It's always exciting when you move into a newly rented condo, apartment, or house, but what happens when you find yourself sharing it with some unwanted guests?
Who's responsibility is pest control – the landlord or the tenant?
Understanding who is accountable for pest control when renting is a common problem for both tenants and landlords alike. Depending on how, when, and where the outbreak occurs, will determine whose responsibility it is to remedy the pest infestation.
Pests such as rats, mice, bed bugs, and other vermin can easily access the property and when they do, they can spread disease and cause serious damage. Therefore, it is important that these pests are evicted as soon as possible. But who's responsibility is it the landlord or the tenant?
Unlike most problems that occur in rental accommodation – such as your refrigerator breaking down or a pipe bursting – pests are difficult to attribute responsibility to. Often considered to be a grey area, assigning responsibility for pest control outright is dependent on how, when, and why the pests entered the property. Here we explain this in more detail below.
Check what it says about pest control in your rental lease agreement
The best way to ensure that a pesky pest situation never arises is to know your rights before you move in. You should look over your tenancy agreement with a fine-tooth comb and I would strongly suggest that you discuss pest infestations with your landlord prior to signing a lease. After all, it is to everyone's advantage that the property is well maintained and vermin-free.
If pest control is included within the current lease, it might be that the landlord has agreed to take accountability for any pest control solutions (including preventative methods and routine visits) but may decide to include the cost within the lease. Other landlords may prefer to leave ongoing responsibilities for pest control to the tenants, but this should always be made aware of upfront to stop any nasty surprises further down the line.
However, if pest control is not currently stated within your rental agreement then who is liable would depend on the following factors:
- Is the property fit for habitation?
- How and when did the pests access the property?
- Is the infestation linked to a tenant's behavior or lifestyle?
When does pest control become the landlord's responsibility?
Your landlord should inspect his rental property thoroughly for pests before handing over any keys and ideally, this should be documented. If possible, try and encourage your landlord to do this on the day you move in, so that together you can check that the property is pest-free. This will safeguard you both against any responsibility should a pest infestation later occur.
All landlords have an implied legal duty to ensure that their property is kept and maintained inhabitable conditions for their tenants. Therefore, if you discover rats, mice, squirrels, bugs, or other pests accessing your property due to disrepair, then it automatically falls to your landlord to remedy the situation and treat the infestation.
There are many natural circumstances that may lead to pests entering your property, and it is important that your landlord fixes and repairs the cause as well as treating the problem. This will stop pest infestations from reoccurring. In a rented property, where mattresses are passed on from one person to another, we would recommend that landlords replace these each time to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
Even the smallest gaps and holes around doors and windows can provide an easy entry for small rodents to squeeze through. Replacing seals, covering air bricks and vents, adding door sweeps, covering vents, and installing automatic entrance closers are much cheaper options for landlords than employing pest control solutions.
When does pest control become the tenant's responsibility?
As a tenant, you have the right to expect your rental property to be presented to you in a clean and habitable condition when you first move in. If you discover an infestation and report it after you have been living in the property, and it can be linked to your behavior or actions then it is up to you as the tenant, to endure the financial burden and responsibility for eradicating the infestation.
If, however, you can reasonably prove that they didn't cause the circumstances leading to the problem, then the landlord has to carry out the necessary repairs and pest control treatments as detailed above.
As the tenant, it is your responsibility to prove that the property is infected and the best way to do this is to call the local Environmental Inspector who can identify the cause on your behalf. You should also notify your landlord and rental agent so that they are immediately aware of the situation and can put processes in place to remedy the infestation. It is really important for both parties that you negotiate with one another in an open, considerate manner so that you can act quickly, to prevent the problem from spiraling out of control.
There are many reasons why an infestation may occur, and this is mainly down to lifestyle and behavior choices. These include: –
- Leaving food or leftovers out – Animals are scroungers by nature and will forage for any food they can find. Make sure that you are not providing pests with a constant food source by regularly cleaning areas after preparing food and storing them high up in glass, metal, or plastic containers.
- Bad ventilation and humidity control – Try and ensure that you open windows regularly, as excess moisture and damp can attract pests into your home.
- Excessive clutter in and around the house – Pests are constantly searching for hidey holes so the more you have, the more places you are providing for them to nest. Cardboard boxes, wooden logs, and piles of newspaper can be shredded and gnawed away. Plus, the more clutter you have, the harder it will be to spot any extra house guests.
- Incorrectly disposing of your trash – You should ensure that your garbage is well sealed and placed within a trashcan. Ideally, these should be stored well away from the property and disposed of regularly. Stinky, overflowing bins are incredibly tempting to all sorts of pests and can attract them from far and wide.
- Pets – If you are allowed to keep cats, dogs, and other pets in your rental property, it is your responsibility to ensure that they are treated for fleas.
- Pet food – Make sure that your pet bowls are not left unattended and with food overflowing. You should always wash the bowls after each feed so that the smell does not become appealing to small vermin.
Some pests, such as bed bugs, even travel with you or can be brought into the property via other people. They can easily travel in clothes, suitcases, and sheets and have the ability to crawl from person to person. In a rented property, where mattresses are passed on from one person to another, we would recommend replacing these to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
If, as the tenant, you are deemed to be the reason for pests entering the property, then it is up to you to cover the costs and any expenses incurred for treating the infestation.
Pest control apartment laws
Some pests, such as rats and bed bugs, have the ability to crawl through walls. This not only makes living in a shared building or even a multi-occupancy apartment more prone to pests but even harder to try and treat.
It is really important that you get your landlord to target your infestation first. If pests keep returning, then they may want to call in a professional pest control expert who can ascertain exactly where they are coming from. You may also want to ask your landlord to approach your neighbors in a more formal manner on your behalf to explain the situation. After all, there is no point in falling out with your neighbors over something that may not be either party's fault!
If you live in a large apartment block, it may be that your rental apartment is freehold, and therefore as part of your monthly lease, your landlord will be paying towards building maintenance costs. If pests are a widespread issue, the building maintenance company may provide certain extermination or fumigation services as part of the contract arrangements.
Other people who may be able to assist you if your landlord won't help, include your neighborhood association, animal control, or the environmental protection agency.
It's not always straightforward working out who's responsible for dealing with pests and if your lease does not define that responsibility for you, then it will always come down to the following:-
- Was this problem already in existence when you moved into the property (landlord responsibility)
- Is it down to structural disrepair (landlord responsibility)
- Has the tenant contributed to the problem (tenant responsibility)
Our advice is to always include a clause within your rental agreement that clearly states who is responsible for managing and maintaining pest control solutions. Therefore, no matter how clean and tidy you are, or how well you get on with your landlord, you won't be left in the lurch when pests decide to move in!