According to a recent story published by the Baltimore Sun, earlier this month an elderly woman, Faika Shaaban, was awarded a stunning $800,000 in damages by a jury following a trial on her lawsuit against her former landlord over a bedbug infestation.
Shaaban claimed that in September of 2011, she began renting a home owned Cornelius J. Barrett and West Street Partnership, but, soon after moving in, noticed she had developed “scabs and lesions from head to toe.” Shaaban maintained that her wounds were the result of bites from hundreds of bedbugs which infested the home.
Shaaban further argued that Barrett knew about the bedbug infestation prior to renting her the home, as city inspection records proved that a complaint had been filed against the property in August 2011 for a potential bedbug infestation. When Shaaban reported the problem to Barrett, he engaged in retaliatory action, including shutting off the home’s hot water and eventually evicting Shaaban.
Of the $800,000 award, which was twice what Shaaban was seeking, $650,000 represents punitive damages–those damages designed to punish the offender and deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. In reaching their verdict, the jury deliberated for only 45 minutes.
Bedbug Suits in Chicago
Landlord-tenant relationships in Chicago are governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”), codified at Title 5, Chapter 12 of the Municipal Code of Chicago. Under the provisions of the RLTO, landlords are required to disclose any defects of which they are aware to potential renters, as well as to repair serious or dangerous defects in their rentals upon being given proper notice by a tenant, including rodent, bug, or pest infestations. Further, when faced with such a notification and request for repairs, landlords are prohibited from taking any action in retaliation for such actions by the tenant.
As the bedbug problem continues to grow, many state and local governments are taking steps to protect tenants from such infestations. Earlier this year, Chicago began considering an ordinance that would fine landlords up to two thousand dollars a day for failing to take action to eliminate bedbug infestations located in their rentals.
In response the problem, many landlords are attempting to shift the burden of dealing with bedbug problems to the tenant by including terms in the lease that make the tenant responsible for extermination if the bedbugs appear after they take possession of the property.
Landlords have also begun including lease provisions that allow the landlord to terminate the lease and evict the tenant if they can show it was the tenant that caused a bedbug infestation. In addition, many landlords are encouraging their tenants to obtain renter’s insurance that will provide coverage in the event of a bedbug infestation.
The qualified attorneys of The Slater Firm, Ltd. have extensive experience representing individuals that have been the victim of unfair practices of a landlord. If you have questions regarding the Illinois’s landlord tenant laws, or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.