By JOSH BARBANEL in the Wall Street Journal
With the fear of bedbugs sweeping across New York City, state housing officials have issued a new disclosure form requiring landlords to reveal whether or not the tiny blood-sucking insects had been reported in a rental apartment or elsewhere in the building.
The form, the DBB-N, or Notice to Tenant: Disclosure of Bedbug Infestation history, is to be signed by a landlord and a new tenant when a lease is prepared, giving tenants a last chance to back out.
Brokers says that in the past few months, amid a rise in reports of bedbugs, more and more tenants have been inquiring into the bedbug history of apartments, and the disclosure law will do much to clear the air. But landlords are now worried that the new form will make apartments and entire buildings unrentable, even if a small bedbug sighting has been treated.
You are going to put a scarlet B on a lot of apartment buildings and make tenants afraid to rent, says Sherwin Belkin, a lawyer who represents many landlords. He says the forms, based on a law signed by Gov. David Paterson two weeks ago, were overly broad, and failed to distinguish between incredible infestations and instances where someone saw a couple of begs in one apartment that were treated.
In the form, landlords are required check a series of boxes, indicating whether a bedbug infestation has been found during the past year, and whether or not eradication measures were employed.
After largely disappearing during the 1940s through the use of the now-banned pesticide DDT, bedbugs have returned in recent years, and reports of bedbug infestations have soared in hotels, homes, offices, and even luxury boutiques, hospitals and the Empire State Building.
Still there are signs that the surge in bedbug reports is slowing. The city’s housing agency reported 7,021 bedbug complaints in the first seven months of the year, a 5.7% increase from the same period the year before, while the number of violations issued fell by 3.8% during the same period.
The number of bedbug reports to city’s 311 nonemergency hotline also fell by 13% so far this year as well.
James Plastiras, a spokesman for the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, says every landlord in New York City who issues a tenant a lease, including owners of rental units in two-family houses and in condo and co-op buildings, would be required to fill out the form.
Gordon Golub, who oversees rentals at Citi Habitats, says that during the last few months, the firm’s 650 brokers reported that about half of all renters looking for apartments mentioned bedbugs, a sharp increase.
He says a small number of renters would walk away from buildings with any bedbug history, increasing the length of time it takes to rent them. But he says with the vacancy rate in Manhattan at about 1%, it was unlikely to drive rents lower.
Landlords will correct the problem immediately if there is a problem, he says.
—Melanie Grayce West contributed to this article.