ASSEMBLY, No. 3203

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

213th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED SEPTEMBER 15, 2008

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman JOAN M. QUIGLEY

District 32 (Bergen and Hudson)

Assemblywoman L. GRACE SPENCER

District 29 (Essex and Union)

Assemblyman L. HARVEY SMITH

District 31 (Hudson)

Assemblywoman CLEOPATRA G. TUCKER

District 28 (Essex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes procedures to prevent and eradicate bedbug infestations in certain residential property.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning bedbug infestations in residential dwellings and supplementing and amending Title 26 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1. (New section) The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.  Populations of the common bedbug, Cimex lectularius, have increased by 500 percent in the past few years.

     b.  A bedbug infestation is a uniquely hard to exterminate threat to the health and habitability of a dwelling because tiny adult bedbugs are able to hide deep in mattresses and walls, and their food source is the occupants of a dwelling.

     c.  Bedbugs leave signs of their presence in bedding and in a dwelling that are visible to the naked eye, making education of a dwelling occupant a critical aspect of prevention.

     d.  Bedbugs feed on human blood, and present a public health risk.

     e.  Bedbugs travel through the ventilation systems in multi-unit establishments, causing exponential infestations.

     f.  The owner of a multiple dwelling is in the best position to coordinate the extermination bedbug infestations in that multiple dwelling.

     g.  The common bedbug is a public nuisance and it is a matter of public welfare to protect New Jersey citizens' health from this pest.

 

     2. (New section) For purposes of this act:

     "Bedbug" means an insect of the species "Cimex lectularius," commonly referred to as a bedbug.

     "Commissioner"  means the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.

     "Department"  means the Department of Health and Senior Services.

     "Dwelling" or "multiple dwelling" means a multiple dwelling as defined in section 3 of the "Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law," P.L.1967, c.76 (C.55:13A-3).

     "Eradicate" means the process required to eliminate an infestation of bedbugs by poisoning, spraying, fumigating, trapping, or by any other recognized and lawful pest-elimination methods, including repeated applications of any treatment.

     "Infestation" means the presence of bedbugs in numbers large enough to be noticeable, harmful, or threatening to the occupants of a dwelling unit.

     "Local board" or "local board of health" means the board of health of any municipality or the boards, bodies or officers in such municipality lawfully exercising any of the powers of a local board of health under the laws  governing such municipality.

     "Local health officer" means any duly appointed health officer employed by the local board of health as described in R.S.26:3-19.

     "Owner" means the owner as defined in section 3 of the "Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law," P.L.1967, c.76 (C.55:13A-3).

 

     3. (New section) a.  The department, in consultation with the Department of Community Affairs, shall, as soon as practicable and annually thereafter, prepare a pamphlet that describes bedbugs and explains how bedbug infestations spread.  This pamphlet may contain any information that the commissioner deems necessary and may be revised by the department whenever new information concerning bedbugs becomes available.  The pamphlet shall contain the following information:

     (1) Measures that may be taken to prevent and control bedbug infestations in a residential setting, including professional extermination, cleaning the dwelling space and mattresses, and laundering bedclothes, and clothing;

     (2) Specific facts about the bedbug, including its appearance and breeding habits; and

     (3) The State's guidelines and regulations for disinfecting, labeling, and reselling mattresses.

     b.  The department shall make the pamphlet available at no cost to the public, in a form suitable for distributing pursuant to the provisions of this act.  The department shall make the pamphlet available in both the English and Spanish languages.  The department shall post the pamphlet on the department's Internet website, in an easily printable format.  The pamphlet shall serve as an informational document only, and nothing therein shall be construed as binding on or affecting a judicial determination related to this act.  The pamphlet shall not be deemed to be medical advice.

     c.  Within 30 days after the department has made the pamphlet available to the public, every owner of a multiple dwelling shall provide each occupied dwelling unit in the multiple dwelling with a copy of the pamphlet, and thereafter every owner of a multiple dwelling shall provide a copy of the current pamphlet to each new tenant at or  prior to the time the tenant assumes occupancy of the dwelling.  In addition, every owner of a multiple dwelling shall keep a copy of the current pamphlet conspicuously posted in one or more common areas and in a manager's office, so that the pamphlet is prominent and accessible to the occupants of each dwelling unit. If there is no common area in the dwelling, the pamphlet shall be posted in a conspicuous location in the premises, including, but not limited to the walls of the front vestibule or any foyer or hallway near the main entrance of the dwelling.


     4. (New section) a.  Every owner of a multiple dwelling shall be responsible, at his own expense, for maintaining the multiple dwelling free of an infestation of bedbugs.

     b.  Upon notice, either oral or written, from a tenant, or from the local board pursuant to R.S.26:3-49, of an infestation of bedbugs in any dwelling unit, an owner shall immediately, at his own expense,

     (1) eradicate the infestation of bedbugs in the dwelling unit;

     (2) ascertain whether other dwelling units or common areas are infested with bedbugs; and

     (3) eradicate any remaining infestation in other dwelling units or common areas.

     c.  When an infestation of bedbugs is found to exist in two or more dwelling units, or in a common area, the owner of the multiple dwelling shall provide notice that there is a risk of an infestation of multiple units to each occupant of the multiple dwelling by causing written notice to be delivered to each dwelling unit in the multiple dwelling.

 

     5. (New section)  a.  The tenant may notify the local board and the owner of a multiple dwelling of any failure of the multiple dwelling to be kept in a condition free of an infestation of bedbugs.

     b.  If, following notice, either oral or written, from a tenant, or from the local board pursuant to R.S.26:3-49, the owner of a multiple dwelling does not eradicate an infestation of bedbugs pursuant to section 4 of P.L.    , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the local health officer shall act as an agent for the owner of a multiple dwelling to engage a qualified insect exterminator or insect management professional at a usual and customary price in the area to eradicate the infestation of bedbugs.

     c.  Any exterminator or insect management professional who provides services to eradicate an infestation in accordance with subsection a. of this section may bill the owner of a multiple dwelling directly.  The local board may adopt an ordinance, similar to an ordinance adopted pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1962, c.66 (C.40:48-2.12f), providing that the municipality shall pay the costs of eradication of an infestation of bedbugs, and that the costs shall be charged against the multiple dwelling premises, and shall be a lien against the premises.  The owner of the multiple dwelling shall reimburse the local health officer or local board for the actual costs incurred for any eradication of an infestation of bedbugs.

 

     6. (New section) a.  Any owner of a multiple dwelling whose negligence or failure to act results in action by the local health officer pursuant to section 5 of P.L.    , c.   (C.         ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than $300 for each affected dwelling unit and not more than $1000 for each affected common area in the multiple dwelling. Such penalty shall be recoverable by and in the name of the local board of health.

     b.  The local board or local health officer may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce a penalty imposed pursuant to subsection a. of this section.  The court is empowered to issue any appropriate injunctive orders, and to authorize immediate collection of reimbursable costs due the local board.

 

     7. (New section) The commissioner, in consultation with the Department of Community Affairs, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), shall adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

     8.  R.S.26:3-46 is amended to read as follows:

     26:3-46. The local board, within its jurisdiction, shall examine into and prohibit any nuisance, offensive matter, foul or noxious odors, gases or vapors, water in which mosquito larvae breed, and all causes of ill health or disease, including bedbugs, which may be known to  the board or brought to its attention, which, in its opinion, are injurious to  the health of the inhabitants therein, and shall cause the same to be removed  and abated at the expense of the owner.

(cf: R.S.26:3-46)

 

     9.  R.S.26:3-49 is amended to read as follows:

     26:3-49. Whenever any nuisance, noxious gases or vapors, water in which mosquito larvae breed, or cause of ill health or disease is found on private property, the local board shall notify the owner to remove and abate the same, at his own  expense, within such time as the board may specify.  A duplicate of the notice  shall be left with one or more of the tenants or occupants.  Whenever any infestation of bedbugs is found in a multiple dwelling, the local board shall notify the owner to eradicate the infestation, at his own expense, immediately.

     If the owner resides out of the state or cannot be so notified speedily, a notice left at the house or premises with the tenant or occupant, or posted on the premises, shall suffice.

     In the event that an owner does not eradicate an infestation of bedbugs immediately following notice pursuant to this section, the local board of health is authorized to act as an a agent for the landlord, pursuant to section 5 of P.L.    , c.   (C.        ), for purposes of eradicating the infestation.

(cf: R.S.26:3-49)

 

     10.  R.S.26:3-54 is amended to read as follows:

     26:3-54. The local board may recover, by a civil action, the expenses incurred in such removal and abatement from any person who shall have caused or allowed such nuisance, source of foulness, water in which mosquito larvae breed, or cause of sickness, hazardous to the public health to exist, or from any owner, tenant, or occupant of premises who, after notice as herein provided, shall fail to remove and abate the same within the time specified in the notice.  The  local board may recover, by a civil action, the expenses incurred in eradication of an infestation of bedbugs, pursuant to section 5 of P.L.    , c.   (C.    ), from the owner of  a multiple dwelling who, after notice, failed to eradicate the infestation of bedbugs.

(cf: P.L.1953, c.26, s.14)

 

     11. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill makes landlords entirely responsible for maintaining a safe and clean living environment free of an infestation of bedbugs.  This legislation provides that property owners are responsible for maintaining multiple dwellings free of bedbug infestations, and must remove bedbugs at their own expense when they become aware of an infestation in a multiple dwelling.  The legislation imposes a financial penalty upon a landlord who does not take immediate action upon notice that bedbugs have infested a property.

     If enacted, this legislation would require a local board of health to act on the landlord's behalf to exterminate bedbugs when a landlord does not do so.  The bill has no financial impact on taxpayers because the property owner is required to reimburse the board when it acts on the owner's behalf.

     The bill also requires annual inspections of multiple dwellings for bedbug infestations.