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Both tenants and property owners often wonder, “Are landlords responsible for pest control?” The short answer is, it depends. 

This article outlines the pest control responsibilities of landlords and renters. It also reviews why being assertive about pest control is best for both parties. Learn tips that landlords and tenants can use today to reduce and prevent pests. 

The Importance of Clarifying Responsibility for Pest Control 

Pest control is an important element of home maintenance. It involves removing and preventing pests—unwanted bugs and nuisance animals. Common pests include: 

  • Ants 
  • Cockroaches 
  • Spiders 
  • Stinging insects 
  • Fleas 
  • Earwigs 
  • Termites 
  • Bed bugs 
  • Mosquitoes 
  • Flies 
  • Scorpions 
  • Snakes 
  • Rodents 
  • Bats 

Pests can be eliminated using a variety of methods. Examples include spraying with chemicals, baiting, and live trapping.  

More sustainable solutions are gaining ground, however. They are less toxic and benefit both technicians and property occupants. 

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS: What You Need to Know About Integrated Pest Management 

For both landlords and tenants, pest control responsibilities should be clearly defined in rental property agreements.  

The landlord is the owner of the property. They lease all or part of it to another party in return for money or occasionally labor (e.g., ranch, stable, or farm hands). 

Some landlords handle rentals directly themselves. Others hire a property management company to collect rent and respond to problems, including the presence of pests. 

The tenant is the person occupying the landlord’s property. Typically, they pay rent each month for their occupancy. A tenant can also include short-term renters, such as in the case of vacation or business rentals. 

Why is it vital for landlords and tenants to decide who manages pest control before signing a lease? 

For starters, tenants should know if they need to budget for pest control. Also, if a pest issue arises, they should know whether to handle it themselves or call the landlord/property manager. 

Pest infestations impact both landlords and tenants in the following ways: 

  • Pests affect the health of property occupants. Some pests carry disease or provoke asthma. 
  • Serious pest problems reduce property values and make it hard for landlords to keep and attract tenants. 
  • Pest damage can be dangerous, like carpenter ants destroying wood framing or mice chewing electrical wires. 
  • In multi-unit dwellings, pests can quickly spread from one unit to another, causing a larger problem. 
  • Pest infestations left uncontrolled can have serious financial consequences for all involved. 

Pest infestations are not a trivial problem in the United States. The results of one recent survey echoed those of a larger national study from 2019. 

It found some sobering statistics: 

  • Nearly half of homeowners have observed property damage from pests. 
  • A quarter of participants said being bitten was their second greatest concern after damage. 
  • Another top worry was the spread of bacteria by pests. 

The survey also cited the negative effects of pest infestations on home sales and property values. 

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS: Pest Control Industry Trends and Statistics 

What Are the Landlord’s Responsibilities for Pest Control? 

In most cases, the landlord is the one responsible for pest control on a property. They must hire and pay for a pest control specialist to deal with it if it is beyond the normal duties of a handyman or property manager. 

For instance, imagine a small ant problem in an apartment kitchen. It could be fixed by a maintenance worker spraying and adding ant bait traps. 

But an infestation of fire ants beneath a single-family home is a different story. It requires a pest control technician who can locate and kill the queen to destroy the nest. 

State and municipal laws outline landlord pest control responsibilities for every specific location. 

A landlord may specify in a lease that the tenant must maintain a “normal” level of cleanliness. But the landlord cannot, in most places, make the tenant responsible for all pest control.  

This is true even if contradicted in the lease. The local law assigning responsibility to the landlord supersedes leases. 

Maintaining property value is a key reason landlords want to stay on top of pest control. First, they don’t want to lose equity in their investment. Properties can plummet in value if pest damage is significant. 

Second, they want to attract the best tenants possible. A landlord can charge higher rents and find better tenants when they offer clean, pest-free premises. Good tenants are also more likely to renew their lease when there are no pest problems. 

Failure to provide adequate pest control can land property owners in court. They can be cited and fined by the government.  

If a tenant has paid for pest control that wasn’t their responsibility, the landlord would have to reimburse them. They may even have to pay damages, including reimbursement for lost food or ruined property. 

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS: How to Grow a Pest Control Business 

What Are the Tenant’s Responsibilities for Pest Control

There are exceptions to the landlord being responsible for pest control, though.  

If a tenant is initially responsible for a pest problem, they are on the hook for taking care of it. 

Say a tenant frequently leaves the lids off their trash cans, which become infested with rats. The tenant must then pay for the removal of the rodents. 

Similarly, if a tenant leaves open food containers on the kitchen counters and never washes their dishes, they may attract mice or ants. It is their responsibility to get rid of them in this case. They must keep the property cleaner moving forward to prevent another infestation. 

It’s in the best interest of every tenant to keep the property pest-free.  

Of course, this makes the apartment or house more habitable. It also reduces the risk of illness. This is especially important if vulnerable children or seniors are in the household. 

Also, maintaining a rental property as a tenant makes it more likely the lease will be renewed. If a renter likes where they live, they want the landlord to think of them as tidy and conscientious. 

Tenants should report pest problems to the landlord right away. 

If the problem was there when the tenant moved in, the landlord must handle it. If it has occurred since occupancy, the tenant may or may not be responsible for it. 

As mentioned above, the tenant could be responsible for attracting pests. But, some pests are natural inhabitants of certain environments. Renters are not responsible for removing them. 

Examples of this include fire ants or rattlesnakes in desert climates. Another would be raccoons or birds that nest in the chimney of a house, especially if the chimney cap is missing (the landlord’s responsibility). 

It’s also not uncommon to find moles digging in the lawn or termites living in old wood-framed homes. Bats can find their way into tiny crevices and may roost in apartments or freestanding homes. 

Weather events and seasonal climate changes also influence pest behavior. Excess humidity, drought, and freezing weather can push pests into previously unoccupied areas. Tenants have no control over these issues. 

The more landlords and tenants can work together, the more successful pest control will be. 

How Can Landlords and Tenants Have Effective Pest Control Collaboration? 

Clear landlord-tenant communication is the key to effective pest control on any rental property. 

Follow the expert tips below for the best collaboration when it comes to curtailing pests. 

Agree On Pest Control Responsibilities. 

Be sure everyone is clear about their pest control responsibilities before a lease is signed.  

Landlords can include a reasonable pest control clause. This is related to normal expectations of cleanliness. They cannot make tenants completely responsible for pest control, though. 

Report Pest Problems Immediately. 

Landlords should encourage tenants to report pest control problems as soon as they crop up. This is particularly important in multi-unit residences. There, pests can rapidly spread to other households. 

Property Managers Must Be Responsive. 

Property managers should be instructed to respond to and remedy all pest control complaints as soon as possible. For instance, it’s not sufficient for them to hand a tenant some mouse traps and expect them to take care of a rodent problem. 

Reasonable Inspection is Permitted. 

With proper notice, landlords can inspect appropriate areas of the property to ensure no pests are present. It should be done on a limited basis if there is no prior history of pests and no reason to suspect a problem (e.g., issues with cleanliness or refuse). 

Tenant Education Reduces Pest Problems. 

Some tenants may not be aware of behaviors that encourage pests, such as: 

  • Leaving doors and windows open without screens 
  • Not securing open food or cleaning dirty dishes  
  • Leaving wrappers and other food-related waste accessible 
  • Leaving wrappers and other food-related waste accessible 
  • Failing to clean up after pets in the yard 
  • Being haphazard about outside trash bins or waste separation 
  • Forgetting to use a garbage disposal if there is one 
  • Not treating pets for common pests like fleas 

Reminding tenants about proper home hygiene and pest control can prevent future problems. This is especially important for landlords who rent to young students in college towns. Students may not have any experience dealing with these issues since their parents have addressed them before. 

Some tenants new to town may not be familiar with common pests in certain areas. Examples include things like snakes and scorpions in desert environments. They may need help in identifying and preventing these pests. 

Top Takeaway Pest Control Tips for Landlords and Tenants 

The good news is that both landlords and tenants can start reducing pest problems in rental properties right now. It’s always better and less expensive to be proactive than to wait until there is a pest problem. 

Tips for Landlords 

Landlords can start on these action steps right now: 

Educate Tenants. 

Leave each tenant with a sheet or brochure on pest prevention. Offer tips on cleanliness and pests unique to the area.  

Be particularly watchful with short-term rentals. These tenants may have a less vested interest in preventing pests. Ask tenants routinely if they have noticed any pest problems. 

Ensure Regular Inspections and Maintenance. 

Have the property inspected for any problems that might encourage unwanted visitors.  

Make sure there are no leaks or dripping water on the property. Damp conditions or water sources can also attract pests. 

Seal up cracks and holes where animals could enter. Install window and door screens to help keep bugs out. 

Outfit every outside trash bin or dumpster with a well-fitting lid to prevent vermin. Consider including trash removal with the rent to ensure it’s picked up regularly. 

Delegate Responsibilities. 

Communicate with property managers about their responsibilities. What should they do if tenants mention pest problems to them? Give a specific time frame for them to respond to complaints. 

Know Your Legal Requirements. 

Know the local laws about tenants and pest control. Landlords cannot retaliate against a tenant for reporting pest problems. They must give proper notice (usually two days) before property inspections. 

Understand the legal requirements for treating more serious pest problems.  

For example, the law may require a landlord to hire a professional exterminator if a pest problem occurs in two or more units. Likewise, they may have to hire a pro for the presence of bed bugs or pests in a common area. 

Tips for Tenants 

Here’s how tenants can improve pest control where they live: 

Document and Report Issues. 

Tenants should be sure to report any pest problems as soon as they are noticed. In most cases, it’s better to let the landlord deal with it than for the tenant to try to remedy it. 

Documenting pest issues with a mobile phone can help pest control experts identify the culprit and choose the right solution. 

Clarify Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. 

Occupants should understand pest control responsibilities when a lease is signed. They should visually inspect the property for any signs of pre-existing pests. Those are the landlord’s clear responsibility. 

All household members should be educated about cleanliness issues related to pest control.  

Tenants must allow a landlord to inspect the property with reasonable notice (typically 48 hours). However, a landlord cannot abuse this with excessive inspections or inspections that cause a tenant to miss work. 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Pest Control Industry Is Thriving and Here Is How You Can Take Advantage 


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