When bugs and other pests make their way into rental properties, it can cause conflict between tenants and landlords as to who is responsible for pest control.
In this blog, we will cover who is responsible and how you can identify and remove the pest.
A table of contents for apartment pest control:
- Apartment pest control legal advice with Avvo
- Who is financially responsible?
- When landlords pay for pest control
- When tenants pay for pest control
- Is landlord responsible for bed bugs
- DIY pest control supply store
- FAQs on landlord pest control
You can click any of the links above to jump to that topic on this page.
A word of caution…
Before we break down pest control and who’s responsible between the landlord and tenant it’s worth stating this.
Pests, vermin, and other uninvited house guests are dangerous to the health of the occupants.
The first action should be remedying the issue regardless of who is responsible.
If you’re a tenant with an unresponsive landlord, don’t let their negligence affect your well-being. Take care of the issue through DIY methods or by scheduling an appointment with a pest control service.
If you’re a landlord you can call and schedule an appointment with a pest control service and if you manage to fix the issue in time, you can cancel the appointment. Having this appointment documented will also prove in any litigation that remedial steps were being taken.
The first and most important step is to remedy the issue and then worry about who is financially responsible. Removing the disease-carrying insects and pests is priority #1.
We prepared some of the most commonly asked questions for Avvo’s legal team. Esther is part of the General Counsel for this online legal service.
Note: We’ve made transcription notes beneath the video for quicker reference too.
Transcription Notes for renter pest control video
[1:10 – 3:00] How does the lease play into pest control and who is responsible?
Landlords are responsible for pest control and keeping infestations away but there are situations where a tenant can have living behaviors that lead to an infestation and in those cases a tenant can be responsible for taking care of pest control. Generally, the landlord is responsible but if a landlord can prove the tenant caused the infestation the tenant would be responsible.
[3:01 – 3:50] How the lease factors into pest control in rental properties
The lease should say that the landlord is delivering the unit in good condition and is responsible for pest control. Have a mention that any infestation due to the tenant’s doing than the tenant will be responsible.
[3:51 – 4:50] Document history of pest issues
It’s important the landlord documents the history of pest issues. If the tenant is creating pest issues due to garbage and unhealthy living conditions the landlord should document this.
[4:51 – 6:55] Does it matter what type of vermin it is? Termites vs. bed bugs, mice, and rats etc.
Generally, the type of infestation is what you’ll look at first. If it’s something that is common to the area or to that building than it will generally be the landlord’s responsibility. Bed bugs are on the rise and legislation depends on state and local laws. Typically the onus falls on the landlord here.
[6:56 – 7:47] Warranty of habitability
Termites can cause structural damage and landlords have an obligation to keep a warranty of habitability. There is legislation passed in California where it doesn’t list termites by name but it’s still the landlord’s responsibility to take care of this due to issues of safety in the building.
[7:48 – 9:19] Can a tenant legally withhold rent until pest control issues are taken care of?
This depends. If the tenant has given written notice to the landlord of the infestation the landlord needs to take care of this. Each state has their own laws on how quickly a landlord responds and if tenants can withhold rent.
Sidenote: You can also subscribe to the “RentPrep for Landlords” Podcast using any of the links below.
Pest control isn’t cheap, so the issue of who is financially responsible can create some tension in both parties. It’s normally the responsibility of the landlord or owner to contract with a pest control service to maintain the structures, whether a multi-unit building or single family home.
Pest control responsibility should always be included in the lease agreement.
A good landlord usually won’t want to leave seasonal pest control up to the tenant, as things may not get done to their satisfaction.
If the landlord can document that the tenant is responsible for the infestation they may be able to have the tenant pay for pest control. This can be done by setting up a rental inspection and give the tenant proper notice beforehand. Take pictures of the environment that may be leading to the pest issues.
The implied warranty of habitability means that landlords must maintain livable conditions in a rental property.
A pest infestation is one of those things that will jeopardize that condition. So for the most part, it’s up to the landlord to arrange and pay for pest control.
If the infestation is due to natural circumstances, the landlord is responsible for taking care of the problem. In other words, if the rental property is located near a grassy field and the tenant reports mice, the landlord needs to arrange for and pay for the exterminator.
Other natural pest conditions might include termites, spiders, ants, rats, wasps, and sometimes cockroaches and bedbugs.
Most landlords make arrangements for seasonal maintenance and prevention, as well as the immediate pest control and pay for it on their own so the problem does not get any worse.
However, just because a landlord makes all the arrangements doesn’t always mean that they foot the bill in every case.
If a pest infestation can be linked to tenant behavior or actions, its then up to the tenant to bear the financial burden. Some pests, like ants or cockroaches, are attracted to areas that are unclean. If the tenant has trouble with taking out the garbage regularly or keeping food covered in the kitchen or pantry, it can attract the pests.
Excess moisture from poor upkeep or non-reported leaks can also attract certain pests. A flea infestation may also be the result of a tenant’s pet, and would, therefore, be up to the tenant to foot the bill for treatments.
In these instances, the exterminator can help the landlord determine whether or not the tenant’s living conditions are attracting the pests. Poor housekeeping, moisture or infestation due to pets that are documented can mean that the financial responsibility of pest control can be passed to the tenant.
Also, landlords who discover such living conditions or pet conditions may want to issue a comply or quit notice to ensure the tenant won’t be attracting more pests to the property again and again.
Bedbugs are on the rise across the country, and many places, like New Hampshire, are passing new laws to try to curb their growth. There may be different rules in place when it comes to a bedbug infestation than for other types of pests.
It’s important for landlords to be up to speed on bedbug laws in their area before they receive a panicked phone call from their tenants.
Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, and they are easily transported from one place to another on clothes, luggage, skin and more. If a rental property is bedbug-free at turnover, and an infestation occurs, it is most likely the responsibility of the tenant to get rid of them.
However, if the rental property has a history of bedbug infestations, it is most likely up to the landlord to take care of it, since the infestation may not have been completely effective.
It’s worth it for landlords to check up to see if their city or state has enacted any laws about bedbug infestations in rental properties and make sure to comply with those laws in the event of an infestation.
Pest Control Timeline
If a tenant contacts a landlord about a pest infestation, it’s important that the landlord act immediately and then sort out finances down the road. Failure to act on a pest infestation could mean legal trouble and the tenant might be within their right to withhold rent until the problem is fixed.
There’s no reason why landlords cannot respond with an exterminator appointment within a few days after notification from the tenant.
In order to protect themselves from any conflict or legal action down the road, it’s important for landlords to document everything relating to the infestation, such as when the tenant first reported it, what action the landlord took, invoice and notes from the exterminator and any other interaction from the parties.
Many landlords address pest control in the lease agreement, especially when there are no state or municipal laws on the topic.
One option is that the landlord agrees to turn over a pest-free unit to the tenant and do seasonal maintenance, and then any pest infestations are the responsibility of the tenant. Another option is for the landlord to arrange for regular preventative pest control services, usually 4 times per year, and the tenant is responsible for anything outside those scheduled visits.
No matter how pest control issues are worked out, it’s important for them to be discussed in detail prior to signing the lease so that both parties are clear on who is responsible for what.
Pest control is not cheap when hiring out an exterminator. That’s why many will search for a DIY pest control supply store.
We’ve found solutions pest and lawn to be one of the most helpful services.
When you click the “Pest Control” tab at the top of their website you’ll see a drop-down that looks like this.
If you click any of those images above you’ll be taken to an educational page on that pest.
For example, when you click “Roaches” you’ll be taken to a page with step by step instructions on on how to get rid of roaches. The page includes this helpful video.
The combination of the helpful video tutorials and available products makes solutions pest and lawn a helpful resource for DIY pest control.
Here are some frequently asked questions on apartment related pest control questions.
Cockroaches in apartment law
Cockroaches in apartment laws are searched frequently because cockroaches are one of the most common pests that renters deal with. In the video above it covers how to remove cockroaches but not what the laws are surrounding them. This will depend on your state and city laws. In California law, it is clear that cockroaches are the responsibility of the landlord.
Mice in apartment landlord responsibility
This will depend on the natural state of the apartment. If you have mice in your apartment the landlord may be responsible if there is a history of infestation. If the apartment is located next to a grassy field this may be a natural reason for mice in the apartment. If the tenant’s living conditions lead to mice in the apartment (garbage is not being taken out regularly) then the tenant could be liable. In all instances, each state and city will have different laws on who is responsible.
Are landlords responsible for ants
Similar to other pest infestations, landlords will be responsible based on state and local laws along with what the lease says. Ants are many times due to food being left out in the open. In these scenarios, the tenant would be responsible for ants in the rental property because it’s due to tenant neglect. Ants are one of the easier pests to track and eradicate.
Are landlords responsible for pest control in California
The simple answer is that yes, landlords are responsible for pest control in California. As of 2016, they must notify tenants that they are performing pest control if they are doing it themselves. It’s a good idea to read up on the Structural Pest Control Board PDF here.