When it comes to infestations in an apartment complex, figuring out who is at fault can sometimes be a tricky matter. Did the landlord know about the infestation before renting out the property or were the pests introduced after the tenant arrived? This is exactly the question jurors in Maryland asked themselves during a landlord-tenant dispute this month. In the end, it only took them 45 minutes to realize the answer to that question.
The dispute began back in September 2011 when a 69-year-old woman rented an apartment from the defendants. She claims that she was bitten relentlessly by bed bugs shortly after moving in. Though she says she asked the landlords to fumigate the apartment, nothing was ever done about the problem. She then learned that previous tenants had complained about the same problem.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was eventually evicted from her apartment. The defendants are said to have put her belongings outside and were eventually stolen before the tenant had a chance to claim her things. An occurrance such as this in Michigan would mean that a landlord has violated the proper eviction process which gives tenants a specific amount of time to remove their things from a property after an eviction. Whether the defendants in this case were guilty of such behavior or not is unclear at this time.
In the end, the jury hearing the case awarded her $800,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. It was decided that the defendants knew about the infestation before the tenant moved in and did not remedy the unsafe conditions despite knowing about the potential health risk and eventual injuries the tenant received. The rental property has since gone into foreclosure though it's unknown whether this was a direct result of the lawsuit or not.
Source: The New York Daily News, "Maryland tenant awarded $800,000 over bedbug infestation, eviction by landlord," Lee Moran, June 3, 2013