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Are Landlords Responsible for Pest Control in a Rental Property?

The last thing any landlord wants is to find out that there is a pest control problem in their rental property. Not only can this be costly to remedy, it can affect the very structure of the house and the health and comfort of your tenants. It is a landlord’s responsibility to provide a safe and habitable environment for their tenants to live in, so pests should be removed immediately.

However, depending on the nature and scale of the problem, the responsibility for the expense might not always fall on the landlord. In this article, we break down the different types of pests, the cost of controlling them, and the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant.

Pests to be aware of

Depending on the location of your rental property, you may come across a number of different pests. Some common pests to be aware of are:

  • Mice and rats (rodents)
  • Cockroaches
  • Bedbugs
  • Termites
  • Fleas

In states such as New York, landlords may be required to disclose information about environmental hazards such as bedbug infestation history and periodic pest control.

Depending on your tolerance for spiders, they can be viewed as mostly harmless and can be ignored. In fact, they sometimes actually feed on flies, mosquitoes, and other insects making them a natural pest deterrent. Nonetheless, you or your tenants may choose to remove these.

Similarly, flies are a nuisance but can also be largely harmless. Use fly traps in the summer, and install mesh doors if they are becoming a bigger problem. Mosquitos can also be prevented this way.

Damage pests can cause

Structural issues

Termites and wood-boring beetles can compromise the structural integrity of your property from beams to walls, floors, and ceilings. Needless to say, structural deterioration can be dangerous if left unchecked.

Furthermore, rodents that are stuck in walls or the roof can chew through and damage the insulation of a house, making it uncomfortable to live in.

Chewed wires

When left to their own devices, rodents may chew through electrical wires. If severe enough, chewed wires can lead to electrical faults and even fires.

Health and sanitary issues

As well as being ruinous to your belongings and the very structure of your property, pests can also cause health issues if left unchecked.

Droppings and rodents themselves can spread bacteria, bedbug bites can cause itching and ticks can cause Lyme disease in humans and other health complications in pets.

Nuisance

While unruly pests can cause an undeniable amount of damage, they are also annoying to share a living space with. They can cause stress and anxiety for your tenants, who have the right to a habitable residence.

Are landlords responsible for pest control?

This depends on the circumstances. If pests appear as a result of the tenant’s negligence (for example, not maintaining reasonable cleanliness or frequently disposing of garbage) and the landlord can prove this, the financial burden would fall on the tenant. An example of this may be ants or cockroaches that can result from tenant carelessness. This is not to say that the presence of ants or cockroaches is always the tenant’s fault.

If there is an infestation in the property that is not a direct result of tenant behavior, the onus is then on the landlord to remedy the situation. For example, if there is a rodent issue before the tenant moves in, or one develops despite high levels of cleanliness being observed then this is not the responsibility of the tenant to cover.

Regardless of whether the landlord or tenant is at fault for the infestation of pests, the situation should be remedied as soon as possible. This will stop the problem from spiralling out of control.

Some states do have specific statutes relating to these issues, so your local law should be referred to before taking any action.

When to DIY and when to call a professional

Both humane mouse traps and poison or bait are a DIY option for landlords that is easily accessible and inexpensive. If you are dealing with one or two mice, this could be an option. Furthermore, spiders, flies, and some beetles can be easily dealt with using over-the-counter solutions.

If, however, you are dealing with an infestation, you will need to call an exterminator. This is especially the case if you are dealing with pests that you cannot easily get to, such as those in the walls or floors of the property.

How to get rid of mice in an apartment

As mice can be tricky to track down, if you have not had any success with a trap, it may be less stressful to call an exterminator. Either way, the issue should be dealt with swiftly, to avoid compromising the other units in the building.

pest control - mice

How much does pest control cost?

The cost of pest control varies significantly, depending on the type of pest you are dealing with, how widespread the problem is, and other factors such as location. For more accurate quotes, contact local contractors in your area.

Some average costs for exterminating different types of pests are:

Pest Type Average Cost

  • Ants $100–$500
  • Bed bugs $300–$5,000
  • Cockroaches $100–$400
  • Fleas $75–$400
  • Lice $50–$200
  • Mosquito $100–$500
  • Moths $150–$300
  • Rodents $150–$500
  • Scorpions $50–$300
  • Silverfish $100–$300
  • Spiders $100–$200
  • Termites $2,000–$8,000
  • Ticks $200–$500

Source: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/reviews/pest-control/pest-control-cost

Preventative measures you can take to reduce pests

When you or your tenant spots a pest for the first time, it should be removed immediately without delay. This applies to both long-term and short-term rentals.

Even if you cannot see any signs of infestation, it’s highly recommended that you take some preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of pests in the future. Much like preventative property maintenance, preventative pest control can stop a pest sighting from becoming a pest problem.

Some practices you can exercise to prevent pests are:

Keep the inside of the property clean

This goes without saying but especially applies to sticky surfaces in the kitchen as pests are often attracted to food, crumbs, etc. You can include a clause in the lease agreement that the tenant is responsible for keeping the property clean and tidy.

Keep the outside tidy

Don’t forget the outside of the house or any outbuildings such as garages, as things like piles of leaves and excess debris can be hiding spaces for pests or good nesting spots. Regular property maintenance will help prevent pests.

Seal any cracks

This includes openings around doors or windows and cracks in pipes. Just make sure you aren’t sealing anything inside the walls before you do this.

Remove bugs and pests as you see them

Don’t ignore any pests as the problem has the potential to get worse.

Be aware of seasonal changes

Rodents are more likely to migrate inside houses during the colder months, just as cockroaches thrive more in the summer months. Be aware of these seasonal fluctuations.

Check for pests during routine inspections

As a landlord, you should be routinely checking your property at an agreed-upon time during the year when it is rented, as well as during move-in and move-out inspections. If you see any signs of pests at any point, be sure to investigate further and take action if need be.

In some states, tenants are allowed to withhold rent from the landlord if specific issues have not been addressed in a timely manner. Whether or not a tenant is within their rights to do this depends on the state the property is situated in.

Final words

One or two pests here and there may not be an issue. This being said, they can often be a sign of a bigger, underlying problem. Therefore, any infestations should be addressed immediately, to ensure that your property remains safe, habitable, and structurally sound.

In most cases, the answer to the question ‘are landlords responsible for pest control?’ is yes. Nonetheless, you should check your state law and the signed lease agreement for further clarification.

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Jasmine Delves profile
Jasmine Delves

Jasmine Delves is a Content Specialist at Landlord Studio. She writes on all things rental property management, from renovations and pet policies to tenant screening and income tax rates.

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