Review Site’s Bedbug Rules, Lease Addenda to Ensure Compliance
In the fall, as the heat of summer diminishes, site managers typically experience an increase in pest complaints from residents as outdoor pests move indoors seeking warmth. Site managers also find an increase in bedbug sightings, despite the fact that bedbugs are indoor pests that are rarely found outside. While other pests are trying to get into your home to get away from the cold, bedbugs are already inside. But bedbugs are hitchhikers. They move from one location of infestation to the next by stowing away in things that can be carried, such as clothing, bedding, sleeping bags, pocketbooks, or duffle bags. When kids go to school or have sleepovers, they have the potential to bring bedbugs with them. If bags, clothing, or other items from two students are stored in close proximity, bedbugs can transfer.
In the past decade, assisted housing sites have been hit hard by the bedbug resurgence. These pests are well adapted to human environments since we are their food and they can hide in small crevices. With the bedbug resurgence, HUD has directed much attention to this problem by issuing guidance and establishing appropriate inspection protocols. HUD has indicated that it’s in the process of updating guidance to reflect advances made in the treatment of these pests and to reflect current industry standards.
Earlier this year, HUD released a memorandum, “Clarification to Housing Notice H2012-5 Guidelines on Addressing Infestations in HUD-Insured and Assisted Multifamily Housing.” This memo clarifies HUD’s current guidance regarding pest management, pending the release of updated guidance.
HUD Notice H2012-5
Issued in 2012, this guidance backed away from prior blanket prohibitions on both charging residents for bedbug treatments when they cause damage and terminating the tenancy of noncompliant residents. The notice stated:
All Owners (of assisted and unassisted properties) may pursue remedies provided in the lease agreement and in accordance with state and local rental law. Assisted Owners must follow additional guidelines including occupancy requirements for assisted housing, and must adhere to all HUD and state and local landlord/tenant laws before taking action to deny tenancy or remove residents for causes related to infestations. For owners and agents of assisted properties, the Family Model Lease provides remedies related to damages or noncompliance.
The model lease specifies that the unit must be maintained in a decent, safe, and sanitary manner and that the resident won’t do anything to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the property by other residents. But when denying or terminating assistance, owners or agents must do so in compliance with HUD regulations.
According to HUD Handbook 4350.2, par. 6-25(C), owners may charge the actual and reasonable costs they incur for repairing damages caused by noncompliant residents. If an owner charges for the eradication of bedbugs, the process should be outlined in various documents such as the tenant selection plan, house rules, and Integrated Pest management Plan.
HUD’s Clarification Memo on Bedbug Guidance
This memo applies to sites that use the HUD Model Lease for Subsidized Programs (Family Model Lease — Form HUD-90105-A, HUD 90105-B, HUD 90105-C, and HUD 90105-D). The memo discusses changes to the lease and any sort of bedbug lease addenda. HUD is concerned that some of these changes and some of these addenda may contain provisions conflicting with current guidance.
Sites that add to the lease or develop a lease addendum must get HUD approval. In reviewing change requests for approval, the memo says HUD staff should consider the following:
- The model lease (a) requires the landlord to provide extermination services, as necessary; (b) requires the tenant to keep the unit clean; and (c) allows for the resident to be charged for damages caused by the resident’s carelessness, misuse, or neglect.
- H2012-5 advises that rental assistance, owner advances, and reserve for replacement funds may be used to control infestations.
- Sites should have an Integrated Pest Management plan, including resident education regarding housekeeping, cleanliness, acceptable furniture, unit inspection, and identification of bedbugs; owners and management agents may request technical assistance in reviewing and updating such plans; and
- A regular, proactive inspection program by management is a crucial component of Integrated Pest Management.
A lease addendum that duplicates or contradicts the above provisions should be denied. For example, certain language may shift the cost of extermination to the resident. Unless the owner can demonstrate that the infestation was caused by carelessness or neglect on the part of a resident, shifting the cost of extermination to the resident isn’t acceptable.
Additionally, some provisions put the burden of inspection on residents. The memo says that management should have an educational and informational program to help residents identify and understand the importance of prevention and reporting. When bedbugs are present, management must conduct regular inspections and exterminate.
Some owners have incorporated bedbug policies in their house rules. Some house rule provisions put the burden of inspection on residents. In these cases, management should have an educational program to help residents identify and understand the importance of prevention and reporting. House rules don’t require HUD or contract administrator approval [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 6-9(A)(2)], but owner/agents may not develop house rules that conflict with the model lease, other HUD requirements, or state and local law. If HUD staff become aware of conflicts, local office staff must notify property management immediately and require an amendment of the house rules.
HUD provides examples of questionable requests or house rules. These include:
- Provisions that transfer the cost of monitoring, prevention, and treatment to residents without cause should be denied;
- Provisions that require the purchase of equipment, such as mattress covers or vacuum cleaners, should be denied; and
- Temporary relocation of a resident household for treatment generally isn’t required and, if necessary, should be a site cost, assuming the resident isn’t at fault.
HUD notes that, after reviewing this memo, HUD staff may rescind approval of previously approved addenda. It’s also important to note that while the memo speaks to lease changes or addenda, if you have a “bedbug policy” or a “bedbug agreement,” you’re required to comply with the guidance provided by HUD. Identifying an addenda as an “agreement” specifically to avoid approval isn’t an acceptable practice.