What to do When You Hear that Dreaded Four-Letter-Word

Bugs. No landlord wants to hear this dirty word fly out of their tenant’s mouth. So how should you handle it when renters tell you they have creepy-crawlies in their pad?

Photo credit: Furryscaly / Foter / CC BY-SA

As a landlord, you’re required to provide acceptable living conditions. And properties that are infested with cockroaches, silverfish, bed bugs, etc. are not acceptable. In most states, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to take steps to eradicate the infestation… even if it’s assumed that the tenant’s poor housekeeping is the root cause of the problem. Roaches can be carried into the premises in paper bags and boxes. And bed bugs can be transported from hotels… hitching a ride in the most-pristine suitcase. So clearly, insect invasions aren’t always due to lack of cleanliness.

But what if there’s a clause in the lease stating that tenants are responsible for pest control after move-in? It’s still in the property manager’s best interest to act. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is a full-blown infestation that turns into a serious health concern. Not to mention that refusing to handle the situation gives the impression that the property owner is a neglectful landlord.

Photo credit: Logan Sakai / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Additionally, if the problem isn’t remedied ASAP, owners and managers may find themselves in one of two situations: 1) In court, with legal fees that will more than surpass the cost of paying for an exterminator, or 2) In a repair and deduct scenario. This essentially means that if the problem is enough to threaten a tenant’s health or safety, they can, without the property manager’s permission, fix the problem and deduct the cost of the remedy from their next month’s rent payment.

In most cases, exterminating the bugs will be much less expensive than trying to force an unwilling tenant to cover the costs. And do-it-yourself solutions, such as products like Harris Boric Acid or Diatomaceous earth are often as effective as they are affordable. But if you’ve got a full-scale invasion on your hands, it’s probably time to call in a professional. Because it’s much wiser and more cost-effective to head off the problem directly rather than letting it escalate into a full-blown health violation.