When renting a house or apartment, Ohio law clearly states that the landlord is responsible for keeping the dwelling in a safe and sanitary condition. Whether this obligation extends to the extermination of insects and pests is often a matter of debate between landlords and tenants. Often, landlords believe that it is the responsibility of the tenant to absorb the costs associated with pest extermination because they assert that the tenant has created the condition that lead to the infestation.
There are instances where extermination costs are properly shifted to the tenant. One obvious circumstance is a flea infestation that was brought into the dwelling by a pet owned by the tenant. Under that scenario, liability for the costs of extermination would likely be shifted to the tenant. However, not all circumstances are that obvious.
Who is liable for the cost of extermination related to bed bugs is an issue receiving a great deal of attention in certain cities because bed bug infestation has increased greatly in the United States in the past ten years. Although these blood-thirsty pests have been residents of this country since the early 17th century, their recent population boom has received a lot of media attention and created anxiety for many.
Bed bugs are parasites that feed primarily on human blood at night. They are excellent travelers and move easily from one place to another on luggage, used furniture, shoes, and clothes. Bed bugs can invest trains, busses, airplanes, and ships. They are most frequently found in places with a high occupancy turnover such as hotels, hostels, dormitories, apartment complexes, and movie theatres.
Due to their small size and nocturnal nature, bed bugs often go undetected for a long period of time. Most people become aware of their presence after developing a rash from being bitten, but only about 30 percent of the population develops the itchy welts associated with bed bug bites. Because the presence of bed bugs is not always apparent, the question of when they arrived in a dwelling and therefore who is responsible for the costs of eradicating them can arise between a landlord and tenant.
The most obvious place to find evidence of a bed bug infestation is in the bedroom. By pulling back the bed linens and inspecting the seams of the bedding you are likely to uncover the bugs themselves or dark brownish or black spots, which are the tell-tale fecal matter of the bed bug. Bed bugs like to hide so you are not likely to find them in out in the open; look in the cracks and crevices of bedroom furniture, and even behind picture frames.
If you are renting an apartment and suspect that you have a bed bug infestation, you should immediately make a written request for inspection and extermination. Extermination of bed bugs must be done by a licensed exterminator. If you live in a multi-unit dwelling, it is advised that apartments adjacent to the infested unit be exterminated as well. Bed bugs are excellent travelers and it is highly likely that they have spread out or will do so when extermination begins.
If the landlord refuses to pay for a professional extermination or attempts to charge you for this cost, seek assistance from us.
Kristine Hayes, former Staff Attorney
Landing a job in a down-turned economy is a challenge for any applicant and in this age of social media, preparing for a job interview requires more than a tight resume and a well-ironed shirt. Those looking for a job should consider what kind of virtual impression they are making. Increasingly, savvy interviewers are turning to the internet to glean information about and relying on criminal background checks to eliminate applicants from consideration.
Social media sites like Facebook and MySpace can offer employers insight into the habits and personality of an applicant. Employers that can gain access to this information may use it to deny employment to applicants who are otherwise qualified. While it is illegal to discriminate against applicants based on protected characteristics (race, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability, pregnancy, and in some instances sexual orientation), it is not illegal to make decisions based on perceptions of maturity, morality, or overall intelligence.
Cleaning up your social media footprint could go a long way when it comes to first impressions with employers. Applicants should consider the security settings offered by the social media sites and limit those setting to only allow those with permission to view their profiles and postings. Applicants should be cautious about who they allow access to their information and only “friend” those people that they actually know. Applicants should also consider deleting information or images that are particularly unflattering: What was funny at a party might not be amusing to a potential employer.
If you have a criminal record of any sort, you should investigate whether your criminal record can be expunged or sealed. A criminal record is any criminal history compiled by state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies. The criminal record will likely contain information about all offenses, including traffic violations. By expunging or sealing a criminal record, the information about the crime will be removed from “public view,” and with some limited exceptions, will not be available to employers.
Employers who are able to get access to an applicant’s criminal record may legally use that information for hiring decisions provided that they are able to show a legitimate “business necessity” for doing so. In other words, consideration of the criminal history must be reasonably related to the requirements of the job. For instance, a bank would be well within its right to deny employment to an applicant with a criminal history that includes theft if that individual would be working with money.
Prior to accessing an applicant’s criminal record, the employer must give notice to the applicant and seek the applicant’s permission to use the criminal record. If a criminal record is used by the employer, the employer must provide the applicant with a copy and a summary of the applicant’s rights. The use of background checks is subject to standards set forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
When an applicant has expunged or sealed an arrest record in Ohio, the applicant may legitimately deny that the arrest occurred. However, applicants should confirm that the information is in fact hidden from public view. Unfortunately, private agencies that compile criminal records sometimes have databases that contain archived data and the fact of the expungement or sealing will not keep that information out of the hands of employers. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you do have the right to dispute incorrect information.
Kristine Hayes, former Staff Attorney