Late last month the Chicago City Council considered a proposed ordinance that would have permitted the city to fine landlords up to two thousand dollars a day for failing to take action to eliminate bedbug infestations located on their property.
Specifically, the ordinance would classify bedbugs as public nuisance and obligate landlords to employ licensed professionals to terminate the pests. The measure would further mandate that landlords inspect units neighboring those where the bugs have already been found and take steps to remove any that are discovered.
Perhaps most importantly, the ordinance would prevent landlords from renting properties that are known to have bedbug infestations. A violation of this provision of the ordinance would result in fines of up to $500 a day for a first offense, $1,000 for a second, and for subsequent offenses.
Although a hearing was conducted with regard to the ordinance on April 29, no vote was held as Housing Committee Chairman Ray Suarez stated he would hold the measure in committee. Suarez’s move was to avoid what was expected to be a 3-2 vote against the proposal. According to Suarez, “We’re going to go back and sit down with our colleagues and see which part needs to be amended, and we’ll go from there.”
The proposed ordinance was previously revised after a three-hour hearing in January raised questions as to its effectiveness. Several landlord groups present at the hearing claimed support for the intended effect of the legislation, however, argued that it would have placed too heavy a burden on property owners and little responsibility on tenants.
Spokesman for the Chicago Association of Realtors and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago Brian Bernardoni, stated “The ordinance, as proposed, places the burden solely on the landlord of the building.”
Due to concerns voiced by tenants’ rights groups, the proposal would prohibit a landlord from retaliating against a tenant by terminating a lease, increasing rent, or bringing legal action because the tenant reported a bedbug problem.
Such action by the landlord could result in the landlord being forced to pay the tenant the equivalent of two months rent and legal fees. Tenants would, however, be required to notify their landlord of any bedbug infestation within five days of its discovery and assist the landlord’s attempts to eliminate the bugs.
Both landlords and tenants alike have certain rights and obligations to one another arising under state and city statutes, such as the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”). Apparently, however, no current provisions of either state or local law governs the procedure for dealing with the growing problem of bedbug infestations.
Accordingly, it would be easy for a landlord to unfairly take advantage of an unsuspecting tenant by renting a property known to be home to bedbugs or refuse to take care of an infestation once it has been discovered.
If you have questions regarding the rights and obligations you have as a tenant 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.