Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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Trends in Real Estate Law: Cockroaches, Bedbugs and Other Creepy-Crawlies.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | May 5, 2015

No. 1,150

Image: cartoonstock.com

Image: cartoonstock.com

The ABA Journal reports a $2,000,000.00 + settlement in a suit by former tenants of a 26 unit apartment building in Los Angeles. The tenants claimed the premises were uninhabitable for a variety of reasons.  But one seems to be primary: cockroaches. The owner hardly helped his case when he stated that he had purchased hundreds of cans of spray.

As everybody has heard, cockroaches are carriers of disease and are very difficult to eradicate.  In apartment buildings with not enough dumpsters or when tenants leave food in easily accessible places, cockroach infestations have lasted decades.

Cockroaches were mentioned in the classic 1979 case, Pugh v. Holmes, as one condition that creates an uninhabitable condition.  But there are no other appellate civil cases in Pennsylvania that raise the issue of habitability due to the presence of cockroaches in a residence.

And then there are bedbugs.  These little vampires have the ability to go dormant for years, reappearing when the next humans move in. There are no modern civil cases in the Pennsylvania appellate courts that mention bedbugs. That will change, soon.

In both cases, as with other vermin, it can be exceptionally hard to prove when the critters arrived, how they arrived and who brought them.

Up to now, we also haven’t heard about any litigation involving the sale of insect/rodent infested real estate. Look for that to change as well.  Properties that have cockroaches, bedbugs and other unwanted squatters are eventually bought and sold, just like  every other property. And it is only a matter of time before a buyer sues a seller for failing to disclose the situation.  Whether the seller actually knew of the condition, or should have known, is a matter of proof.

At the moment, the Pennsylvania Residential Real Estate Disclosure Statement does not directly address vermin-in-residence, except termites, except under the catch-all term “pests”. If the seller has a report on such an infestation, or there is property damage, it has to be disclosed.  But the question whether the Seller knows of an infestation of cockroaches, bedbugs, rodents or some pest other than termites, is not specifically asked.  Not yet.

Here is what the applicable section looks like now:

Disclosure Statement



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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