General Information on Bed Bugs
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, flat, wingless insects. They feed on blood.
What do bed bugs look like?
Bed bugs are the size, shape, and color of an apple seed. They are 1/4 of an inch long and look reddish-brown. The eggs are tiny and white. Bed bugs are big enough to see.
Where do bed bugs live?
Bed bugs live where people sleep, sit, or lay down. They can be found on mattresses and bed frames. They can also be found in chairs, couches, and tight spaces.
How can bed bugs get into an apartment?
Bed bugs get into an apartment by clothing, bags, furniture, and mattresses. They can get in through small cracks in walls, ceilings, and under doors. Bed bugs cannot fly.
What can I do to prevent bed bugs?
Bed bugs can be found anywhere. Always check furniture and bedding bought used. Never bring items found in the trash into your apartment. After vacation, check your luggage for bed bugs before going into your apartment. Clean your bed sheets often and buy mattress covers.
Do bed bugs transmit disease?
What health issues do bed bugs cause?
Bed bug bites may cause swelling, redness, and itching.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
Look for live or dead bed bugs on furniture and mattresses. Also look for tiny dark spots or red stains. Bed bug bites are a sign, but not everyone will notice the bites.
What do I do if I think I have bed bugs in my apartment?
Tenants must call their landlord immediately and then follow-up in writing. Once the landlord is told, wait for instructions from the landlord and a pest control expert. Early notification and treatment will help to prevent the bed bugs from spreading.
Tenants should not try to get rid of the bed bugs by using chemicals, "bug bombs", or pesticides. These items do not work and could make you sick.
Should I throw away sheets, clothing, or other items that may have bed bugs?
This is not necessary unless the pest control expert says so. If you have to throw away items, seal them in a plastic bag first. This will stop the bed bugs from spreading. You may not recycle items that have bed bugs. All infested items must be sealed in a plastic bag before throwing them away. This bag must be labeled that it is infested with bed bugs.
What should I do with infested sheets and clothes?
- Wash all sheets and clothes that are infested in hot water. After drying the clothes, dry for an added 20 minutes on the highest setting;
- Put un-washable or "dry clean only" items in the dryer on the highest setting for 20 minutes;
- If you have to use a laundromat or a common area to do laundry, make sure all items are sealed in a bag before leaving your apartment; and
- Once all items are dried, seal them in clean bags so bed bugs don't re-infest them.
In 2013, Chicago passed a law to help with the growing bed bug problem. Landlords are now required to give tenants a brochure on bed bugs when a lease is signed. The law makes tenants and landlords share the duty in preventing and controlling bed bugs.
Tenants in Chicago
What are my duties as a tenant?
If you are a tenant, you must tell your landlord within 5 days of suspecting a bed bug infestation. You must cooperate with the landlord by doing the following:
- Don't interfere with an inspection or treatment;
- Allow access to your apartment;
- Throw away any items the pest control expert says cannot be treated; and
- Put in a plastic bag any items that will be moved through any common area.
Are there any exceptions to these tenant duties?
Yes. Tenants living in an assisted living or shared housing facility are excepted. These places are required to give the tenant help with daily living. In these places, the landlord is responsible for making the necessary preparations and for removal of any personal property.
What penalties can I face for not following these requirements?
The city may fine you. Fines can go as high as $2,000 for a third offense. Your landlord cannot fine you.
What are my rights as a tenant?
Landlords cannot retaliate against you for doing any of the following:
- Complaining of bed bug infestation to the government, a community organization, or the media,
- Asking your landlord to provide pest control measures, or
- Testifying in court about any bed bug infestation.
What should I do if my landlord does not respond?
Give your landlord up to 10 days to have an inspection. If your landlord does not respond, call 311 and file a complaint.
Landlords in Chicago
What are the landlord's duties under the ordinance?
Landlords have four main duties under the ordinance:
- Provide a brochure when tenants sign a lease;
- Notify tenants before inspection or treatment of their apartment;
- Provide instructions for preparing the apartment for inspection or treatment; and
- Get rid of bed bug infestation by paying for pest control services.
How much time does a landlord have to provide a pest control expert?
Landlords have up to 10 days to have an expert look at the apartment.
Does the ordinance require any specific type of inspection or treatment?
If bed bugs are found in apartment, the apartments on both sides and directly above and below it need to be inspected also.
Treatment will only happen if bed bugs are found.
Do these requirements apply to condominiums or cooperative buildings?
Yes, but only to units that are being rented.
What penalties can a landlord face for not following these requirements?
Fines can go as high as $2,000 for a third offense.
Illinois law (outside Chicago)
If you live outside Chicago, the laws on bed bugs may differ based on where you live. You should check your local ordinances to see if there are any specific rules for bed bugs. If you have questions, you can contact your local government.
No matter where you live in Illinois, landlords are required to provide tenants with a habitable apartment. This includes providing an apartment free from bed bug infestation. Generally, unless a tenant brought bed bugs into the property, the landlord must pay for services to remove the bed bugs. If a landlord can prove that a tenant brought the bed bugs into the property, they may be able to charge the tenant for the removal services. In most cases, it is difficult to prove the source of the bed bugs.
If you are a tenant, and your landlord is not responding to you, or refuses to pay for bed bug removal, contact your local housing officials. You can also get legal help to learn more about your legal options.