Whether it's roaches, mice, ants, or bed bugs, pests can be a real nuisance in any home. But who's responsible for getting rid of them — the landlord or the tenant? The answer depends on your lease agreement and where you live. Generally, both the landlord and tenant have certain responsibilities when ixt comes to pest control, and must work together to get rid of these unwanted guests.
Who Is Responsible for Pest Control?
In most states, landlords are responsible for ensuring their properties remain pest-free and habitable. This means they must treat existing issues or take preventive measures against pest infestations.
On the other hand, tenants are responsible for notifying their landlords as soon as they spot signs of a problem.
Once the landlord is aware of an infestation, they must take the necessary steps to get rid of it as soon as possible. This could include paying for pest control services, providing traps or baits, or sealing up potential entry points around the property.
Whether you are an old or new landlord, it's possible to include a clause in the lease agreement that requires the tenant to pay for pest control services if there is evidence that the tenant is responsible for the infestation.
But if tenants are not responsible for it, you must act as soon as you get the notice; otherwise, you risk facing a lawsuit or rent withholding — both of which can be costly.
Laws on Pest Control — Implied Warranty of Habitability
The implied warranty of habitability is the legal principle that landlords must provide tenants with a safe and livable home. This means they must take all necessary steps to prevent pest infestations and take care of existing problems.
Most states have laws that cover the implied warranty of habitability, making it the landlord's responsibility to keep their rental properties pest-free.
Currently, Arkansas is the only state that does not have an implied warranty of habitability in place — landlords don't have any legal obligation to control pests in their rental property.
In all other states, the landlord is expected to fix any infestations and keep the property pest-free, or else face legal consequences. States like California, Alabama, and Alaska have very specific laws regarding pest control that all landlords must abide by.
If you are a landlord in these states, you are bound under the implied warranty of habitability to address any pest infestations in your rental property.
Idaho also addresses the pest control issue by adding insect infestations to the list of nuisances that landlords must take care of.
If you are a tenant, the law also empowers you to file a lawsuit against the landlord. But you can only do this if they fail to respond to your written notice in compliance with the law.
Does It Matter What Kind of Pest It Is?
Yes, the type of pest infestation can determine who is responsible for the control. In line with this, some states have specific laws regarding certain kinds of pests like bed bugs, cockroaches, and rats.
Here are some common pests and the legislation around them:
#1. Bed Bugs
Bed Bugs are among the most common pests and can be difficult to eliminate. The law requires landlords to exterminate bed bugs from their rental units.
In fact, 21 states, including Florida, New York and Maine, have specific laws regarding bed bugs, which explicitly state that the landlord is responsible for exterminating bed bugs from the premises.
This is usually the case because bedbugs spread quickly, so it can be difficult to pinpoint which tenant is responsible for the infestation.
Cockroaches are another common pest that infests rental properties. They fall under the implied warranty of habitability, and the landlord is responsible for exterminating them from their rental properties.
There are some exceptions to this. For instance, in some states, a tenant may be responsible for getting rid of cockroach infestations if it was due to the tenant's uncleanliness.
#3. Other pests
The law is pretty much the same for other pests. The landlord is responsible for exterminating any other common pests like ants, spiders, and rodents from their rental property.
It may be the tenant's responsibility if their lack of cleanliness caused the infestation. But as a landlord, you may have to get rid of the pests as soon as you get the report to avoid further damages or legal action.
Will Your Landlord Insurance Cover a Pest Infestation?
Most landlord insurance policies do not cover a pest infestation or the damages caused by it.
This implies that you, the landlord, are solely responsible for any expenses associated with getting rid of the pests, such as exterminator fees, repair costs for damaged property, and even the tenant's moving costs if they decide to move out.
To avoid such costly situations, it is best to take measures that will not only exterminate the pets but also keep the landlord-tenant relationship in good standing.
Here are some steps you could take:
#1. Make sure the lease agreement specifies who will be responsible
Ensure your lease agreement clearly states who will be responsible for exterminating pests from the rental unit and the conditions under which the tenant may be liable.
This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes in the future.
#2. Maintenance checks — Inspect and clean the rental unit regularly
Regularly inspecting your rental unit and carrying out maintenance checks can help you spot any potential problems early on and take action before they become full-blown infestations.
This includes inspecting the unit for any cracks and crevices, checking for standing water or moist areas that can attract pests, keeping the rental clean, and investing in seasonal pest control treatments.
#3. Paying for exterminator if needed
It's true you don't live in the rental property, but your tenants do, and they depend on you to provide them with a safe, healthy living environment.
If your tenant informs you of a pest infestation, it's best to take immediate action and hire a professional exterminator right away.
And later on, depending on the terms in your clause and the cause of the infestation, you may be able to claim the expenses from your tenant if they are found liable.
How to Avoid Bugs or Other Pests Appearing on the Property
The best way to prevent bugs or other pests from appearing in your rental property is to take preventive measures. This includes:
- Ensuring a solid building foundation: Pests like rodents and termites require a hollow or soft structure to make their way in. Ensure that your rental property follows the right building code and has strong walls and foundations that can keep these pests on the outside.
- Regularly inspecting the unit for any cracks or crevices: Be sure to check your rental unit regularly for any cracks or crevices on the walls, ceilings, windows, and doors. These are the entry points for pests and need to be sealed as soon as you spot them.
- Keeping the rental property clean: A cluttered and dirty house is an invitation for pests. Encourage your tenants to maintain a clean living space to prevent these pests from making their way in.
This includes regular vacuuming and mopping, disposing of trash correctly, and cleaning up spills as soon as they occur.
A pest infestation can be a nightmare for both landlords and tenants as it can lead to costly repairs and damaged relationships. To prevent such a situation from occurring, it's important for both parties to be aware of their roles and responsibilities. While pest control is generally the landlord's responsibility, tenants also need to do their bit to keep the rental unit pest-free.
If everyone plays their part, you can avoid costly repairs and legal action, ensure the property remains clean and habitable, and maintain a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship.