Bed Bug Update

Bed Bugs

You may remember earlier this year when the City of Chicago earned the dubious honor of becoming number one in bed bugs (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/01/15/were-number-one-chicago-tops-in-c...). The City, along with a number of support agencies, has been addressing the problem on several fronts including providing information and resources to educate the public on what to do.

While the bed bug issue is disconcerting for all Chicago residents, it is even more problematic for renters and the City’s rental housing supply. Bed bug infestations can be a contentious situation where landlords blame tenants and tenants blame landlords. On June 5, 2013, the City of Chicago took a big step in solving the bed bug problem by passing an ordinance aimed at clarifying landlord/tenant responsibilities. “All Chicago residents have a right to feel comfortable and safe within their own homes,” Alderman Silverstein, one of the sponsors of the ordinance said. “This legislation will ensure that property owners and tenants are responsible for maintaining their property and will stop the spread of bed bugs throughout a building and to neighbors.”

LCBH believes that an ordinance addressing the eradication of bed bugs is vital to ensure the safety and habitability of rental units. During meetings and hearings on the ordinance, LCBH expressed concerns regarding unwarranted and possibly retaliatory eviction actions based on the reporting of bed bug infestation. Our efforts, along with others, helped secure specific language in the ordinance forbidding this behavior.

Since the enactment of the ordinance, more information and resources have been created and are available. The City of Chicago, in partnership with the Safer Pest Control Project, has created fact sheets for both landlords and tenants (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp/supp_info/bed_bug_inform...). The Metropolitan Tenants Organization has created a fact sheet and has an information hotline (http://www.tenants-rights.org/chicago-council-passes-bed-bug-ordinance/). LCBH will be creating sample letters for renters to use to inform their landlords of a potential infestation which will be available once the ordinance takes effect in December. “One of the most important aspects of this legislation is that it educates the public to the problem of bed bugs. This ordinance will allow best practices to be determined by the Department of Public Health and will require infestations to be handled by a qualified exterminator in a manner that shows demonstrated success,” Alderman Silverstein said.

This ordinance is definitely a step in the right direction and the cooperation mandated by the ordinance will help a lot of people. However, LCBH still has concerns about how this ordinance may potentially impact our most vulnerable community members. Elderly and disabled renters may have problems preparing their apartments for extermination. Low income renters may have problems affording the necessary or recommended actions. LCBH will be monitoring these cases and offering to mediate problems as they arise.

You can access the ordinance on the Office of the City Clerk’s website http://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1255501&GUID=CED19...