City Hall

Views of Chicago's City Hall. (Tribune illustration)

The City Council Health Committee on Thursday endorsed a proposal that would allow the city to fine landlords up to $2,000 a day for failing to take steps to eradicate bed bug infestations.

The Chicago Association of Realtors opposed an earlier version, but supports the revised measure after Ald. Ray Suarez made some of the their requested changes.

The proposal now puts a bit more emphasis on what tenants must do to help eliminate bed bug infestations while giving landlords a bit more time to respond to complaints. It also gives judges leeway on whether to order monetary damages for tenants who face eviction or other retaliation for reporting infestations.

“I hope that it will solve a major problem in a lot of the areas where there’s a lot of buildings that have bed bugs,” said Suarez. The 31st Ward alderman added that he hopes it will prod all landlords to say, “If we have bed bugs, we’re going to do everything we can as fast as we can.”

Along with declaring bed bugs a public nuisance, the measure would require landlords of buildings with two or more rental units to hire licensed professionals to eradicate bed bugs in units where they are found. Landlords also must inspect neighboring units and if bed bugs are found in those, provide additional extermination services.

The proposal also would bar landlords from renting units with active bed bug infestations. Failure to comply with provisions of the measure could result in fines of up to $500 a day for a first violation, $1,000 for a second and $2,000 for a third or subsequent violation.

Tenants, in turn, are required to report bed bug infestations within five days of discovering them and must cooperate with the landlord in efforts to eradicate the pests. Under one change, they would have to completely seal and label bed bug-infested items before removing them from an apartment.