Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA, is caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics utilized to treat bacterial infections.
In a majority of cases, a MRSA infection occurs when an individual has been in a hospital or other type of medical facility or setting. With that said, an increasing number of MRSA infections are acquired in the broader community, including in residential property. This occurs through direct person to person contact. In addition, this type of bacteria has the ability to survive on surfaces and objects for a relatively extended period of time. Thus, an individual can become infected with MRSA by coming into contact with a contaminated surface or object.
Staph skin infections, including MRSA, generally start as swollen, painful red bumps that might resemble pimples or spider bites. The affected area might be:
- Warm to the touch
- Full of pus or other drainage
- Accompanied by a fever
These can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. Sometimes the bacteria remain confined to the skin. But they can also burrow deep into the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs.
California Residential Real Estate Disclosure Laws and Prior MRSA Contamination
Turning first to disclosures required of a landlord to a prospective tenant, California law doesn’t specifically require notification to a new renter of prior MRSA contamination. California landlord and tenant law specifically enumerates the following types of disclosures that a landlord must make to a new renter:
- How to access the registered offender database to ascertain if there is such a person in the vicinity of the rental property
- Notification that tenant shares in paying for certain utilities in common areas
- Presence of mold in the premises
- Advisement that a pest control company serviced the premises to eradicate an infestation, with the pest at issue specifically identified
- General information about bedbugs, whether or not there had been an infestation
- Advisement of prior methamphetamine contamination at the premises
- Death in the rental property within the past three years
The disclosures to be made by a property owner to a prospective buyer of residential real estate are far more significant and complex. They generally include the various types of disclosures mentioned a moment ago, with the exclusion of those that necessarily are part of a landlord and tenant relationship only. However, they go much further. Indeed, the state of California has created a detailed resource entitled Disclosures in Real Property Transactions that sets forth all of these various disclosure requirements.
Within these disclosure mandates, there is nothing that specifically requires a homeowner to disclose prior MRSA contamination in residential real estate. With that said, the residential real estate disclosure law contains a catch-all provision that is not found in the landlord and tenant code.
In a California residential real estate sale situation, a homeowner has the legal obligation to disclose something that he or she reasonably believes could have an impact on a prospective seller’s decision to purchase the property. Arguably, prior MRSA contamination at the property would fall into such a category for most individuals considering buying a property.
The reality is that making this disclosure doesn’t mean a sale is going to be torpedoed. Rather, such a disclosure allows for MRSA contamination cleanup should a prospective buyer be so inclined. It might open up the door to a bit of a price adjustment to accommodate the need for MRSA contamination cleanup to ensure that no risk of infection remains. However, as is illustrated in a moment, such an adjustment is not significant.
There is no similar catchall provision in the California rules and regs regarding disclosures to be made in a situation involving a landlord and tenant. With that said, the discussion regarding the necessity of disclosure doesn’t end with a focus only on landlord and tenant and real estate sales laws in the state of California. We must go one step further.
Personal injury and premises liability laws and court decisions also come into play when it comes to renting or selling residential property that was the scene of a MRSA infection. If for some reason the contamination wasn’t appropriately remediated, a real danger can exist. The shocking reality is that MRSA has the biological wherewithal to survive on a surface for months – months! There is a relatively general consensus that it can survive on a surface for 90 days, but there is evidence that under certain circumstances, the possibility exists that this bacterium can survive even longer.
Thus, if MRSA contamination existed – exists – at a residential property, and the owner or landlord fails to disclose, a serious situation can arise. If the new owner or tenant suffers a MRSA infection as a result of that contamination, that individual would be in a position to sue the former owner or landlord. A skilled personal injury lawyer will have the resources to connect the dots between a client’s MRSA infection and the residential property.
In the final analysis, despite a lack of a specific directive to spell out a prior MRSA contamination, a residential property owner is best served voluntarily disclosing the situation. Not only will such a move work to stave off legal liability for harm to a new owner or renter, it will work to protect such an individual from the possibility of a MRSA infection in the first instance.
Professional MRSA Contamination Cleanup
Those situations in which a pre-existing MRSA contamination issue arises typically involve a scenario in which a residential property owner attempts to undertake MRSA contamination cleanup on his or her own. The fact is that the typical home or rental property owner lacks the most suitable resources to fully and safely address a MRSA contamination in a home. As a consequence, a residential property owner protects his or her own interests and the health and wellbeing of others by hiring a reputable MRSA contamination cleanup company.