Pest control is not cheap. But it is something that has to be taken care of as soon as a pest problem is detected. And so once pests invade an apartment, it is crucial to know who will bear the cost of getting rid of the pests.
Landlords are by default responsible for pest control since they are required by law to ensure that their premises are fit for human habitation. However, if an infestation can be traced directly back to the actions of a tenant, then the tenant may have to bear the responsibility of getting rid of the infestation.
Here is what you should know.
Generally, it is the duty of the landlord to ensure that a rental property is in a state that can be safely occupied by human beings. This includes ensuring that it is free of any pests or vermin at the time of renting it out.
But if an infestation occurs as a result of the actions of the tenant, then the tenant is the one who will be responsible for pest control.
The following are circumstances under which a landlord is held responsible for pest control.
If the infestation existed at the time the tenant was moving in
Tribunals and courts have always been consistent when it comes to assigning the burden of pest control to the landlord in cases where the pests existed in the apartment or home at the start of the tenancy.
The thinking is that:
- If pests were already in the home, before the tenant moved in, then it is probable that the tenant had nothing to do with them.
- The landlord failed in their pre-tenting duty. Since it didn’t arise during the tenancy, It is safe to assume that the landlord is to blame and should be held accountable, for not making sure that the premises are fit for habitation before making them available for rent.
The problem arose during tenancy, but there is a history of pest infestations
If there have been pest problems in the past, it implies that the place is vulnerable to pest attacks. This is a strong indicator that the tenant is likely not to blame for any problems that arise, even if the place was pest-free when they moved in.
Therefore, in such a case, unless it can be proven otherwise, the landlord will be required to cater for the costs of pest control. This is so especially if the pest problem is recurrent.
A structural issue is to blame for the problem
A landlord is typically responsible for making sure that their premises are in good structural condition. If something bad happens because of a defect in the structure of the rental property, they will be held responsible.
Therefore, if a pest infestation results from a leaky roof, a crack in the wall, or poor fence installation, they are the ones who will be responsible for removing the invaders. They may also be required to compensate the tenant for any damage that results from the infestation.
The tenancy agreement makes it the landlord’s responsibility
If the agreement that the tenant and the landlord enter into provides that any pest control issues that arise are to be taken care of by the landlord, then the landlord is the one who is supposed to cover the costs.
This will apply even in cases where the tenant may be to blame for the infestation. That is, unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.
The nature of the pest is such that it is unlikely to be the tenant’s fault
There are cases where the landlord is held responsible for getting rid of pests even in cases where the problem arose after the tenant had moved into the place.
For example, the tenant is likely not to be held liable for a termite or possum infestation even if it arose after they moved in. But they may be held liable for a bed bug or rate infestation.
When is the tenant responsible for pest control?
While a tenant isn’t typically responsible for pest control, they can be if they are to blame for the infestation. Generally, if a pest invasion can be traced directly to their actions, then they will be responsible.
This often happens when they fail to keep the place clean.
- If a tenant leaves their garbage uncovered, or if they carelessly leave stagnant water, any infestation that results from this negligence will be their responsibility.
- The same also applies if an infestation of fleas occurs because of the tenant’s pets.
A tenant may also have to cater for pest control costs if an infestation results from their destroying fixtures or structures in the building.
Can a tenant withhold rent because of pest control issues?
Yes, a tenant can withhold rent until pest control issues are taken care of by the landlord. However, before one can withhold rent:
- They need to inform the landlord in writing of the pest control problem
- They need to inform them as soon as possible
- The time that the landlord has to reply or respond to the notice has elapsed
- They shouldn’t be to blame for the problem
What should you do when you find pests?
If you find pests in your home, you should:
- Notify your landlord. Give them a detailed report on the type of pests you are likely dealing with and what you have observed so far.
- If you have picture, or video, evidence of the infestation, you can accompany it with your notification.
- Clean your home. Pests hide in the trash. They can use dirt and debris as a shield against pest control chemicals.
- This, in addition to the fact that exterminators will also have an easier time working in a clean environment, makes cleaning an important step in the pest eradication process.
- Go through your lease agreement. It will contain details and how responsibilities are to be shared with regard to pest control. Here, you will know whether the burden of pest control will fall on you or on your landlord.
If it falls on you, you can ask the landlord to call trusted exterminators to handle the problem, and you will thereafter pay them. You can also contact them on your own and get them to eliminate the pests.
On your landlord
However, if the responsibility falls on your landlord, then you should inform them immediately. Ask for confirmation on when to expect the pest control experts to arrive. And then prepare for them to arrive by cleaning.
If the landlord turns out to be uncooperative, you can proceed to pay for the pest control services and then seek reimbursement. You can withhold rent. You can get out of the lease. And you can also take your grievances to court.
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