Do Landlords Need to Exterminate Roaches and Mice?

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Whether a landlord needs to exterminate roaches, rodents, mice or a mouse, ants, termites, and or vermin depends on the severity of the problem and the extent to which it's caused by the tenant's cleanliness. Different jurisdictions and even different courts have different tolerances for infestations. Because it’s hard for someone to gauge the severity of an infestation from a single walkthrough or inspection, tenants are encouraged to keep updated documentation of sightings.

When Extermination Is Required

Landlords are not required to exterminate when the infestation was caused by the tenant. Often, there’s a debate on who caused the infestation. Landlords tend to argue that the tenant was unclean or left food out. Thus, tenants asking the landlord for extermination should first ensure the apartment is clean, especially of food. Often, that helps fix or reduce the problem. Once the apartment is clean, tenants should keep documentation of how severe the infestation is, such as pictures and descriptions of bug sightings and the severity of the problem. Landlords are required in many states to fix infestations only where it’s an ongoing problem (more than just a single sighting), substantial (see the “implied warranty of habitability” below), and not caused by the tenant. Proving that it’s an ongoing problem and substantial is difficult for a tenant without a detailed record of the problem. A landlord or housing inspector will rarely be able to determine how bad the infestation is from a quick walk-through.

Pest Control Disclosure

Some states require disclosures if a landlord hires a pest control company to treat rental units on an ongoing basis, or if the landlord uses certain pest control measures.

Deduct and Repair

About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Sometimes this includes extermination. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before making the repair, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least fully read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding

About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until serious problems are made. This could include requiring the landlord to fix a severe infestation. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease

In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable differs heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Whether an infection meets that threshold depends heavily on the jurisdiction and the severity of the infestation. Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues). In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

When Extermination Is Required


Landlords are not required to exterminate when the infestation was caused by the tenant. Often, there’s a debate on who caused the infestation. Landlords tend to argue that the tenant was unclean or left food out. Thus, tenants asking the landlord for extermination should first ensure the apartment is clean, especially of food. Often, that helps fix or reduce the problem. Once the apartment is clean, tenants should keep documentation of how severe the infestation is, such as pictures and descriptions of bug sightings and the severity of the problem.

Landlords are required in many states to fix infestations only where it’s an ongoing problem (more than just a single sighting), substantial (see the “implied warranty of habitability” below), and not caused by the tenant. Proving that it’s an ongoing problem and substantial is difficult for a tenant without a detailed record of the problem. A landlord or housing inspector will rarely be able to determine how bad the infestation is from a quick walk-through.

Pest Control Disclosure


Some states require disclosures if a landlord hires a pest control company to treat rental units on an ongoing basis, or if the landlord uses certain pest control measures.

Deduct and Repair


About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Sometimes this includes extermination. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before making the repair, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least fully read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Rent Withholding


About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until serious problems are made. This could include requiring the landlord to fix a severe infestation. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.

Breaking the Lease


In every state except Arkansas, leases include an “implied warranty of habitability” which requires apartments to be safe and livable. It exists as a tenant right even if there is no written lease, it’s not mentioned in the lease, or even despite a lease that says the landlord is not responsible. The exact details of what needs to be fixed to keep the apartment safe and livable differs heavily by state, but the key factors are health and safety (not comfort, annoyance, or quality). Whether an infection meets that threshold depends heavily on the jurisdiction and the severity of the infestation. Unless the tenant caused the problem, the landlord cannot charge tenants for these repairs and tenants are free to break a lease if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable time (some jurisdictions specify exact time periods by which landlords must fix issues).

In breaking the lease and moving out, tenants are entitled to their deposit back, but in practicality, it may prove difficult to get the landlord to hand back the money. Furthermore, the tenant’s next landlord may discover the incident in the tenant’s rental history, so tenants should be prepared with documentation and the story of why it was necessary to move out.

Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Roaches, Rodents, or Other Vermin

5 months ago
0
votes

I am living at the Arbors On Duke in Alexandria, Virginia and there are mice living in my walls and they have found their way in to my apartment. I have notified the landlord and the corporate office and after about a month they finally had pest control come out. I called the Alexandria City Health Department and filed a complaint. They said that if the apartment complex fails to fix the situation in 2 weeks that they would start the investigation and even fine my apartment complex for each d

...read more
Renter in Alexandria, VA, USA
Roaches, Rodents, or Other Vermin
about 1 year ago
0
votes

Neighbors uncleanliness causing roach infestations
Renter in Chicago, IL, USA
Roaches, Rodents, or Other Vermin
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