What are renter's rights when it comes to bed bugs?

Published On: Nov 07 2012 05:28:20 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 07 2012 05:49:01 PM CST
HOUSTON -

From movie theaters to hotels, bed bugs are a big problem. Now some Houston renters said they're under attack, not just from the insects, but from managers of their apartment complex who are charging them to exterminate. They called consumer expert Amy Davis to ask about their renter's rights.

"I was itching, itching really bad," said Ashstress Agwunobi.

Agwunobi didn't immediately see the bed bugs that were biting her and her family inside her unit at The Windemere Apartments, but when she did, she called managers.

"I had to get rid of clothes, beds, furniture," Agwunobi told Davis.

On top of those losses, she said residents who live at the complex are getting bills for the treatments required to kill the bed bugs. Local 2 obtained one bill that shows one tenant was charged $974.

"That is a lot of money that we don't have, and I'm not fixing to pay for that," said Agwunobi.

The notice reads "If you fail to pay the pest control fee the amount will be deducted from your rental payment and you will be delinquent in rent."

That could mean eviction.

"Because of the way bed bugs are, they can be a more expensive treatment, "explained Andy Teas with the Houston Apartment Association. And someone is going to have to pay for that if there are treatments required."

Since 2010, most renters have been required to sign a bed bug addendum that comes along with your lease contract.

"It's really to get apartment owners and residents to check for bed bugs before the lease begins," Teas said. "It's an acknowledgement from both sides that you've looked at the apartment. If you're resident, you've looked at your belongings ... and that you've made sure that at the beginning of that residency that there aren't any bed bugs."

By signing the bed bug addendum you agree that "you may be required to pay all reasonable costs of cleaning and pest control treatments."

The take-away here: Know that if you rent an apartment you will most likely be asked to sign a bed bug addendum. Either don't sign it or make sure you inspect the apartment before you sign it to look for any signs of bed bugs. Figuring out the source of the bugs is almost impossible, but the contract doesn't require the landlord to prove you brought the bugs to the property.