Agreed: Bedbugs bad.

Less clear, how to craft a fair policy that addresses the problem in  Chicago that won’t hurt REALTORS®, property owners and tenants.

The Illinois Association of REALTORS®’ Brian Bernardoni testified Tuesday before a Chicago City Council joint committee as part of discussion of a proposed $1,000-a-day penalty for landlords who fail to eliminate bedbugs. From the Chicago Tribune:

“Bedbugs are a serious problem, regardless of economic stature, and the city of Chicago has the authority to declare a public nuisance and regulate it. The issue must be addressed head on.”

Bernardoni told members of the panel that bedbugs were indeed an issue, but raised concerns over unintended consequences the ordinance might create. In his testimony, he noted:

  • The ordinance would be effective 10 days after passage. This is an issue because there is no exemption for existing leases, and no phase-in provision.
  • Tenants could bring bedbugs into a dwelling without realizing they are doing so, particularly in the case of purchases of used or reconditioned mattresses.
  • What happens if a tenant does not alert a landlord of an infestation? Would the landlord be on the hook for the fines, even if he/she wasn’t aware of the problem?

Could tenants be unfairly evicted? If an apartment’s infestation spreads, would others in adjacent apartments be subject eviction? Would landlords use the rule as a means to target people they don’t like? Said Bernardoni in a WLS-TV 7 story:

“Realtors have a code of ethics. This is not the type of behavior that’s accepted. If tenants feel (they have) those problems, there are a number of organizations that represent those individuals and we are more than happy to go after bad actors within our industry.”

Bedbugs are particularly difficult to eradicate and as a result, the treatments are expensive. According to the WLS-TV 7, “Bedbugs have become so prevalent in Chicago that Orkin Pest Control announced they did more business in the Windy City in 2012 than in any other city.”

Bernardoni told IAR Buzz that often it’s not just one unit that would have to be cleansed of the pests if they are found, but all the adjacent units and perhaps even the units above and below the infected unit would have to be treated, too. According to a FOX News article, killing off bedbugs can cost anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars.

The proposed ordinance did not come up for a vote on Tuesday. Bernardoni said the next step is to work on provisions to address the many questions raised by the ordinance.