Bedbugs continue to rear their ugly little heads in all types of properties – from luxury hotels to affordable housing. Affordable housing managers are always concerned about what they can and cannot require of residents with regard to bedbug treatments. Affordable housing developments without specific federal management regulations should generally follow state law and the requirements of agencies providing funding. E.g., Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties would follow the guidance of the Housing Finance Agency that awarded the credits, as well as state landlord/tenant laws. However, properties with direct HUD assistance, such as project-based Section 8 properties, do have HUD guidance that must be adhered to. That guidance is the focus of this article.
Primary HUD guidance is found in HUD Notice H2012-5. This Notice backed away from HUD’s prior position that strictly prohibited both charging residents for damage related to bedbugs and the termination of tenancy of noncompliant residents. The notice stated – “All owners (of assisted and unassisted properties) may pursue remedies provided in the lease agreement and in accordance with state and local rental law. Assisted owners must follow additional guidelines including occupancy requirements for assisted housing and must adhere to all HUD and state and local landlord/tenant laws before taking action to deny tenancy or remove residents for causes related to infestations.”
While HUD does not specifically prohibit owners from charging tenants for bedbug eradication, the process must be outlined in various documents such as the Tenant Selection Plan (TSP), house rules, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plans.
In early 2019, HUD released a memorandum, “Clarification to Housing Notice H2012-5 Guidelines on Addressing Infestations in HUD Insured and Assisted Multifamily Housing.” Among the clarifying items, HUD stressed the following:
- Any addendum to the HUD Model Lease requires HUD approval. Since the lease requires the landlord to provide necessary extermination services, lease language shifting the cost to the tenant will be denied, unless the owner can show that the infestation was caused by carelessness or neglect on the part of a resident.
house rules do not require HUD approval, placing the inspection burden on
residents would not be considered an acceptable rule, unless management
has an educational program to help residents identify and understand the
importance of prevention and reporting. An example of questionable rules would
- A provision that transfers the cost of monitoring, prevention, and treatment to residents. If discovered during a HUD MOR, the rule would be denied.;
- A provision that requires the purchase of equipment, such as mattress covers or vacuum cleaners – this type of rule will also be denied; and
- Temporary relocation of a resident household for treatment generally is not required, and if necessary, should be a site cost, assuming the resident is not at fault.
Based on this guidance, owners/agents (O/As) should not establish policies requiring that residents bear the cost of bedbug eradication – at least until residents have been given the opportunity to cooperate in the eradication process. However, residents may be required to cover costs associated with bedbug infestation if they fail to cooperate with an IPM Plan or interfere with or fail to permit necessary inspections and treatments.
All properties should develop IPM Plans (if not done already). Part of such a plan will involve resident education. All infestation treatment plans should be part of a holistic approach at the site level – one that incorporates the TSP and House Rules with the IPM Plan. Ultimately, owners are responsible for maintaining the properties in a way that prevents or eliminates infestation. Only when residents are negligent or refuse to cooperation with prevention or eradication should they be required to bear the cost of treatment and eradication.