Pests can be a problem any time during the year and are a common occurrence in the rental industry. If you check the dictionary, there are varying definitions for pests; here are three common ones.
- An insect or other small animal that harms or destroys garden plants, trees, etc.
- An annoying or troublesome person, animal, or thing; nuisance
- A deadly epidemic disease, especially a plague; pestilence
It may surprise you to know all three definitions can apply when it comes to rental property. There are common problems with ants, spiders of all kinds, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, bed bugs, etc. Annoying animals can be various mice, rats, voles, moles, gophers, snakes, and more. It may seem that the third definition is not applicable but a problem such as the West Nile Virus, caused by a certain type of mosquito causes severe illness or even death.
Who is responsible for handling the infestation, the property owner or the tenant?
When it comes to pest control maintenance, many owners think this topic is cut and dried and should simply be a tenant problem. However, investors should always take pest control seriously and minimize their liability.
The more common pest problems are ants, mice, spiders, etc. Requiring tenants to do minimal maintenance can often solve these problems and most residents accept this responsibility. We find the most practical approach is to counsel them on how to use preventative maintenance to avoid problems in the first place. This includes basic housekeeping such as immediately cleaning up food, removing pet food in areas that attract pests, keeping garbage receptacles clean, and other hygienic practices.
However, pests can be a major problem and liability. For example, if a tenant calls reporting they have rats or a major infestation of ants or wasps, this is no longer a simple pest control problem. It is now time to contact a pest control professional to evaluate and treat the situation.
When pests affect the health and welfare of tenants, it becomes an owner responsibility and becomes a habitability issue.
The URLTA, the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, places the burden of habitability on the property owner. There have been settlements awarded tenants because property owners ignored necessary pest control measures.
Using the right service is important There are times when a qualified pest control company must be used to eradicate pests. A good example of this is bedbugs. This can happen to anyone. Because of the ban on certain pesticides, bedbugs have returned and can be picked up anywhere and by anyone. You can bring them home by sitting in a public place, using public transportation, or staying in a hotel. The problem is they are difficult to control and eradicate. Many pest control companies are not familiar with the proper procedures so picking the right service is important.
What is the best way for investors to approach pest control?
- Keep all problem areas free of potential pest problems. For example, resolve plumbing and drainage where water collects and attract mosquitoes, etc.; clear out areas that might encourage pests to set up a habitat on the property, such as rats or snakes.
- Consider a quarterly or semi-annual pest control service if the rental property is prone to certain pests. This can reduce major infestations and save difficulties with tenants in the future.
- If a pest control situation occurs, listen to your property management professionals and allow use of professional pest control services to remove the problem as quickly and effectively as possible.
- Don't ignore tenant complaints and don't think of this as unnecessary expense. Weigh the costs of professional pest control services against losing good tenants (and rent) or incurring a costly legal problem. Remember, pest control expenses are legitimate tax deductions.
As your property management company, we will work to minimize the problems, counsel your tenants, and when necessary, advise you of the best way to handle any pest occurrence. A practical common sense approach to pest control is another way to protect your investment.