Termites: How to Deal with a Gnawing Problem

By Shannon Slattery

Termites. This one word can strike fear in property owners everywhere. So how can you tell if your rental units have them? Signs of termite damage include: small holes in wood, wood that looks like it’s hollowed out, crumbling drywall, pencil-shaped mud tubes on foundation walls and floor joists, and swarms of tiny winged ant-like creatures around doors and windows.

These infestations can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your buildings, not to mention lost rental income. In order to meet the qualifications of a rental unit being habitable, there must not be a severe pest problem. This includes termites, as well as roaches, bed bugs, etc. And if a property is inhabited by these winged, wood-eating varmints, tenants have right to notify the landlord and take action.

In fact, landlords are responsible for all extermination costs associated with the invasion. As well as for accommodating the displaced tenants during the fumigation and removal of these tunneling terrors. This can be in the form of prorating the rent on a per diem basis or putting the tenants up in a modest hotel for the duration of the termite treatment. It wouldn’t be excessive for the renters to ask for a food allowance since they aren’t able to prepare meals in a motel as they would in their own home.

Landlords who are uncooperative could be turned in to the local health officials if the resident chooses to go that route. Citations could be issued from the municipal department. Renters would also be acting within their rights to give 30-day notice that they’ll be vacating due to the landlord not conforming to inhabit-ability standards.

In short, once you learn of a termite infestation, it’s in your best financial interest (as well as beneficial for your reputation!) to quickly and thoroughly eradicate all termite activity from the property. If you fail to do so, you’re potentially opening yourself up to more extensive property damage and a unit without rental income should your tenants decide to leave.


Photo credit: cbb4104 / Foter.com / CC BY
Photo credit: Editor B / Foter.com / CC BY