An apartment owner was recently walking a prospective resident through his community when an awkward topic came up. The prospect volunteered that he was looking for a new place to live because the place he was living in had bed bugs. The owner, aware of the nature and expense associated with a multi-family bed bug infestation, was immediately concerned about the risk that this prospective resident would pose to his apartment community if he were approved. What if the prospect brought the bugs with him? At the same time, the owner wondered if he could legally turn the prospect down because of the bugs given the requirements of fair housing. Or perhaps the prospect mentioned that he was moving from an apartment community that the owner knew was battling an extensive bed bug infestation.
These are actually fairly common scenarios but, thankfully, bed bugs are not a protected class under Fair Housing. So while it is an awkward situation as long as a landlord applies the same criteria or policy to every prospect with regards to the bugs there should not be any fair housing implications. According to an article published in the National Apartment Association’s Units magazine, a policy could be along the lines of, “If we have reasonably credible third-party information that a prospective tenant is coming from environments with a bed bug infestation, we will require that the prospect have all their belongings sanitized (or encased in plastic, or disposed of, etc etc etc) before they will be allowed to take possession of the leased premises.”
As bed bugs are becoming more of an issue in our geographical region, I would remind readers that bed bugs are the ultimate communists: they do not care about rent level or “class” of property.