Finding pests in a rental property can pose a question: who is financially responsible, the landlord or the tenant?
The answer depends on several factors, but it’s usually the landlord. When dealing with a pest infestation, the property owners or property manager is responsible for keeping vermin at bay. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that renters are completely off the hook.
Below, you’ll find the details of the type of pests that may be found in a rental property, how to determine who is responsible, and what to do about it.
What Are the Most Common Types of Pests?
- Bees and Wasps
Who Is Responsible?
The signed contract takes precedence over state law; this is why you should check it first.
If the lease agreement doesn’t have a relevant clause, you could fall back on the general laws of your state/country.
When renting/leasing a property to a new tenant, it’s a smart idea to include this clause to avoid any confusion later, as it can cost a lot of money to hire a pest control company for the upkeep of your rental home.
When Is the Landlord Responsible?
In most US states today, the landlord is responsible for providing a safe, livable residence for tenants. This includes preventative measures, as well as solving current issues in a timely manner.
The landlord is responsible for preventative measures, including:
- Keeping tabs on current population levels of rodents, as well as the building conditions that may contribute to an infestation.
- Maintenance technicians, such as electricians and plumbers, may help with this.
Reducing Access to the Building
- Fixing broken windows, holes, and doors that don’t close completely.
- Placing screens on air vents and blocking access to electrical and plumbing systems.
Reducing Sources of Water
- Fixing leaking pipes and faucets, water-damaged wood and clogged drains.
- Insulating pipes that are prone to condensation.
Managing Recycling and Garbage Bins
- Washing containers weekly and keeping them closed.
- Arranging for trash to be taken regularly.
Landlords are also responsible for seasonal measures and pest control. If an infestation has already occurred, the landlord is responsible for paying a pest control service.
The tenant is responsible for informing the landlord of any of these problems. If they reported the problem and no steps were taken to fix it, then legal action becomes an option.
If the tenant received the rental property in an unclean state, then the landlord is held responsible. In this case, time is of the essence. Reporting the cleanliness problem early proves that it wasn’t caused by the tenant.
When Is the Tenant Responsible?
The tenant is responsible for pest control if they can prove the infestation was caused by the tenant’s actions. Examples include:
- Fleas from the tenant’s pets
- Rats, ants, or roaches caused by uncleanliness
- Unreported leaks that may have attracted the pests
- Bedbugs brought in with used furniture
Landlords who prove an infestation was caused by a tenant, can issue a formal compliance violation notice to prompt a change in behavior.
If a type of pests is common in the area, it would be difficult to prove that it’s the tenant’s fault. In most cases, this will be the landlord’s responsibility.
Sometimes the tenant has a health condition that affects their immune system or otherwise requires a more sterile environment. In these cases, it is the tenant’s responsibility to take the extra precautions.
The landlord is only required to provide reasonable conditions for ordinary tenants, which excludes health conditions.
Who Is Responsible for Bedbugs?
Bedbugs can be particularly confusing. Before, they were considered the responsibility of the tenants, as they can be brought with them in suitcases and used furniture.
However, bedbugs are becoming more common, and the laws are changing to reflect that. It’s difficult to prove where the infestation started, especially in multi-unit buildings. Usually, the landlord would be expected to foot the bill.
Regardless of who’s going to pay, there are some steps you can take to manage a bedbug infestation.
- Remove all clutter
- Get rid of excess magazines, newspapers, and cardboard boxes
- Heat-treat and wash all clothing and bedding, then put the washed items in plastic bags
- Move your bed at least 6 inches away from walls and use bedbug-proof covers
- Vacuum everywhere
- Move out for the exterminator’s treatment
- Destroy any infected items that can’t be treated
- Involve residents in the process and encourage them to report any sightings
- Act quickly when the bedbugs are reported
- Check nearby units for possible infestations (sometimes you need to treat adjacent units)
- Contact an exterminator
What Happens When No Action Is Taken?
If you’ve determined that it’s the landlord’s responsibility and informed them of the issue, yet no action was taken, there are several options you can take:
- Withholding rent
- Deducting the cost of pest control from the rent
- Breaking the lease and moving out early
- Suing the landlord for extermination costs, as well as any costs of property damage (such as mattresses damaged by bedbugs)
It’s important to note that some of these options may not be viable, according to your local laws. The notice period also varies. It’s best to consult an attorney to make sure you’re not breaking any laws.
If you have an unresponsive landlord, it’s important to take care of the pest problem first before assigning responsibility. Pests are a health hazard that can carry diseases and should be dealt with to ensure the safety of the tenants.
Additionally, the faster the problem is dealt with, the less likely it is to spread. It’ll also cost less.
With a few exceptions, pest control is usually the landlord’s responsibility. However, this doesn’t mean that the tenant should ignore the issue. They still have a responsibility to minimize structural damage and report the issue to their property management company.
Unless clear negligence is involved, landlords should refrain from assigning blame. It’s more efficient to take preventative measures and to exterminate the pests as fast as possible.
This article has been contributed by Brian Patrick.