A bed bug can also hide in odd places and tight cracks to avoid detection. The sooner your landlord is aware of a problem, the sooner they can take action to kick these unwanted pests out.

Landlords are responsible for making a rental property habitable and they should promptly treat homes found to have bed bugs. Sometimes landlords refuse to pay for treatment or try to blame the tenant for bringing the bed bugs in to the property. If a landlord does not take responsibility, it is important to discuss your options with an attorney so that you can protect your legal rights. You may be able to end your lease early or sue your landlord for habitability defects.

What to Do If You Have Bedbugs:

  • Notify your landlord in writing
  • Notify the health department
  • Take pictures of bites and evidence of bugs (i.e. blood marks, droppings, bugs)
  • Keep any medical receipts and documents
  • Contact an attorney if you landlord refuses to treat your house or if you’ve suffered harm from the bed bugs.

Tenants harmed by bed bugs often find themselves negatively affected physically, financially, and emotionally. Bed bugs bites are itchy and can result in painful welts. In some cases it is necessary to seek medical attention, particularly when the person bitten is young, elderly, or sensitive to allergies and infections. This can result in costly medical bills and lost wages. Furthermore, bed bugs often destroy property because it may be necessary to throw away clothing, furniture, luggage, and other household items to make sure that the bed bugs stay gone. These losses may be recoverable from your landlord. A lawyer can help determine if you are entitled to damages because of the landlord’s irresponsibility.

The attorneys at Pickett Dummigan are experienced in helping tenants who have been harmed by bed bugs. To find out if you have a claim, please call 503-405-8037.

*Ashley McDonald is a certified Law Clerk at Pickett Dummigan LLP. Prior to joining Pickett Dummigan, Ashley worked for in-house counsel of a financial services company and interned at the Lewis & Clark Small Business Clinic and the Lewis & Clark Federal Income Tax Clinic. Ashley has argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Knudsen v. CIR, resulting in a victory for her client and establishing new precedent in tax law. Ashley is an active member of the legal community and was named an Outstanding Oral Advocate in 2012 and was presented the Pro Bono Honors Award by Lewis & Clark Law School. Pickett Dummigan LLP is excited to have Ashley on board to help our clients and the community.