Pests are a health hazard and can cause property damage. But beyond health and economic issues, a pest-infested rental property could be a source of conflict between tenants and landlords. Disputes arise as to who is responsible for pest control. Thus, pests can become a legal issue.
Most states have elaborate landlord-tenant laws that often stipulate responsibilities over property cleanliness. Tenants and landlords must understand the laws and regulations concerning pest control. Landlords should provide a clean, safe, and pest-free living space. But tenants also are responsible for maintaining cleanliness and preventing new infestations during their stay.
Here are some of the legalities of dealing with infestation and pests in a rental property and what you should do.
Double check the pest control clause in the lease
Both tenants and landlords should be keen on the pest control clause in the lease so they can understand what the other party expects. It will also help them to perform their role effectively. For example, generally, leases stipulate that a property owner should provide clean, healthy, and safe premises. Landlords should also provide regular maintenance services like pest inspections and prevention. On the other hand, tenants are responsible for keeping the property clean, exercising reasonable care, and promptly reporting any pest and maintenance issues.
For tenants, understanding the terms of the lease will help you execute your roles and respond effectively. It will also go a long way in helping you prepare the home before moving out and getting your security deposit returned.
Lease agreements also include guidelines on what to do if either party fails to fulfill its obligation. Both tenant and landlord should understand these guidelines. If you are moving to a new rental, consult an attorney. They can help you ensure the lease aligns with local laws and to understand your obligations as stipulated. Such a move will be helpful, especially if disputes arise.
Understand who deals with infestations and pests in rental property
As we have mentioned above, lease agreements generally place the responsibility of pest control with the landlord. The landlord must ensure the property is protected from pests and should organize for regular treatment to prevent infestations.
Landlords are still responsible even if the tenant is negligent or fails to exercise due care. Although this could be frustrating, it is in their interest to be proactive about pest control. After all, an infestation would significantly affect the property’s integrity.
The state law on landlord-tenant relations does not outrightly address pest issues. However, a landlord can include clauses to guide pest control in the lease. Such clauses should be in line with the principles of contract law and applied as such. The landlord also still ensures the property is safe and pest-free.
If there is an infestation due to the tenant’s actions or negligence, the landlord doesn’t have to foot the bill for treatment. They can hold the tenant financially responsible and turn to other remedies provided by law, such as holding on to deposits. Therefore, the lease should be crystal clear about expectations.
Note the requirements that the lease has for tenants
Landlords often expect tenants to be proactive about preventing pest infestations. Thus, they often include the following requirements in the lease agreement:
- Keep the home or property clean and handle waste responsibly.
- Comply with local authority standards on cleanliness and pest management.
- Take reasonable steps to prevent infestation by pests or vermin
- Report any faults that could be entry points for pests and vermin.
- Take reasonable proactive action to prevent pest infestation.
- Report instances or suspicions of the presence of pests immediately.
Understand what happens when a tenant is responsible for pest control
There are instances when pests infest due to a tenant’s behavior, actions, or negligence. Since it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain a pest-free property, the property owner can take action to fix the problem and hold the tenant financially responsible. However, they have the burden of proving the tenant’s actions or behavior resulted in the infestation.
Property owners would handle an infestation expeditiously to protect their investments. They would call a professional to get rid of the pests and seal any gaps that could lead to further infestation. In such a case, the exterminator would also document the case and help determine the source and cause of the outbreak. They can also take photos and prepare written reports to help with documentation.
When the exterminator sends their invoice, the landlord can serve the tenant and demand that they foot the bill. If there is a dispute, the landlord could sue in a small claims court.
Know what to expect of landlords, tenant’s rights, and actions to take in case of an infestation
A diligent landlord ensures that a property is clean, safe, and pest or vermin-free before a tenant moves in. After moving in, tenants can typically have the following expectations of their landlords.
- Regular maintenance, prevention, and pest control services.
- Timely response to any report of suspicion of pests.
- Compliance with local council standards on pest prevention and management.
However, not all landlords are prudent about pest control. Therefore tenants should also know their rights and what to do when they find pests.
If an infestation is not a result of the tenant’s behavior, negligence, or carelessness, they have the legal right to do the following:
- Withhold rent until the landlord resolves the problem.
- Move out and break the lease terms
- Move to a temporary settlement until the infestation is removed and charge the landlord the costs of their stay. If the issue persists, the tenant can break the lease terms and move out.
But they should first show that they reported the matter to the landlord, and the landlord failed to take action. Tenants should also be conversant with the terms of the lease agreement, especially the pest control clauses. Some leases place the responsibility of pest control on tenants after move-in; others say it is always the landlord’s responsibility.
Either way, tenants are responsible for maintaining cleanliness and avoiding behaviors that could contribute to infestations. They should also check the lease terms and local laws.
A final word on the legalities of dealing with infestations and pests in rentals
No one wants pests on their property or rental. Therefore it is crucial to ensure prevention modalities are clear to both parties. In case there is an infestation, the responsible person should own up. Nevertheless, since pest control costs money, you might require more than goodwill from the responsible person.
Familiarizing yourself with the legalities of dealing with infestations and pests in rental property will help you anticipate and swiftly settle any disputes.
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