Pests in a rental property are a huge menace to both the owner of the property and the tenants who live in it. But keeping pests out of a rental property can be a long drawn out and costly process. Who should be responsible for pest control in a rental property; the landlord or the tenant?
Landlords will argue that the tenants are the ones who live in the home and therefore they are in the best position to detect or prevent pest infestation of the property. Moreover, the owner may insist that it is the tenants’ behavior that is allowing pests into the rental.
Tenants, on their own part, will say the landlord owns the property and should be responsible for maintaining it. They may argue that if they weren’t living in the home, the owner would still want to keep it pest-free. Moreover, the tenants are paying rent to live in the home.
Between the landlord and the tenants, who is right? Both sides have valid bases for their arguments. In a way, the landlord’s claims are as right as the tenant’s. This is what makes the task of deciding who should be responsible for pest control in a rental property difficult.
What does the law say about pest control in a rental property?
To resolve this issue, we should consult the legislation in the state where the rental is located. Although each state will have a slightly different way of solving the problem, all states follow the same basic guidelines when formulating their laws.
Below are the general rules for allocating responsibility for pest control in a rental home. The guidelines deal with the condition of the home before tenant move-in and any pest infestation that happens or is detected after tenant move-in.
Landlord’s responsibility for pest control
As a universal rule, the landlord is responsible for keeping pests out of the rental. Even before they lease it to tenants, the owner has a responsibility to protect their asset from damage by pests and they also want to make the home appealing to potential tenants.
In addition, the landlord is legally bound to provide a home that is safe and sanitary. This is part of the warranty of habitability a property owner gives to their tenants. This warranty is an implicit guarantee that the landlord has done all that they should do to make the home livable.
Pests in a rental property can void the landlord’s warranty of habitability by creating conditions that make the home unsanitary and unsafe for tenants. Pests also pose a danger to the structures of the home and tenant’s belongings. It is primarily the landlord’s responsibility to prevent this.
After a tenant has moved into the rental home, the landlord is still responsible for eliminating pests from the rental property if the following conditions apply:
- The tenant discovered the pests shortly after they moved into the home and reported the issue to the landlord.
- The tenant provides evidence – via photographs and other proof – that the rental home was not handed to them in a clean and pest-free condition.
In the above scenarios, the landlord is to remove the pests and also pay for pest extermination.
But there are cases where tenants may bring pests with them into a property. To keep renters from transporting pests – such as bedbugs – into a rental and soon afterward reporting the presence of pests, landlords should maintain a detailed history of the rental’s pest issues.
Tenants’ responsibility for pest control
There are also situations where a tenant is responsible for pest control in the rental property. If the tenant’s actions or inaction is the cause of pest infestation, the landlord will remove the pests but the tenant will bear the financial costs for solving the problem.
This is the case where a tenant fails to maintain the proper level of cleanliness in the home. For instance, if pests such as ants or cockroaches, are drawn to the home because of leftover food being constantly left in the sink, the tenant will be responsible for controlling the pests.
The same applies if the tenant fails to dispose of trash in the prescribed manner or does not keep the refuse container covered at all times. If the pests which are attracted to the refuse somehow find their way into the home, the tenants will be responsible for eliminating them.
Tenants will also pay for pest extermination if they transport bedbugs into a rental home that did not have a history of bedbug infestation. Also, if a tenant’s pest has fleas and this is not dealt with, but the fleas are allowed to spread in the rental, the tenant will be responsible.
When pests are found in a rental
If tenants report that a rental home has pests, it is the landlord’s responsibility to immediately hire an exterminator to remove the pests. After the pest issue is solved, financial liability for the problem can be allocated. The pest exterminator can help determine the cause of the infestation. This will make it easier to determine who will be paying for the extermination.
Thanks to Ava Williams of MTD Property Management in Chicago for this blog