Q. Much to my dismay I’ve learned that we’ve had a bed bug infestation in our condominium development. How do we handle this? Who is legally responsible for 1) coordinating treating and 2) paying for treating bedbugs in a condominium unit? If one of the condo units is rented out to a tenant by the unit owner, does that change things? Once it spreads, does that change things? If the unit owner is responsible for paying, can the association coordinate and require professional treatment? Or does that happen only if the owner fails to act within a certain time?
—Bugged Out in Belleair
A. “In many condominiums, the treatment of pests is included as a common expense,” says Russell M. Robbins, managing partner at the law firm of Mirza Basulto & Robbins, LLP in Coral Springs. “For these associations, the decision is simple and the costs associated with treatment for bed bugs can be incorporated into the regular treatment of pests. The issue arises for an association that does not have the authority contained within its governing documents for the treatment of pests to be a common expense.
“Bed bugs (as with termites) can travel from one condominium unit to another via the common elements between the condominium units. The association is responsible for the maintenance of common elements, thus the association should treat the common areas (walls, crawl spaces, conduits, etc.) for bed bugs once it is made aware of the situation.
“Furthermore, the association should take steps to ensure that the affected condominium unit receives treatment from a licensed pest control company as to the interior of the unit (the unit owner’s responsibility). Because of the nature that these pests can spread from one unit to the next, it may be necessary for the association to demand that the unit owner resolve the infestation within a reasonable period of time, or the association may be forced to obtain injunctive relief from a court or arbitrator to have the necessary pest control treatment performed.”