No one wants to hear the words “pest infestation”. This is a health hazard, but pests can also damage the rental property and cost hundreds to eradicate. So, as soon as you notice any pest or vermin, it must be dealt with as quickly as possible. That said, getting rid of unwanted pests is only half the battle. The other half is understanding who is responsible for pest control. Read on as we discuss how to manage pests and keep both tenants and the property safe.
Why is Pest Control Important?
Maintaining a safe and habitable rental property is vital for landlords. As you read on, we will discuss who is responsible for pest control but for now, let’s discuss why it is so important –
- Health and Safety Concerns – Rodents and pests can spread diseases, cause respiratory issues, and affect the habitability of a rental home. Therefore, any evidence of pests must be taken seriously and addressed by a professional.
- Pests Can Damage the Rental Property – Whether you are dealing with termites, rodents, roaches, or ants, pests can cause damage to your rental property faster than you may realize. Rodents can chew holes into walls, and termites can go from a nuisance to infestation levels in a matter of days. Therefore, at the first sign of trouble, contact a pest control professional to evaluate and treat the situation.
- Tenants May Complain or Leave Unfavorable Reviews – As a landlord, reputation is crucial to your business, and you do not want to be known as an owner who risks their tenant’s safety. Residents expect a pest-free environment, and if they feel it is not being handled, they may complain or, worse, begin spreading the word online.
- Higher Turnover Rates – No tenant wants to live in a rental home with a pest infestation. Failing to address the problem or taking steps to prevent recurrence will inevitably cause tenants to vacate. Therefore, landlords are left trying to find new tenants and manage the ongoing pest concerns.
Who is Responsible for Rental Property Pests?
When it comes to who is responsible for pest control in a rental, the answer depends on the situation and several factors. Nowadays, most lease agreements stipulate that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the home’s cleanliness to avoid attracting rodents or pests. Additionally, the landlord must initially provide a pest-free home at the time of move-in. So, once the tenant moves in and an issue arises, deciding who is responsible for pest control depends on the type of rental unit. Let’s look at each party’s responsibility below –
Maryland Landlord-Tenant Law Regarding Pests
- All Structures -Landlords are responsible for ensuring a pest-free environment before renting or leasing the property.
- Single-Family Rentals – Tenants renting a single-family property are responsible for exterminating any insects, rodents, or other pests on the premises.
- Multi-Family Rental Properties – For any properties containing two or more rental units, the landlord is responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents, or pests on the premises. That said, a landlord is not responsible when the tenant causes the infestation by failing to take reasonable action to prevent the infestation.
Additional Tenant Responsibilities in Handling Pests
- Report evidence or suspicion of pests immediately to your landlord
- Keep the property clean and free of food waste that can attract pests
- Remove garbage regularly and store in exterior sealed containers
- Treat any fleas found on pets and consider preventative treatment
- Report any open entry points of damage to the home’s exterior where pests could infiltrate
- Be mindful to not bring in pests from other locations or places you visit
More Landlord Responsibilities Regarding Pest Control
- Maintain compliance with habitability standards and building code
- Respond to reports of pests promptly
- Identify and repair any entrance points
- Communicate with all tenants to determine the scope of the issues (if the property is a multi-family rental)
- Identify and remove the pests via a qualified pest control professional
- Consider ongoing preventative measures such as seasonal pest treatments
- Provide informative materials to residents on proactive pest prevention
How to Address Pest Control in a Rental Agreement
Deciding who is responsible for pest control comes down to local laws and your rental agreement. The lease must address any requirements of either party in writing to help limit the potential for disputes. That said, it is important to research any applicable laws in your area and tailor your lease clause to ensure compliance. To help get you started, check out the examples below and always have your lease reviewed by a qualified legal professional.
Pest Control Sample Lease Clauses
- Sample 1 – “Landlord provides pest control service if problems with pests arise. Tenant agrees to allow Landlord, without interference, to engage in chemical and mechanical pest control measures within the Premises and the building and grounds wherein the building is located. Landlord makes no guarantee to provide Tenant with alternative housing due to pest control issues as long as the issue is resolved within a reasonable time frame.” (Courtesy of Law Insider – https://www.lawinsider.com/clause/pest-control)
- Sample 2 – “Resident agrees to report any pest issues to Management for necessary remediation. The Resident’s responsibility is to keep the Premises clean; if Resident consistently lives in an unsanitary environment, Resident acknowledges and accepts that Management is limited in its ability to address pest situations, and Resident waives the right to hold Management responsible for continual issues. If Resident fails to promptly report pest control issues, including the presence of bed bugs, Resident will be responsible for remuneration for resultant costs.” (Courtesy of Law Insider – https://www.lawinsider.com/clause/pest-control)
Top 3 Ways to Prevent a Pest Infestation in Your Rental Property
One surefire way of not needing to worry about who is responsible for pest control in a rental is to prevent them in the first place. While providing a pest-free home is a legal requirement in nearly every area, it is also a sound business decision. After all, tenants are more likely to stay in a home they feel is well-maintained and safe. Thus, creating less vacancy for landlords to deal with. So, check out these top 3 tips below for preventing pest infestations in your rental.
Knowledge is Power
Avoiding pests in your rental starts with proper care of the premises. This takes the cooperation of both tenants and landlords. As a landlord, address any property maintenance promptly and encourage tenants to be vigilant in reporting issues. Furthermore, take time to educate tenants on the telltale signs of rodents or pests, so they understand what to watch for. Early detection is just as important as prevention when it comes to eradicating a pest infestation.
Keep Eyes on Your Property
Unfortunately, not every tenant will report maintenance issues promptly. Therefore, periodic inspections of the property by you or your property manager are key. These inspections help to identify potential vulnerabilities for pests and allow you to address any new maintenance concerns. Generally, one to two inspections per year will suffice. That said, always provide proper notice to your tenants before entering the property.
An Ounce of Prevention
Landlords can indeed take it upon themselves to routinely spray for pests. However, this does not replace the knowledge and experience you get from hiring a trained professional. So, check out local pest control experts in your area. You may be surprised that seasonal maintenance plans are a cost-effective way to prevent pests year-round. Plus, having a licensed pest expert means they can spot and address any issues that arise. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The Best Way to Protect Your Rental
Protecting your tenants and property goes beyond determining who is responsible for pest control. In fact, a legal rental agreement covers every aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship. This is essential to the success of your rental business. Having the assistance of a local property manager familiar with compliance requirements plus the essentials for a legal lease is a huge advantage for landlords.
Bay Property Management Group is a trusted source for some of the most experienced property managers in Harford County and throughout Central Maryland. Our team provides comprehensive rental management services, including marketing, leasing, maintenance, accounting, and customer service. If you are looking for a way to enhance your rental property business, give us a call today for a no-obligation home analysis.