While the occasional creepy-crawly is harmless, a proper infestation creates a health hazard. Cockroaches can trigger asthma in humans, and rodents can spread disease through their feces and urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When you’re a renter, it’s normal to turn to the landlord when you have a maintenance issue. But is your landlord responsible for taking care of pest control?
The landlord is responsible if…
Landlords are required to maintain a certain standard of living on their properties in almost every state. This rule is known as an Implied Warranty of Habitability.
But beyond maintaining a clean standard of living, many experts agree it’s in landlords’ best interest to keep their properties pest-free.
“It’s best that the landlord arranges pest control, from scheduling to payment. That way, they can ensure that the property is being taken care of,” says John Jacob, co-founder and CEO of Hoist, a home service consulting company based in Ventura, CA.
“Lapsed pest control maintenance doesn’t just mean a few bugs; it might lead to entrenched infestations that are damaging to a dwelling’s value and costly to remedy,” adds Jacob.
Jeff Shipwash, founder and CEO of Shipwash Properties in Knoxville, TN, argues that both parties are responsible, but that in the end, the landlord’s the one who has to step up.
“It’s ultimately the landlord’s job,” Shipwash says. “I say this because, as a landlord, I want to protect my investment. I frequently get my homes treated for termites, and I spray my properties every few months to protect against other pests as well. This also gives me the opportunity to inspect the property.”
The renter is responsible if…
Others argue that pest control falls on the renters if they are the cause of the issue.
“In most cases, pest problems [in single-family homes] are caused by tenant behavior and cleanliness,” says Brian Davis, a landlord and founder of SparkRental.com. “If you rent out a vacant home to someone and six months later they call you complaining about a pest problem when there wasn’t an issue before, it seems pretty clear that the tenant’s behavior caused the problem.”
But if the infestation is a bees’ nest or termites, that’s out of the tenant’s control and landlords have to tackle the issue, says Marci Greenberg Cox, the Phoenix-based property manager at West USA Realty.
It depends if…
Davis says pest problems in multifamily homes are more complicated.
“One tenant’s dirtiness may cause a pest problem for neighboring tenants,” he says. “In that case, the landlord typically has to pay for the pest control treatment for all the affected residents, while trying to evict the slovenly tenant to prevent a reoccurrence.”
What if the problem isn’t fixed?
If you’re dealing with an ongoing infestation, the first step is to make sure you’re not causing the problem.
“Ensure that you’re not inviting infestation by leaving food uncovered,” says Jonathan Zacks, CEO of scheduling platform GoReminders, based in New York. “Cover and dispose of garbage, ensure that pets are free of fleas, and make sure no water is left to stagnate.”
If the pest control problem persists, reach out to your landlord to remedy the issue. If the landlord refuses to handle the pest issue, contact your local health department.
Your case might even land in small-claims court, so keep a record of your conversations and actions taken—or not taken—in case you can’t come to an agreement on who’s responsible for causing and resolving the pest problem. If the issue does land in small-claims court, documentation will greatly help your case.
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