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In any rental scenario, there is an implied promise, known legally as a warranty of habitability, whereby the landlord assures the tenant that the residential premises are fit for human habitation. This unwritten warranty is supported by state statutes or case law, and extends from the beginning of tenancy to the end.
While the warranty of habitability generally includes essentials like hot water and functioning toilets, you would think it also covers not scratching bed bug bites until you bleed and are covered in permanent scars. A Los Angeles jury agreed, awarding a family $1.6 million after they suffered months in a bed bug-infested apartment.
Bleeding Bed Bug Bites
"It was terrifying," Liliana Martinez told NBC LA. Martinez described watching her then-infant son covered in bed bug bites. "Just seeing how he would scratch all the time and nothing would heal because it would start bleeding again," she said. "It was very emotional, very stressful."
Martinez and her family were initially told by ownership company Amusement Six Apartments to throw out all their furniture, and fumigation was ineffective. Management finally removed the carpeting, but not before Martinez, her son Jorge and her infant daughter suffered months of bed bug torture. After moving out in 2014, the family sued Amusement Six for breach of warranty of habitability, negligence, and emotional distress, accusing them of renting an apartment in "slum-like conditions." (The suit also claimed a concurrent cockroach infestation.)
Bed bug lawsuits have become so common, some attorneys are creating entire niche practices areas devoted entirely to bed bug lawsuits. And Martinez's attorney, Brian Virag, also represented clients in another L.A. bed bug case, netting nibbled apartment complex residents $3.5 million last year.
If you're dealing with a bed bug infestation, or any other condition that makes your rented space uninhabitable, contact an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in your area.