A bill up for vote today in the City Council would require landlords to share written bedbug infestation histories with all tenants on an annual basis. [See below for update.]
Notices posted in residential buildings or distributed to individual apartments would include the number of units in the building, the number of bedbug infestations reported in the last year, and the number of apartments where the landlord took steps to eradicate the parasites. The same information would also be shared with Housing Preservation and Development in an annual report, and posted online. Landlords would not be required to specify specific apartment units in the notices.
Landlords are already required to notify prospective tenants about bedbug infestations within the last year, as per the NYC Bedbug Disclosure Act. If landlords don't comply, tenants are urged to contact State Homes and Community Renewal, or 311 at the City level. Landlords can be ticketed for violations, and are required to cover the cost of extermination within a month (though, in practice, tenants often end up paying out of pocket for extermination prep, Brick Underground reports.)
As for disclosing infestation history on signing, "There's no real penalty for not disclosing the information," housing lawyer Janet Ray Kalson recently told the website. "There are no real teeth to the legislation."
This new bill would require more frequent bedbug history updates: with each lease renewal, as opposed to each lease signing.
"What we were finding out was that a number of the people were [on] renewal leases," Council Member Danny Dromm of Queens, the bill sponsor, told the NY Post. "So what we wanted to do was to fix it so that those who have renewal leases could also find out whether there were bedbugs in their building."
Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbying group, described the proposed legislation as overkill.
"Owners already have an obligation to notify new tenants of the bedbug history of an apartment," he stated. "This bill will needlessly alarm tenants that would otherwise not have to be concerned or be worried about an infestation in their building." We'll pause here to allow everyone who's ever had bedbugs to laugh derisively at that comment.
Another piece of bedbug-remediation legislation is scheduled for a hearing before the end of the month. Sponsored by East New York Council Member Rafael Espinal, the bill would require HPD to post an online map, updated quarterly, of all bedbug-related complaints (something concerned citizens have been furnishing for some time now). It would also require HPD to issue an annual report on bedbug complaints, the number of violations issued, and the average time to resolve violations.
Assuming this legislative push has prompted paranoia and phantom itches, here's our handy guide to what's eating you.
[Update 4/26]: The legislation reportedly passed by a vote of 44-5 on Tuesday.