Pests are a nuisance. They destroy property, endanger people’s health, and cost a lot of money to eliminate. Pest infestations can cause even more trouble because it complicates the relationship between landlords and tenants. Dealing with pests in a rental property is never easy because determining who should be responsible can be a problem.
Landlords can claim that a tenant brought the pests into the property when they moved in. They may say tenants’ habits are the reason why pests are invading the home. Tenants, on the other hand, can insist that the pests were present in the home before they arrive in the property and that the landlord’s failure to maintain the rental is responsible for the infestation.
Both parties often have a valid case. To avoid conflicts between property owners and renters, it is important to always clarify these issues before a tenant moves in. For the landlord and tenant alike, the best time to assign responsibility for pest control in the rental is before the lease starts.
Pest Control: Landlord’s Responsibilities
Pest control is one of the items included under the implied warranty of habitability. This an unwritten guarantee that landlords give to their tenants implying that a dwelling is in a livable conditions. Since pest invasion can make a home unlivable, pest control falls within the owner’s duties.
Therefore, landlords are responsible for general pest control. General pest control means the application of pesticides in or around the home for the control of pests. Seasonal pest control is normally included. This means that not only must the property owner ensure that the home is free of pests at the time of the tenant move-in, but they must also maintain the home in that state. If pest infestation happens as a result of natural circumstances and if the home is close to an area that makes it susceptible to pest-invasion, it is the landlord’s job to eliminate such pests. Also, if tenants report the presence of pests in the home, the owner must act promptly.
Tasks included in the owner’s pest management responsibilities include:
- Conducting a thorough inspection of the property and dealing with any pest before a new tenant arrives in the property.
- Dealing with issues that might leave the home open to pest invasion such as cracks in walls, broken seals, openings in doors or windows, torn screens, and other such things that may offer access point to pests.
- Owners must arrange for seasonal pest control and deal with emergencies as soon as they are reported. Landlords must first solve the pest problem before asking whether a tenant was responsible for the infestation.
- Landlords are responsible to pay for all pest control services, except where the tenant is found responsible for the infestation. Circumstances under which tenants may become responsible for pest elimination are discussed below.
Pest Control: Tenant’s Responsibilities
If the pest invasion is the result of natural causes, it is the landlord’s job to remove the pests. If the infestation can be linked to a tenants behavior, that tenant bears the cost. Tenant behaviors that can lead to pest infestation include:
- Failure to maintain proper sanitary conditions like leaving food uncovered in the kitchen or pantry, failure to cover garbage bins, or not disposing of the garbage according to the waste collection rules of the community.
- Creating conditions of excess moisture within the home and thereby making the environment conducive for the proliferation of pest. This includes leaving stagnant water on the property.
- A flea infestation of the home as a result of the tenant’s pet.
Additionally, it is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that they do not damage the property and create openings that will allow pests into the home. Furthermore, tenants must report all damage to the property – cracks and openings – which can lead to pest invasion.
Tenants must also report the presence of pests to the property owner in a timely manner. If not, the tenant becomes partly liable for the problem.
Bed bugs are such a huge problem that it deserves special mention. Here is the breakdown of how to deal with a bed bug infestation in a rental property.
- If the home was bed bug free at the time of move-in, the tenant transported the bugs there. Therefore bear the financial burden of the extermination.
- If there is a history of bed bugs, the landlord must deal with the pest control.
However, regardless of who is responsible for the infestation, when tenants report bed bugs in their home, landlords must act with promptness to deal with the problem. If they fail to do this, they may face legal problems.
This is how pest control works in a rental property. But to ensure these rules are fully understood and followed, landlords should discuss them with tenants at the beginning of the landlord-tenant relationship.
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