Who Is Responsible for Pest Control, Landlords or Tenants?
Bugs and rodents are a fact of life and they have their uses in the natural world, but when they invade people’s homes they become a problem and extermination is needed. However, when that home is a rental property, who is responsible for getting rid of the pests? Should the tenants pay for the service or is it entirely the property owner’s responsibility?
This question is commonly asked by landlords and tenants. Pest control is a frequent cause of disputes between owners and renters. Disagreements over pest control issues are hard to resolve due to how the problem affects the quality of a rental and tenants’ ability to enjoy the home. This is why it is important to discuss the issue at the beginning of the landlord-tenant relationship.
Having clear guidelines for dealing with pest infestation creates transparency. It ensures that everyone is treated fairly and helps them prepare for their roles beforehand. A thorough treatment of the pest control controversy in the lease agreement helps to eliminate confusion.
Here are the guidelines for how landlords should approach the pest control issue in their rental properties.
The property owner is primarily responsible for pest control because the property belongs to them. The tenant is only a temporary resident and if a tenant was not living in the home, the owner would still want to protect it from pests. Secondly, the tenant is paying the landlord for the privilege of living in the property. The landlord must ensure that the home is livable.
When landlords rent their property to tenants, they are giving that tenant an unwritten guarantee that the home is in a livable condition. The law recognizes that by collecting rent from a tenant a property owner accepts the responsibility to make their property livable for the duration of the tenant’s lease.
The owner must ensure the presence of everything that makes a home habitable and the absence of anything that makes it uninhabitable. Pests can make a home uninhabitable. When a landlord does not do proper pest control, they violate the terms on which they leased their home to the tenant.
The duties of a landlord in relation to their responsibility to keep the home free of pest infestation include:
General pest control: Taking all necessary measures to ensure that the property is protected from local pests. It includes regular treatment of the home against pests.
Controlling for specific pests: For instance, it is the landlord’s responsibility – and in their interest – to exterminate termites from the home, for the safety of their investment.
Pest infestation due to natural causes: All pest infestation that happens as a result of natural causes is the landlord’s responsibility. These may be pests that invade the home from a nearby grassy field or pests like spiders, ants, rats, and wasps.
Seasonal pest control: Pest infestation due to changing seasons fall under natural causes and is the landlord’s responsibility.
All pest-control arrangements and emergencies: Regardless of whether the problem is the owner’s responsibility or not, landlords have a duty to make all pest-control arrangements for the home. They are also to respond promptly to tenants’ complaints about pests.
Not all pest problems in a rental property fall under the responsibility of the landlord. Tenants become responsible for pest control when the tenant’s behavior is the cause of the infestation. This may be due to the tenant doing any of the following:
Creating conditions of excess moisture that attracts pest to the home
Poor housekeeping – Failure to dispose of waste properly, not covering refuse bins, leaving food uncovered in the home, and other such behaviors that make the home attractive to pests.
Pest infestation that is caused by the tenant’s pet
Failure to report a water leak in the home or a pest issue, which subsequently becomes worse
In order to prove that a pest problem is the result of a tenant’s behavior, the landlord must be able to document the cause of the infestation by doing the following:
Document the history of pest problems in the home, in order to have a timeline which shows that the problem has only recently begun as a result of unhealthy living conditions created by the tenant.
Consider the nature of the pest infestation to ensure that it is not a problem that is common in the area.
Get the opinion of a professional pest control specialist on whether the infestation is being caused by the tenant’s actions or not.
Finally, landlords should note that the priority when there is a pest problem is to deal with the issue first before trying to determine who is responsible for the problem. Pests are dangerous to health and property and if a landlord fails to remove them promptly, especially after a tenant has requested for pest extermination, the landlord could become legally liable.