Today we have a question concerning bedbugs. A recent bed bugs case out of a Cedar Rapids truck terminal training facility residence has brought this issue across my desk. From a recent article both Cedar Rapids and Waterloo seem to be infestation centers in Iowa. Jill Kasparie, a reporter in C.R. wrote about a new bed bug company biting back with a unique heating technology; I wonder how that is going. Today’s question is about how you can prove the source of the infestation in any one building. This is a tough causation question and comes down to the investigation, although I would have to say under the Landlord-Tenant Act I’m not sure it will matter to the tenants. So let’s read this man’s question because it is a good one.
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Question: Just curious what methods you use to determine the root of the infestation? But can you also have a claim against the landlord for example for not preventing or taking the necessary steps of infestation?
Answer: Your question is a good one and I'm not sure how to answer it without having a case with known or discoverable facts. To answer your question hypothetically I would need to make up facts and that I will not do. Every case is different but the method of locating the infection source is an ongoing challenge. Interviewing people who have come into contact with the apartment is the only way I know of locating the initial carrier. You might ask where I look for to identify the potential causes. I would include:
1. Other visitors.
2. Other tenants.
3. Vendors that come into the unit including contract workers.
4. New furniture brought into the unit.
5. Recent travels with luggage brought in from a hotel.
6. New residents.
7. Maintenance workers for the landlord.
8. Pest control maintenance or a lack thereof.
9. Open houses.
10. Delivery personnel.
11. The pest control workers themselves can be the source.
This is where I start in our quest to identify the source. In our recent truck terminal case we were dealing with a workers' compensation claim and the source was irrelevant to our client's case. The possessor of the property was probably a sub-corporation of our client's employer, but we chose to purse the workers' compensation angle for the personal injury. When we handle the property damage aspects then we will deal with the insurer for the possessor.
Now let’s talk about the landlord’s obligations under Iowa law. The Landlord-Tenant Act in Iowa is a useful place to start. Officially named CHAPTER 562A UNIFORM RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW the law has several provisions very important to the landlord’s obligations to provide clean and healthy housing accommodations. If the landlord does not conform the tenant can walk out because the landlord is not holding up its end of the bargain. Of course the tenant must follow certain procedural guidelines to legally void the lease.
The landlord’s obligation to maintain fit premises is found in 562A.15 and the tenants in 562A.17. Both have certain obligations for the fitness of the real estate and both can be held liable for not holding up their obligations under the law. The one can lose tenants and be sued for damages as can the other can lose their lease and be sued for damages.
My suggestion is whichever side you are on to see a lawyer willing to put in the time to evaluate your case and research Iowa’s landlord and tenant law.
CHAPTER 562A UNIFORM RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW
Eviction or distress for rent during military service; termination of leases; §29A.101
562A.1 SHORT TITLE.
562A.2 PURPOSES -- RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.
562A.3 SUPPLEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF LAW APPLICABLE.
562A.4 ADMINISTRATION OF REMEDIES -- ENFORCEMENT.
562A.5 EXCLUSIONS FROM APPLICATION OF CHAPTER.
562A.6 GENERAL DEFINITIONS.
562A.8A COMPUTATION OF TIME.
562A.9 TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF RENTAL AGREEMENT.
562A.10 EFFECT OF UNSIGNED OR UNDELIVERED RENTAL AGREEMENT.
562A.11 PROHIBITED PROVISIONS IN RENTAL AGREEMENTS.
562A.12 RENTAL DEPOSITS.
562A.14 LANDLORD TO SUPPLY POSSESSION OF DWELLING UNIT.
562A.15 LANDLORD TO MAINTAIN FIT PREMISES.
562A.16 LIMITATION OF LIABILITY.
562A.17 TENANT TO MAINTAIN DWELLING UNIT.
562A.20 TENANT TO USE AND OCCUPY.
562A.21 NONCOMPLIANCE BY THE LANDLORD -- IN GENERAL.
562A.22 FAILURE TO DELIVER POSSESSION.
562A.23 WRONGFUL FAILURE TO SUPPLY HEAT, WATER, HOT WATER OR ESSENTIAL SERVICES.
562A.24 LANDLORD'S NONCOMPLIANCE AS DEFENSE TO ACTION FOR POSSESSION OR RENT.
562A.25 FIRE OR CASUALTY DAMAGE.
562A.26 TENANT'S REMEDIES FOR LANDLORD'S UNLAWFUL OUSTER, EXCLUSION, OR DIMINUTION OF SERVICE.
562A.27 NONCOMPLIANCE WITH RENTAL AGREEMENT -- FAILURE TO PAY RENT -- VIOLATION OF FEDERAL REGULATION.
562A.27A TERMINATION FOR CREATING A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER TO OTHERS.
562A.28 FAILURE TO MAINTAIN.
562A.29 REMEDIES FOR ABSENCE, NONUSE AND ABANDONMENT.
562A.29A METHOD OF NOTICE AND SERVICE OF PROCESS.
562A.30 WAIVER OF LANDLORD'S RIGHT TO TERMINATE.
562A.31 LANDLORD LIENS -- DISTRESS FOR RENT.
562A.32 REMEDY AFTER TERMINATION.
562A.33 RECOVERY OF POSSESSION LIMITED.
562A.34 PERIODIC TENANCY -- HOLDOVER REMEDIES.
562A.35 LANDLORD AND TENANT REMEDIES FOR ABUSE OF ACCESS.
562A.36 RETALIATORY CONDUCT PROHIBITED.