Michigan legislators have proposed four bills that would determine the responsibilities of tenants and landlords when a residential lease space has an infestation of bedbugs.

"Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite." This common saying handed down from colonial days has taken on a special relevance for Michigan residents, as bedbugs have become a huge problem in the state in recent years. Michigan lawmakers have proposed a set of four bills that outline the responsibilities that both landlords and tenants have in keeping rental housing free from bedbugs, with the aim of eliminating this public health problem.

Bedbugs a growing public health problem

Experts note that bedbugs are most common in residential buildings, but public health officials have noted an increase in bedbug infestations in hospitals, schools, libraries and other public buildings. Lower-income tenants are more likely to have bedbug infestations in their rental housing, and getting rid of these infestations can cost hundreds of dollars. As such, landlords and tenants often haggle back and forth about who has responsibility to pay for getting rid of the pests - while the bedbugs linger.

House Bill 5199 would require tenants to alert their landlords in writing when there are bedbug infestations in their apartments. In turn, the landlords must have the apartments inspected within 5 days. If the inspections reveal infestations, the bill would also require landlords to inspect the apartments adjacent to the infested apartments and arrange pest control measures within 7 days. In exchange, the tenant has to allow access to the apartment for pest control. The bill states that the language in the lease determines who pays for the pest control.

The bill further specifies that a landlord may not knowingly rent housing that is infested with bedbugs, and the landlord must disclose whether the housing unit or any adjacent to it had been infested or inspected within the previous 18 months upon request.

Additional measures to eliminate bedbugs

HB 5200 supports the efforts listed in HB 5199 by defining "infestation" as a trigger for an "order to correct" by the Department of Community Health. The bill includes a variety of pests in its definition of infestation. Additionally, HB 5201 requires the DCH to develop educational models for bedbug prevention and elimination for local governments and health departments.

Speak with an attorney

Landlords have a number of legal obligations to their tenants, and as the proposed legislation shows, governments continue to add to these responsibilities. It is important for landlords to consult with seasoned landlord-tenant dispute attorneys when facing questions about obligations to their tenants. If you have an issue regarding the landlord-tenant relationship, speak with a skilled landlord-tenant dispute lawyer who can advise you how to proceed.