Biohazard Cleaning: Who is Responsible?

Biohazard incidents take on many forms. From an accident in a busy grocery store to an unattended death in a small suburban home, one question inevitably arises: exactly who is responsible for the cleanup?

It’s a sensitive topic, but part of dealing with death involves addressing the issue of cleanup. After the body is removed by authorities, families may be at a loss figuring out what to do next. Many do not know where to turn and choose to handle cleaning on their own, believing that there is no other option. Others look to funeral directors, the police, or their insurance adjuster for advice. However, even most professionals are not aware of the existence of biohazard cleanup specialists. Moreover, the question of who is responsible can be complicated by numerous factors. Ultimately, the better educated you are on the subject, the more aware you are of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to managing a traumatic incident.

While we hope you never have to deal with death cleanup, Aftermath knows that accidents happen. Below are two different situations, similar to those we see every day. Try and guess who will ultimately be responsible for the cleaning in each case. The answers may surprise you.

Case 1: Crime Scene Cleanup in a Retail Store
The setting: a retail establishment located in a strip mall. A disgruntled customer enters the store and threatens a cashier. While the manager phones the police, the man pulls a gun. Luckily no one is killed, but the suspect and several patrons are injured during his capture. The end result? Several aisles of broken merchandise and small amounts of blood on the linoleum tile floor. The district manager and company are not only concerned about the customers and employees, but about making sure the stigma of the incident doesn’t linger and damage business. This means getting the store cleaned and reopened as soon as possible.

Answer: The parent company or building owner.
Depending on if they own or lease the property, the company’s leasing terms may dictate what remediation takes place in the building. Additionally, the company may have insurance in place to help mitigate the costs associated with a workplace incident or crime scene cleanup. Damages to merchandise is likely covered, but again, professional biohazard cleaning may not be. One way larger companies can mitigate the cost of biohazard cleanup is by establishing a relationship with a professional cleaner before an incident happens. For more information on commercial cleanup services and on-demand cleaning, visit our page for business owners.

Case 2: Unattended Death in Hoarded Apartment

The Setting: A single elderly man lives alone in an apartment complex. He has no immediate family nearby; distant relatives live in neighboring states and only hear from him on holidays. One day, the man has a heart attack and passes away in his home, unbeknownst to others. Several weeks go by before neighbors notice his mail piling up. A few days later, the woman next door reports a strange odor coming from his apartment. After several attempts to contact the tenant, the property owner finally intervenes. Inside, they discover the man’s body, as well as signs of hoarding. Not only is the unit unrentable in it’s current state, but it may also pose a health hazard to others living in the building. A professional cleanup is required, but who will pay for it?

Answer: The building owner. The landlord may attempt to get help from the victim’s family, but ultimately they did not sign the lease and are not responsible for the damages. The family has rights to the man’s possessions, but even if they choose to collect them, this doesn’t guarantee they will help with the cleaning. Furthermore, an unattended death is a taxing biohazard situation. Not only can it cause a lingering odor, but physical damage to the property is possible. Additionally, risks from bloodborne pathogens and other potential disease-causing elements make professional cleaning a necessity. In some cases, insurance may cover all or part of the remediation; however, it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure the property is safe and habitable before selling or renting the space to a new family.

In Both Cases, the Answer is Aftermath

The more people learn about cleanup, the more families we are able to assist. For this reason, Aftermath is dedicated to educating consumers, property managers, and insurance adjusters on the importance of proper death scene cleanup. Our client service managers are trained to work with insurance providers and their customers, and though we cannot guarantee that an insurance company will accept a claim, we will strive to provide the necessary documentation and information to work toward the best solution possible.

As always, if you are experiencing a biohazard situation in your home or business, or need more information on our services, we are available 24/7 to answer your call. Please dial 877-872-4339 for immediate assistance.