There's nothing more terrifying than spotting a bedbug in your hotel room when traveling. The tiny creatures can spread quickly, which makes them particularly nerve-wracking. While there are very few laws specifically addressing bedbugs, hotels have a responsibility to keep you safe under common law. Even the cleanest, most expensive hotels may have a bedbug infestation, so it's best to educate yourself on hotel pest control policies and how to spot the signs of a bedbug case yourself.

State Bedbug Laws

No federal bedbug law exists, but some states have passed legislation concerning hotels and their obligations to keep you safe from these pests. Alabama, California, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota and West Virginia enforce some form of bedbug-specific law, but most of them lack teeth; merely setting down in writing that hotels must take cleanliness measures to prevent pests.

Only Kansas, Nevada and West Virginia require hotels to stop using the room and exterminate the bedbugs before another guest stays the night.

Common Law

Under common law, the hotel manager has a responsibility to use reasonable care to promote your safety as a hotel guest. Bedbugs pose a well-known hazard to personal safety; bites can cause rash, allergic reactions and permanent scars. It is reasonable to expect hotel staff to clean, fumigate, disinfect and exterminate any known infestation of bedbugs. But common law does not require the hotel staff to ensure your safety, only to take reasonable measures to promote it. If the infested room is unknown to the hotel manager, then the common law protection does not apply as long as the room is reasonably clean. It is unreasonable to expect hotel staff to know about a bedbug issue before it starts.

Legal Recourse

The law can view bedbug bites and infestations as serious injuries, not unlike those suffered in a car crash. The bedbug injuries themselves can cause lasting emotional distress and psychological damage, cause embarrassing rashes, fierce itching and in some cases, permanent scarring.

  • Gather evidence if you become the victim of hotel bedbugs, including pictures of the bedbugs and your bites.
  • Contact the local health department, ask it to inspect your room and get a copy of the report.
  • File a formal complaint with hotel management, getting the hotel owner’s or manager's name, phone number and email address.
  • Seek bedbug treatment for your personal injuries and get a record of your doctor's visit.

You can bring evidence to a law firm that can help you with civil litigation on the grounds of duty of care if your injuries are serious enough. Bed bug attorneys often offer free consultations for victims of bedbug bites, and can guide you as you seek compensation for medical expenses

Protect Yourself

Look for signs of bedbugs in your room immediately after check-in. Look all around and under your mattress and linens for small dots of rusty or reddish blood stains left by crushed bedbugs.

Bedbug excrement appears as tiny black dots that may bleed into fabric like the point of a marker. Look for tiny, 1-millimeter eggs that are pale yellow in color, or look for the apple-seed-sized, reddish-brown adult bedbugs themselves.

Bugs commonly hide in crevices like the seams of chairs and beds, box springs, baseboards and headboards, between the folds of curtains, in electrical sockets, between cushions and even under tacks or loose screws.

Bedbug bites produce a raised, red, swollen area with a dark-red center. Bites often come in clusters or make a line across the skin.

If you see or feel any sign of bedbugs, leave the room and immediately notify hotel staff of the infestation and need for a new room.

Prevent Infestation

Bedbugs cling and hide inside clothing and luggage, where you can take them home to start a new bedbug problem.

If you come in contact with bedbugs at a hotel, ask for a garbage bag and tightly seal all of your belongings.

  • Transfer all of your washable clothes to a different garbage bag outside of your home and take the clothes to the washer inside of the new bag.
  • Wash the clothes on the hot cycle and dry the clothes on the highest temperature setting for at least 30 minutes to kill any bugs or eggs.
  • Leave the rest of your belongings inside the garbage bag in the sun, where the internal temperature will reach 120 degrees or higher. Or place the garbage bag in a freezer overnight to kill the bedbugs.
  • Hire a pest-management professional to disinfect your non-washable items.