Missouri apartment landlord ordered to pay tenant over bed bugs

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | 5:30 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri appeals court has ruled that an apartment owner must return rent to a tenant who says her apartment was infested by bed bugs.

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, upheld a trial court decision that called for apartment owner DeVille I Properties LLC to refund the monthly rent of $405. The appeals court concluded the landlord did not do enough to make the apartment habitable after being notified of a possible bed bug infestation.

The Jefferson City News Tribune reported Wednesday that the appeals court also rejected the apartment company's claim that it be paid an additional month's rent and cleaning charges because the tenant left the apartment without properly ending the lease.

Laura Kolb moved into a Jefferson City apartment with her daughter in December 2008 while their house was being remodeled with plans to return home after February 2009. After several weeks, they noticed red welts on their bodies and blood spots on their pillows and sheets. In early February, a dermatologist determined the welts were caused by bed bugs.

Kolb indicated she planned to leave the apartment and notified the landlord of the bed bug issue.

The landlord called a pest control company, which said bed bugs could be present but that it found no evidence of them. The company gave the apartment a one-time spraying with chemicals to kill the bugs.

Although the company noted that it would need to be sprayed two to four times to rid the place of bed bugs, court records said the landlord did no further spraying. Instead, the landlord sent Kolb a letter, saying there was no evidence of insects in the unit and that she should look elsewhere for the source of the bites, the recordsstated.

Bed bugs have been on the rebound in recent years, taking root in college dorms, hospitals, hotels and homes. The bugs live in the crevices and folds of mattresses, sofas and sheets and feed on human blood. They're not known to transmit any diseases, but people have had an allergic reaction to their bites.

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