Is the Landlord Responsible for Pest Control?

No one wants to see ants or cockroaches or mice in their home. Whether you own your home or rent it, pests are never a welcome sight. If you are renting though, is the landlord responsible for pest control? Yes. It is ultimately the responsibility of the landlord, as the owner of the property, to keep it free of pests.

There are, however, times the cost of pest control can be passed onto a tenant, depending upon the circumstances. Let’s take a look when that may be, at what pests we are trying to avoid and how to actively avoid them. 

Is the Landlord Responsible for Pest Control

Why is Pest Control Important for Apartments?

The creatures we consider to be “pests” are often animals or insects that can make us sick or damage our homes. Some rodents and insects carry or transmit diseases. Other animals may chew through electrical wires or insulation causing hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage to the home.

If pests are allowed to run rampant in a home or apartment building, they will eventually make the property uninhabitable. Landlords and our local and federal government ordinances work to keep buildings habitable. Unchecked pests can work against that.

What Pests are Cause for Concern in Apartments?

There are many different pests that can cause problems in a property – it’s not just cockroaches you need to be concerned about. Here are a few that are considered pests by many:

  • Cockroaches
  • Ants
  • Spiders
  • Mosquitos
  • Termites
  • Bees, wasps, or hornets
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels
  • Raccoons
  • Fleas
  • Bedbugs
  • Flies

This is not an exhaustive list, but many of these animals/insects can cause health problems and/or damage the home you live in. For example, spider or mosquito bites can transmit toxins, mouse or rat droppings can spread disease, squirrels and raccoons can chew through wires and destroy insulation, and termites can weaken the structural integrity of a home.

What Do You Do if You Find Pests in Your Rental?

Now that you know what to watch out for, what do you do when you find pests in your rental?

Tell the landlord!

Landlords cannot fix a problem they don’t know exists. Even if the landlord does regular property checks, you live in the property and are there more than the landlord. You are more likely to notice pests sooner than the landlord. And sooner is always better when dealing with an infestation. It’s much easier to eradicate pests before they are widespread for sure.

In addition to telling the landlord about a possible pest problem. Take the time to examine your living space to see if you are making it a place where pests want to be. For example, cockroaches, ants, and mice often come inside our homes because there is plentiful food for them inside. If you leave out dirty dishes, open containers of food, or garbage that needs to be taken to the dumpster, you could be inviting pests to come on in. If any of that applies to you – clean up.

The Pest Control Responsibilities of Landlords

So, is the landlord responsible for pest control? As we stated at the outset of the article, the ultimate responsibility for pest control in a home or apartment building falls on the owner – your landlord. They are responsible to keep the property habitable. It’s their main job as a landlord. Pest infestations, we have established, work against habitability. They can also devalue the property. Landlords want to avoid this too.

How Does a Landlord Handle Pest Control?

  1. Inspections. Of course, each landlord will handle pest control in their own way. Often it starts with, at minimum, a yearly inspection of the property. This inspection checks for functioning furnaces and air conditioners, leaky pipes, cleanliness, and signs of pest problems. Some landlords may do it more often, like twice a year or quarterly. It may be spelled out in your lease.
  2. Regular Treatment. Many landlords have regularly scheduled treatments for their properties. Once or twice a year they will have a pest control company spray the property, inside and out, against pests. This is a very effective way to protect the property from infestations.
  3. Seal Property. Landlords should also be checking the property for ways that pests may be able to enter the building – broken dryer vent covers, broken windows, and unsealed pipes perhaps. If they find a possible point of entry, they can then remedy it.
  4. Work Quickly. Once a landlord is aware of an infestation, it is imperative they work quickly to eradicate it. It will only get worse if left unchecked.
  5. Eradicate Now, Ask Questions Later. Some pest infestations are caused just because pests exist where humans do and it’s a part of life. Some are caused because the tenant was negligent in the care of the home. If it is the cause of negligence, the cost of eradication may ultimately fall to the tenant. The most important thing, however, is to first get rid of the pests. Working out responsibility can come later.

When is a Tenant Responsible for Pest Control?

Even though the landlord is ultimately responsible for pest control, the cost of it could, in some circumstances fall on the tenant’s shoulders. Let’s look at some of those circumstances.

  • The Lease. It is possible that your lease makes you, the tenant responsible for pest control in your rental. It’s always important to read your lease before you sign it. Knowing about pest control responsibilities is one reason to read it. The lease also cannot contradict local laws on pest control, so it’s never a bad idea to do some research on the laws in your area. They can vary from state to state and city to city.
  • Negligence. Many times, the lease doesn’t mention pest control, but it will mention the responsibility of the tenant to keep the property clean. This is, in part, to help keep it free from pests and damage. If you as a tenant are not holding up your end on this and the property becomes infested because of it, the landlord may be able to charge you for the pest control services.

What Constitutes “Clean”?

We have another article about answering the common question: Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your apartment? Here we will discuss cleanliness in relation to pests.

As mentioned earlier, many pests come inside looking for warmth and food. We can’t turn off our heaters in the winter, but we can do a lot to eliminate food. When you are done pouring a bowl of cereal, close up the box and put it away. Clean up your dirty dishes when you are finished using them. Seal the opened bag of oats in a container rather than leaving it open on the pantry shelf. Vacuum regularly. Pick up trash off the floor. When your trash can is full, take it out to the dumpster.

Some types of pests like moisture – termites or mosquitos, for example. In this case, it’s important to report any leaks from plumbing or faucets, standing water, etc., as soon as you notice them.

And always remember, landlords cannot fix something if they don’t know it’s broken or a problem. Communicate with your landlord.

What if the Landlord Doesn’t Handle the Pest Control?

The landlord is responsible for pest control, but if you’ve told the Landlord about the pest problem, nothing is done to remediate it, and it’s not your responsibility in the lease, there may be legal remedies available to you. These vary by state and you should check with the local laws and attorneys for help. Some remedies may include withholding rent, being released from the lease, getting temporary housing, or bringing a lawsuit. Before any action is taken though, make sure you know the law where you live to keep yourself protected legally.

Pest Control Can be a Team Effort

In summary, pest control in rental homes is the ultimate responsibility of the owner/landlord of the property. They will have different ways of handling pest control – inspections, regular treatment, and even possibly assigning responsibility to the tenant in the lease.

As a tenant, do your part to know your lease, keep your rental home clean, and report any pests you see on the property in a timely manner. In an ideal situation, the tenant and landlord can work together to keep the property a habitable and enjoyable place to live.

About Chad & Rachel

Rachel and Chad have over 17 years of experience as both renters and landlords. They were tenants in 7 different apartments before becoming landlords of 9 apartments in Chicago. Renting apartments from landlords and being landlords themselves have helped them gain the knowledge that they want to share with renters. Whether you are at the beginning of your rental journey or in the middle of your lease and dealing with complex apartment issues, we are happy to help where we can. Read more about Rachel and Chad, or send a message using this contact form.

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