Pest control can be a nightmare for landlords and tenants alike, which is easy to understand. A pest infestation can compromise a property’s integrity, reducing its value for the landlord. They can also be challenging and expensive to get under control. Pests are also very problematic for tenants because infestations can negatively impact their health and the quality of their day-to-day lives. When infestations occur, there’s often a question of whether pest control is the landlord’s responsibility or the tenant’s. The answer depends on the circumstances and your location’s landlord/tenant laws.

When are Landlords Responsible for Pest Control?

Most lease agreements include what’s known as an implied warranty of habitability. Basically, this means that it’s assumed landlords need to provide tenants with a habitable home, even if it’s not explicitly stated in the lease. Many types of infestations will affect the health and safety of the occupant, causing the house to become uninhabitable. Here are a few examples:

  • Termites: these wood boring insects dig into a home’s structure, compromising its stability.
  • Rodents: Animals like mice and rats can spread disease.
  • Cockroaches: Just like rodents, roaches can be a vector for disease.

Every state has different laws governing a landlord’s responsibilities. Some include provisions for pest control, while others don’t. Oregon’s warranty of habitability makes specific mention of “rodents and vermin,” which means landlords need to keep these pests out of their rental properties. Of course, good landlords want to preserve the value of their investment properties. And even though the cost of pest control might sting, they’ll accept it as a cost of doing business. However, there are certain situations where tenants are responsible for pest infestations, and the cost of pest control could become their responsibility.

When are Tenants Responsible for Pest Control?

In some cases, a tenant’s actions or behaviors can cause pest infestations. For example, not properly disposing of garbage or leaving food uncovered can attract rodents and vermin. Here are a few other examples:

  • Ants: These insects are often attracted to food that’s been left in the open. Fortunately, ants are relatively easy to track and eliminate.
  • Fleas: A flea infestation will most likely be caused by a tenant’s dog or cat, and therefore it will be their problem to address.
  • Bedbugs: These insects often travel on clothing or other personal items, making them very easy to transport from another location. However, they can also easily move between units. So if you own a multi-family property with a history of bedbug infestations, you may be responsible for pest control.

A landlord must prove that a tenant’s actions or behaviors caused an infestation to pass the cost of pest control on to them. Documentation will be critical in these matters, which is why regular inspections are so important. Inspections are a landlord’s opportunity to look for signs of potentially problematic behavior like trash build-up, which could lead to pest control problems. If a landlord discovers these issues during their inspections, they must request that the tenant address the problem. Documenting these steps can help landlords make the case that a tenant is responsible for paying for pest control.

Address Pests in the Lease

The most effective way to avoid disputes over who is responsible for pest control is to address this issue in the lease documents. These clauses will define the circumstances under which each party will be responsible for pest mitigation. They could also outline specific terms like requiring the tenant to disclose if they’re coming from a location with an active bedbug infestation. The most crucial component here is to follow your jurisdiction’s applicable laws. If the terms of your lease are illegal, it won’t matter what they say.

Three Ways to Control Pests

The best way to avoid disputes over who is responsible for pest control is to prevent infestations altogether. Landlords can accomplish this by taking three specific steps:

  1. Conduct Regular Inspections: Regular inspections will reveal if your tenants are exhibiting potentially troubling behavior, but they can also identify minor pest control problems before they become more significant. One or two inspections each year should be sufficient. It’s also critical to conduct a comprehensive move-in inspection to demonstrate the unit was pest-free when the tenant took possession.
  2. Hire Professionals: When landlords do encounter pest control issues, it’s tempting to take a DIY approach. Unfortunately, setting a few traps around the house won’t always do the trick. That’s why you should enlist the help of pest control specialists whenever you discover an infestation. Hiring professionals also documents that you’re addressing problems appropriately.
  3. Educate Tenants: Many landlords also provide education pamphlets to their tenants explaining how their actions could potentially attract pests. Nobody benefits from vermin and rodents, so you’ll create a win-win scenario if you and your tenant can partner in keeping them away.

There’s the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s certainly applicable when talking about pest control.

Partner with a Property Manager

Pest control is another task on an already long to-do list for DIY investment owners. That’s why many of them choose to hire professional property managers. These experts have established systems and procedures to prevent and mitigate infestations, and many also have established relationships with professionals they turn to for help. The best property managers also handle details like screening and selecting new tenants, signing lease documents, arranging move-ins, and conducting regular inspections. They’ll also take maintenance and repairs seriously by offering quick turnarounds whenever problems pop up.

If you own an investment property in the Portland Metro area, the team at Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew is here to help. We’re prepared to partner with you through your ownership journey and help you get the most out of your investment. To learn more, you can call or text Darla directly at 503.515.3170 or send a message through our website. We hope to hear from you soon!