Browse Tag: Bedbug infestation

Bed Bugs And The Law: UNLV’s Christian Hardigree at NAR 2011

Bedbug

Bed bugs spread among multi-unit housing, and also by hitching a ride on the person of travelers coming from infested space which can be as small as a single chair in a hotel lobby.  The health and legal consequences for owners, managers, operators, guests and residents apartment buildings, multi-family, hospitality, theaters and commercial properties of all stripes are already huge and only getting bigger.  The commercial real estate industry’s problem with bed bugs is only growing; some entomologists (that’s “bug scientists” to you and me) alarmingly predict that 50% of US residences will be infested with the persistent critters in a few years.

Attorney Christian Hardigree from UNLV’s Harrah College of Hotel Administration addressed NAR Annual 2011 in Anaheim today with a presentation on the legal aspects of the bed bug problem that had the full attention of a curious crowd of commercial pros.

Opening with a joke about “wingless blood-sucking parasites” (but enough about attorneys), Hardigree began her tour of the bed bug lawsuit landscape with one warning: “There is no perfect contract language to protect owners.”

It’s no wonder, since she outlined no fewer than twelve legal theories under which bed bug suits have been brought in various states. A small sampling of these include:

  • Workman’s Comp:  In the New York case Clark v. Beacon Capital Partners et. al. where Fox News employee was found to be repeatedly infesting the cable network’s offices with bedbugs brought from his infested home; each time the Fox offices were fumigated, the infestation returned.  The question before the court was wether the landlord of the employee had obligation, and therefore liability in eradicating the pests before they harm employees.
  • Strict product liability claims vs. Pest control operators: In Stepanek v. Wichita State University, illnesses of two students were claimed in court to be caused by improper usage of pesticide in an anti-bed bug effort.
  • Loss of consortium:  “Consortium” meaning “sexual relations” such loss due to lasting damage to the body as the result of attack by bedbugs.  The good news for owners or liable parties is this legal theory only applies to married couples.  The bad news is multi-million dollar awards have been won under it, including Kim v. Hilton Hotels
What can you do about bed bugs?  Hardigree recommended reading HUD Guidelines of August 16, 2011 (PDF here) and a set of do’s and dont’s:
DON’T:
  • ignore complaints
  • assume the person complaining is lying
  • overstate the cost of treatment
  • misrepresent costs
  • be rude or blame others
  • be unprepared
DO:
  • have a written protocol for inquiries
  • train staff on what to say and what not to say
  • know what kind of evidence to take/retain
  • know when to bring in and how to select a pest control professional
  • move a guest to another room
  • take photos, video
  • consider having a bed bug book or fact sheet
  • have a media response plan
Get a recording of the entire talk at PlaybackNAR.
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Bed Bugs And The Law: IREM’s Chuck Achilles at NAR 2011

Line art drawing of a bedbug.

The commercial real estate industry’s problem with bed bugs is only growing; some entomologists (that’s “bug scientists” to you and me) alarmingly predict that 50% of US residences will be infested with the persistent critters in a few years.  Bed bugs spread among multi-unit housing, and are also spread by travel to infested spaces, which can be as small as a single chair in a hotel lobby.  The health and legal consequences for owners, managers, operators, guests and residents apartment buildings, multi-family, hospitality, theaters and commercial properties of all stripes are huge and getting bigger.

The issue brought together a full house today in Room 206 at NAR Annual 2011 in Anaheim to hear a pair of experts in the session “. Leading off was Chuck Achilles, Chief Legislative and Research Officer, IREM (Institute Of Real Estate Management) addressed the regulatory side with a run through of the recent legislative and regulatory body pronouncements.

Chuck outlined the HUD Guidelines Aug 16 2011, (PDF link here) which spell out the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “Guidelines on Bed Bug Control And Prevention in HUD Insured And Assisted Multifamily Housing”.  These guidelines are important to read no matter what part of the industry you’re in, but can also have special consequences for properties financed through Fannie or Freddie.

Chuck Achilles said IREM’s October 2 Response to HUD’s Guidelines “agrees with [HUD’s] statement” and further mentioned that some owners of larger properties had seen bed bug remediation costs of “between 50 and 100 thousand dollars”.

Chuck went on to relate that according to the National Conference Of State Legislators, 13 stats so far have passed bed bug legislation and an additional 15 are considering measures, including a proposal in New York to provide a tax credit to replace personal property destroyed in bed bug remediation efforts.  In NYC 2008 9,213 instances of bed bug inquiries were logged, compared to a small few hundred in 2004.

Attorney and UNLV instructor Christian Hardigree followed.  A post covering her talk is here.

For a full recording of the talk, visit PlaybackNAR.

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