Who Pays for Roach Extermination in a Rental Property?
About one-third of Americans live in rental properties—over 104 million people. Both tenants and landlords deal with numerous problems but when cockroaches appear, diplomacy is the key to finding a satisfactory solution.
Let’s start with the basics. Laws vary from state to state but in general, when a house is rented it has “an implied warranty of habitability.” This means the unit has to have functioning plumbing and be free of things like rubbish, rodents, and vermin. However, many leases state that the tenant is responsible for keeping the unit clean and sanitary.
For a real life example, I asked a friend who is a property manager and she told me about one house that was sprayed for roaches before the tenant moved in. When roaches appeared several months later, she found out the tenants were running a food preparation business out of the home - score one for the landlord. The tenants had to pay for extermination. In other cases, if the home is reasonably clean, the landlord is required to call an exterminator, or at least place some roach bait stations around the property (which kills from the source).
This is where diplomacy enters the picture. Unless you see cockroaches while you are moving in, it’s impossible to tell when the critters showed up. If you’ve lived somewhere more than 6 months, there’s no way you can legally prove you’ve kept your kitchen spotless and are not at least partially responsible. Rather than taking the landlord to court, clean up the crumbs and grease in the kitchen and buy some cockroach bait stations. Maybe the landlord will split the cost.
Things get more complicated in a multi-unit apartment building. Fighting roaches requires multifamily cooperation, which is unlikely. In such cases, it helps to appeal to a landlord’s self-interest. Ask them if they really want a rampant infestation in their building. You can also send a letter stating the problem and describing the effects of the infestation on you. Hopefully, your landlord will do the right thing. If you decide to stop paying rent over the problem, be aware that the landlord could drag you to court and quite possible win.
The best way to deal with roaches and landlords is to make sure the lease spells out who deals with roaches, bed bugs, rats, and other vermin. If you have this information when you move in it will save you from going buggy later on.