Nobody – landlord, tenant, or homeowner – wants pests in their home. Pests bite, they steal your food, stink up the entire home, and damage your belongings. Some pests carry diseases and will transmit them to humans. Most pests will damage the structures of your building.
If you find pests in your home, no question asked, you definitely should get rid of them. Doing this is easier when you own the home. But when you are a renter or landlord, pest control is not so straightforward because you first have to determine who should be responsible.
As a renter, you pay to live in the home and should not have to combat pests every day. As a landlord, you should not be responsible for pests that tenants bring along with them. What is the best way to deal with a pest infestation in a rental property?
Finding an answer that is acceptable to landlords and tenants is challenging since each party will insist on its position. For the best solution, TE Johnson & Sons Management Company suggests we should look at what the law says about the issue. Although every state’s law is different, they all follow common guidelines.
Below is the basic framework for how landlords should approach pest control in their rentals.
Landlords are primarily responsible for pest control
The first thing to know is that the landlord is mostly responsible for keeping pests out of a rental. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the home belongs to the landlord and if there was no tenant in the property, the owner would still want to keep it pest-free. The presence of a tenant in the home should not change this.
One of the things that can make a rental uninhabitable is pest infestation. Pests will impair the sanitary conditions in the home by littering it and generating foul odors. Pests make the home unsafe by exposing tenants to the possibility of bites and diseases. Landlords are required to ensure a rental is free of pests before turning it over to tenants.
Secondly, and more importantly, the law assumes that when a landlord rents a home to a tenant, they have done and will continue to do everything to make that home habitable. This means the owner is responsible for providing a safe and secure dwelling for the tenant. Whatever makes the home uninhabitable violates this Implied Warranty of Habitability.
After a tenant has moved in, the landlord is expected to keep the home safe and sanitary by:
Responding promptly to pest infestation issues
Even when the landlord has done everything to rid the home of pests, pests may still find their way into the home. If this happens and the tenant alerts the landlord, the owner must take action to remove the pests, even if they suspect that the tenant’s behavior created the problem.
Doing seasonal pest control
Every season presents peculiar pest control challenges because different pests are predominant in different seasons. At the start of each season, landlords should do pest extermination that is designed to remove the specific pests that are present during the season.
Apart from the above, pest control is always assumed to be the landlord’s responsibility if:
- The tenant reported the issue shortly after moving into the home. That is because the problem is assumed to have preceded the tenant’s presence in the home and is, therefore, the landlord’s responsibility.
- A particular pest problem is common to the area or property; it is assumed to be the landlord’s responsibility. If there are conditions around a home that make it vulnerable to pest infestation, the tenant cannot be expected to take responsibility for the problem.
However, there are also situations where the tenant is responsible for pest control.
When the tenant is responsible for pest control
If a landlord made their rental pest-free before handing it over to the tenant, but shortly after pests are found in the home, the tenant will pay for the pest extermination under these situations:
Poor sanitary conditions
The pests are present in the home due to the tenant’s poor housekeeping. If a tenant leaves leftover food overnight in the sink or keeps areas of the home wet, these will attract pests.
Poor waste disposal
If a tenant is not disposing of garbage promptly or consistently fails to cover refuse bins, pests will be attracted to the home. Similarly, if a tenant leaves piles of rubbish in the yard, pests will make their home in it and find their way into the house.
Infestation is caused by pets
If a tenant’s pet is infested with fleas and they proliferate in the home, the tenant will be responsible for the cost of extermination.
To determine when a tenant is responsible for pest infestation, landlords should keep detailed records of the pest issues in the home.
Secondly, where there is a dispute about who is responsible for a pest issue, a professional exterminator can help determine the cause of the infestation.
Finally, regardless of the cause of a pest problem, landlords are expected to deal with the problem first – call an exterminator – and then assign financial responsibility for it afterward.
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