Bill to fight bedbug infestations advances in City Council, advocates say amendments make it useless

Philadelphia City Hall.
Photo credit Holli Stephens / KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A bill to grant Philadelphia tenants protection in the event of bedbug infestations passed a City Council committee Tuesday but with an amendment that angered advocates who spent years lobbying for the legislation. 

Community Legal Services attorney George Gould was fit to be tied. He spent two years helping to craft a bill that would require landlords to treat for bedbugs immediately when a tenant reported them, with no retaliation and no cost to the tenant.

"Unfortunately, we were just informed that there was an amendment put to the bill which makes a major, major change in the bill," Gould said.

Last minute amendments are frequent in Council committee hearings and there have been complaints in the past, but this amendment was such a fundamental change, Gould complained it subverted the bill's entire intent. 

"We are totally and completely opposed to this amendment," he added.

The bill now says that if a tenant reports bedbugs after they've been in a unit for 90 days, they're responsible for half the cost of remediation, which the landlord can deduct from their security deposit. 

Multiple people testified that bedbugs have dormant periods that can last longer than 90 days, that they can travel in from elsewhere without the tenant knowing, but sponsor Mark Squilla said the compromise, suggested by landlords, was needed to move the bill forward.

"By moving the bill forward we do see an opportunity to get people to report it. The whole thing is to get people to report this," Squilla said.

The bill now goes to the full Council.