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Are Landlords Responsible For Pest Control?

Updated on: January 28, 2021

When renting out a place to live, it can be tricky to determine who is responsible for pest control in the event of an infestation. There are a lot of questions surrounding who handles pest control when rodents, cockroaches, bed bugs, termites, or wasps start to show up at your place.  

So in the event of an infestation, who is responsible for pest control: the tenant or the landlord? The person responsible for this varies from state to state, so it’s important to understand your local laws and policies first. Additionally, there are other factors that determine who’s responsible for pest control, such as the duration of the pest control issue and whether negligence can be proved on either side. 

Landlord Pest Control Laws in Different States

In the United States, each state has its own laws when it comes to pest control. So when you’re faced with an infestation, here are some laws to help you determine who is responsible for this kind of issue:

1. Landlord’s Responsibility on Pest Control  

Generally, most states require that landlords keep their rental units free from any “pests” (the term used differs in each state). Not all states hold the landlord accountable for the issue, though. 

For example, in Georgia the landlord has no responsibility unless pest control is included in the rental agreement. Other states like Virginia only require landlords to apply pesticides and insecticides in the unit. If insects are found after the application, the tenant may be responsible for pest control. 

In New Jersey, landlords are responsible for keeping multi-family units free from pest infestations. The same goes for New York wherein landlords have to make sure that they keep multi-family rental properties rat-proof. 

2. Tenant’s Options When Landlord Fails to Address Pest Control

Additionally, if landlords fail to address the issue then the tenant has different options depending on the state. Some states allow tenants to call pest control services themselves and then deduct the repair cost from their rent. However, most states have a limit on how much you can deduct from the rent you pay. 

Others also allow you to withhold rent, but this can be tricky since landlords can evict tenants if they don’t pay rent. If this is the case for you, then it’s best to seek legal counsel before pursuing this solution. 

Some states provide multiple solutions when the landlord doesn’t act on a pest infestation, but others only allow one solution. Examples of these states are Alaska, Connecticut, and South Carolina, where tenants are left with no choice but to move out or terminate lease if the landlord fails to act on pest problems.

New Jersey allows tenants to withhold rent, terminate their lease, contact an inspector, and repair and deduct the cost from their rent. In New York, tenants can either repair and deduct the cost from rent or pursue legal action. 

When Are Landlords Responsible for Pest Control?

If your state of residence doesn’t provide concrete descriptions on who bears responsibility for a pest infestation, then there are other factors you may consider. Here are some cases wherein landlords are responsible for pest control: 

1. Due to Natural Causes

Landlords are usually responsible for pest control when the infestation is due to natural causes. They are required to maintain the rental property in livable condition which means it is their responsibility if the home is susceptible to pests due to its location. Structures and places near a rental property that can cause infestations should be taken into consideration. 

For example, apartment buildings beside or near grassy areas can be prone to rat or mice infestations. When this is the case, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make sure that no rodents can enter and cause damage to the building. 

2. Pest Problem Has Existed Before Tenancy

One way to determine who bears responsibility for pest control is to find out whether the problem has existed before tenancy. If this is the case, then the landlords are usually responsible for pest control since they should ensure that the unit is free from pests when someone moves in. 

It is recommended for tenants to inform the landlord right away for any infestation they find upon moving in. At the beginning of the lease, tenants should list down the issues that they discover and are recommended to also provide photos. They should give landlords ample time to address the issue, and it is best if they raise this issue as soon as possible.   

3. Landlord Doesn’t Provide Clean, Pest-Free Spaces

Landlords have responsibilities when it comes to maintaining the pest-free condition of a rental. To guarantee clean, pest-free spaces for their tenants, they are in charge of the following: 

  • Taking care of general pest control, including seasonal pest control
  • Making sure that the rental unit is pest-free upon tenancy
  • Conducting thorough inspection of the rental before a new tenant arrives
  • Guaranteeing that the structure is not conducive to pest infestations 
  • Attending to any pest infestations as soon as possible when it is reported

When Are Tenants Responsible for Pest Control?

Most of the time, it's the landlord’s duty to make sure that their rental units are pest-free. But when there’s proof that the infestations are not their fault, they can hold tenants accountable. These are the cases where tenants can be held responsible for pest control: 

1. Tenant has poor housekeeping

If a tenant’s poor cleanliness and housekeeping is the reason for an infestation, then they are responsible for pest control. A tenant’s failure to comply with sanitary conditions can also hold them accountable for the issue. Here are some poor housekeeping habits that can make pests live and breed in certain areas:  

  • Leaving out food or not disposing of it properly 
  • Building up clutter at home and refusing to clean it up  
  • Leaving stagnant water around the property 

2. Landlord Can Prove That the Tenant Is Responsible

When a landlord can prove that a tenant is responsible for an infestation through proper documentation, then the tenant will be held accountable. Some situations that would make a tenant responsible for an infestation include: 

  • Bringing a pet with fleas upon residency, causing a flea infestation 
  • Disregarding garbage disposal rules
  • Failing to report any ongoing leaks happening inside their rental unit
  • Creating excessive moisture and attracting pests inside the property
  • When an exterminator points out that an infestation is a tenant’s fault

Other Ways to Determine Who is Responsible for Pest Control

Regardless of the situation, there are times when it’s never easy to determine who exactly is responsible for pest control. Here are other ways to see who should cover the cost: 

1. Checking the Lease Agreement

The lease agreement or contract almost always states who is responsible in an event of a pest infestation. It states what kind of infestations are covered by the landlord and the tenant. Creating a lease the lists down the different pests that each party is responsible for is helpful for any issues that may arise. The contract must also comply with the laws of the state, so it means that landlords are responsible for providing habitable spaces. 

2. Looking at the Type of Pest Infestation 

The type of pest present in the rental property can also determine who is responsible for pest control. A state has varying laws on who’s responsible for an infestation depending on the type of pest present in a property. 

Bed bugs are a great example of determining who is responsible based on the type of infestation. Generally, if bed bugs were not present in the property before the tenant moved in, then the tenant is responsible for the issue. But if the property has a history with bed bugs, then the landlord needs to handle it. 

These pests are also a huge problem, so there are different laws regarding bed bug infestations and they vary per state. In New Hampshire, they can withhold rent until the problem is treated. Maine and Connecticut allow the landlord a number of days to solve the issue or pay the tenant $250 or actual damages, whichever is greater. 

For New Jersey, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide tenants with clean, habitable living spaces unless they can prove that the issue is the tenant’s fault (https://www.lsnjlaw.org/Housing/Landlord-Tenant/Repairs-Habitability/Pages/Bed-Bugs-Your-Rights-as-a-Tenant.aspx). Since it’s difficult to determine who causes bed bugs, it usually becomes the landlord’s responsibility. However, there is more to this law: 

  • If you are living in a building containing three or more apartments, the issue is the landlord’s responsibility.
  • If you rent a single-family house or are in a building with only two apartments, the issue is the tenant’s responsibility unless the tenant can show that this was caused by the landlord’s negligence. 
  • If the bed bugs are present when you move in, or are present in both apartments in a two-family house, then the landlord takes care of pest control.  

How to Deal With a Pest Infestation

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There are several ways you can deal with a pest infestation, and it’s best to inform your landlord of any infestations that occur in the property. If you want to do some precautionary measures on your own, here are some methods you can try out:

  • Make your house unattractive for pests: When a pest discovers that your place has everything they need to live, they end up moving in and nesting. Remember to remove any food or water sources for these creatures and to maintain the cleanliness of your place. 
  • Block entry points: Blocking entry points keeps pests out, eliminating any risk for an infection. Inspect your building or property of any cracks and holes that can serve as entry points for these creatures. Make sure to block or seal these with the proper materials so that you can keep them away for long.
  • Inspect all incoming materials for pest infestation: Different materials, plants or pets can be hosts to different pests and cause infestations. Be careful when bringing new materials inside your property and thoroughly inspect it beforehand.
  • Use pesticides or insecticides: Landlords are usually recommended or required to spray these around their rental property to ensure that it is habitable. You may also purchase these yourself, but be careful in using these substances and follow the manufacturer’s label to prevent any accidents.
  • Use pest repellents: Aside from pesticides, you may also use pest repellents. There is a variety of these available on the market. However, pest repellents do not offer a permanent solution to pest infestations. 

Professional Pest Control at PermaKill Exterminating

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you need to deal with your pest infestation as soon as possible, and the best way to do that is with professional pest control services. Here at PermaKill Exterminating, we have a team of technicians, analysts, and experts that will help you manage pests from start to finish. 

Our team is equipped with the best training and technology to help offer customized solutions to your problems. PermaKill Exterminating guarantees excellent services that provide peaceful, secure, and pest-free spaces. You may call us to know more about our services. 

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