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Starting on July 1, 2017, a new set of laws will take effect that will place new obligations on residential landlords and tenants relating to the treatment and control of bed bugs. Existing state law generally requires that any residential rental dwelling units be maintained by a landlord in a condition fit for human occupation. Recognizing that cooperation between landlords, tenants, and pest control operators is necessary in effectively controlling bed bug infestations, the state legislature passed California Assembly Bill 551, which is codified in California Civil Code §§ 1942.5, 1954.1 and 1954.600 et seq. The new laws generally require landlords to provide new disclosures to prospective and existing tenants, require landlords to provide written notice to tenants of units inspected by a pest control operator (hereinafter “PCO”) of the PCO’s findings, and prohibits landlords from showing, renting or leasing a vacant unit that the landlord knows has a bed bug infestation. Further, the new laws specify that a landlord is prohibited from retaliating against a tenant because the tenant reports a suspected or actual bed bug infestation.

Starting July 1, 2017, residential landlords are required to provide a written bed bug disclosure (in at least 10-point type) to any prospective tenant prior to creating a new tenancy that contains general information about bed bug identification, behavior and biology, the importance of cooperation for prevention and treatment, and the importance of and for prompt written reporting of suspected infestations to the landlord. The written bed bug disclosure must also be given to all existing tenants no later than January 1, 2018. The required written disclosure may be partially accomplished by utilizing the “safe harbor” language of Civil Code § 1954.603(a). (FN1) However, the law also requires landlord to notify tenants about the procedure for reporting suspected infestations to the landlord in disclosure, but the statute does not contain any suggested language as to this portion of the required disclosure. It is suggested that landlords require tenants to provide written notice to the landlord that discloses specific information regarding a suspected bed bug infestation (e.g., date and time suspected infestation was discovered, location of suspected infestation, reasons why tenant suspects an infestation, etc.). Additionally, a landlord may direct that the occurrence of certain events is to be treated as a suspected infestation by the tenant (e.g., observing one or more bedbugs in the unit, seeing small red spots on bedding, etc.).

The new laws also prohibit a landlord from showing, renting or leasing to a prospective tenant any vacant residential unit that the landlord “knows” has a current bed bug infestation. The law goes on to clarify that it does not impose a duty on landlords to inspect a unit or the common areas of a building for bed bugs if the landlord has no notice of a suspected or actual bed bug infestation. However, if a bed bug infestation is evident on visual inspection, the landlord shall be deemed to have notice under the law.

Finally, the new laws require landlords to notify the tenants of any units inspected by a PCO engaged by a landlord in facilitating the detection and treatment of bed bugs of the PCO’s findings. Such notification must be in writing and given to the tenants within two business days of receipt of the PCO’s findings. If a bed bug infestation is confirmed in a building’s common areas, all tenants of the building must be provided notice of the PCO’s findings within two business days of receipt of the PCO’s findings. At the same time, the new laws impose new obligations on residential tenants. Tenants are required to provide entry upon service of a proper twenty-four hour written notice of entry into any unit selected by the PCO in facilitating the detection and treatment of an infestation and to conduct follow-up inspections of surrounding units until a bed bug infestation is eliminated. Tenants are further required to cooperate with the landlord and PCO, including providing requested information to the PCO that is necessary to facilitate the detection and treatment of beg bugs.


California Civil Code § 1954.603(a)

Information about Bed Bugs

Bed bug Appearance: Bed bugs have six legs. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies about 1/4 of an inch in length. Their color can vary from red and brown to copper colored. Young bed bugs are very small. Their bodies are about 1/16 of an inch in length. They have almost no color. When a bed bug feeds, its body swells, may lengthen, and becomes bright red, sometimes making it appear to be a different insect. Bed bugs do not fly. They can either crawl or be carried from place to place on objects, people, or animals. Bed bugs can be hard to find and identify because they are tiny and try to stay hidden.

Life Cycle and Reproduction: An average bed bug lives for about 10 months. Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs per day. Bed bugs grow to full adulthood in about 21 days.

Bed bugs can survive for months without feeding.

Bed bug Bites: Because bed bugs usually feed at night, most people are bitten in their sleep and do not realize they were bitten. A person’s reaction to insect bites is an immune response and so varies from person to person. Sometimes the red welts caused by the bites will not be noticed until many days after a person was bitten, if at all.

Common signs and symptoms of a possible bed bug infestation:

  • Small red to reddish brown fecal spots on mattresses, box springs, bed frames, mattresses, linens, upholstery, or walls.
  • Molted bed bug skins, white, sticky eggs, or empty eggshells.
  • Very heavily infested areas may have a characteristically sweet odor.
  • Red, itchy bite marks, especially on the legs, arms, and other body parts exposed while sleeping.

However, some people do not show bed bug lesions on their bodies even though bed bugs may have fed on them.

For more information, see the Internet Web sites of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Pest Management Association.