An amended version of a bill requiring New York City landlords to disclose bed bug infestations received the unanimous approval of the State Assembly Housing Committee last night as the bill moves closer toward becoming law.
The modified bill, sponsored by Upper West Side state assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal, requires landlords to tell renters about infestations during the past year, as opposed to the five-year “look back” period in the prior version.
The amended version of the bill also no longer requires landlords to identify specific infested apartments beyond the one under consideration by a potential renter. [CLARIFICATION: The landlord must disclose whether other infestations have occurred in the building, just not the specific apartments in which the bugs were found.]
Both changes to the bill (PDF attached below) were made in consultation with state assembly housing policy experts.
The shortened “look back” period assuages concerns among landlords that given the scope and ferocity of New York City’s bed bug epidemic, a five-year look back would cast too wide a net and unfairly penalize landlords who have successfully addressed problems in their buildings.
Privacy concerns were said to be behind the move to drop disclosure of specific infested apartments beyond the apartment being rented; lawmakers were apparently concerned that afflicted renters could be stigmatized if linked to an infestation.
The bill, which may be the first of its kind in the country, doesn’t specify a penalty for landlords who fail to comply. Enforcement will be up to the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
We ran the revised legislation past pest control expert Gil Bloom, a member of Mayor Bloomberg's Bed Bug Advisory Board. He had a couple of suggestions.
"Obviously as part of the disclosure there should be a section on how it was corrected if it was and when," says Bloom.
He would also like to see disclosures from incoming tenants about their own bed bug history.
"There have certainly been a number of cases of new tenants moving in and bringing bed bugs along with them sometimes as a result of a misinformed flight to escape an infestation before it has been resolved," says Bloom.
The flight of the afflicted has become such a problem, he says, that in New Jersey "there are one or two buildings that have their own heat treatment chambers which incoming residents must use."
Rosenthal, whose bill has received an outpouring of support from her constituents, still hopes to eventually require disclosure by co-op and condo owners.