Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New law can help control bedbugs, NH senators told

New law can help control bedbugs, NH senators told

Updated 1:27 pm, Tuesday, April 2, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's best chance at curbing bedbugs is to create guidelines that clarify who is responsible for taking action when they're discovered, a broad coalition of landlord and tenant groups, affordable housing advocates and pest control workers told legislators Tuesday.
A growing problem in New Hampshire due to the increase in multi-family housing and greater mobility, the blood-sucking parasites feed at night, leave itchy red marks and extract a psychological toll on their hosts. If not tackled immediately, their population can go from one to 68,000 in six months, and people spread them unknowingly in several ways. Infestations can cost property owners tens of thousands of dollars to fix.
Maggie Fogarty, an advocate for affordable housing, told a Senate committee that her organization took on bedbugs in 2009 when an African immigrant leader sought help for a community of refugees and recent arrivals living in an infested housing complex in Manchester.
An elderly man sat outside all night to avoid being bitten, another slept in his car, children fell asleep in school and a young mother sought emergency shelter so that she didn't have to bring her newborn home from the hospital into an infestation, said Fogarty.
"We did not go looking for this issue," she said. "It came to us."
The Senate is considering a bill the House passed, which amends housing law to make responsibilities clear for landlords and tenants in an infestation. It requires landlords to investigate and take reasonable measures get rid of bedbugs and gives them greater ability to enter rental properties to eradicate bedbugs. It also calls for tenants to cooperate in preparing for exterminations.
Landlords would pay for the upfront costs of extermination, but the proposal establishes a process for the money to be recouped if the tenant is found to be the source of the infestation. The bill is backed by the stakeholders who testified Tuesday.
The bill updates housing codes and minimum housing quality standards, allowing cities and towns to enact ordinances aimed at preventing the spread of bedbugs. Making some infestations a violation of minimum quality standards protects low-income tenants, who might not be able to fight an infestation on their own.
The bill is the result of years of negotiations, said Nick Norman, a longtime landlord representing the Rental Property Owners Association. He said it strikes a delicate balance between tenants, landlords, public health officials and others to tackle a common problem and urged the Senate to pass the bill without amendment as the House had done, so as not upset that balance.
The Senate HealthEducation and Human Services Committee recommended the bill's passage and it will now go before the full Senate.

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