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Who is Responsible for Pests?!


You may have noticed in your lease agreement that you as the tenant are (often, but not always) responsible for "general pest control". What in the heck does that even mean, though? I mean, truly, there's no black and white here. So who is responsible for what, and when?


The reason "general pest control" is not defined is because it's on a case by case basis. For instance: everyone in NC gets Palmetto Bugs. You know the GIANT cock roaches that come out of the darkness and stare at you while you sleep...the ones that you SWEAR just hissed at you, even though they don't actually do that. The ones that are the size of the palm of your hand, and overall just give you the heebie jeebies? Yeah. Those. Everyone gets them. Some houses have it worse than others. Our first property was adjacent to a forest component of Fort Bragg, but strangely, we hardly saw any bugs. Now that we live near the center of town, I see them ALL the time, and have to have quarterly treatment! Those kinds of "general pests" are the tenants' responsibility. You can learn to live with them, you can hire a professional company to come out, or you can even spray the perimeter of your home with a solution that can be purchased at many home improvement stores. It's up to you.


Additionally, tenants are responsible for the pests they "invite" to their homes. We all know there are certain pests that do not appear unless the conditions are favorable to them. German cockroaches (the smaller versions of the Palmetto bugs) are notorious for visiting homes which suffer from cleanliness issues, as are mice and rats. This is not always the case; however. So if you're a clean person with a clean house, then this could mean there is a defect allowing those kinds of pests in. When this happens, then you should consult with your manager. Invite them to do an inspection. That will allow them to verify what you're telling them, and will expedite their ability to get someone to the house to investigate where that deficiency may be that is allowing those types of pests into the property.


In NC they say it's not "if" but "when" a house gets termites. In the event this happens to you, it's something that can be treated within a few hours, and wouldn't displace you at all as a tenant, which is a bonus. In California, they do tenting and fumigation, which is a serious put out. In any event: this is going to be a property owner responsibility. Termites can and will degrade the home's condition, which is therefore a safety issue for you as a tenant. If you suspect you have termites, let your manager know immediately; pictures and descriptions help immensely, here. In addition to termites, any wood destroying insect such as carpenter bees, old wood borers, etc. are also an owner responsibility.


Ants are pretty interesting. There is no way to get rid of them, but you can kinda sorta keep them at bay by sprinkling poison on the ant hills. So as a routine maintenance, that likely would be a tenant expense. If your yard is totally littered with them; however, it's best for the owner to get a professional out to treat, since that could be a huge health hazard. Same thing for spiders, and bees/wasps. Let the owner take care of those; particularly if you have an allergy. There is no point in you risking your life to spray a hive if you're legitimately allergic.


Fleas are always a tenant responsibility. And here's the thing: you may have fleas and not even realize it, depending on the life cycle status. One flea brought into the house can create a huge issue. We require all our tenants with pets to spray, even if they don't see fleas, at lease end/move out, to ensure that life cycle is killed, as a precautionary measure. If you're a tenant who does not have pets and ends up with fleas, that's your responsibility, too.


Bedbugs are always a tenant responsibility. Those darn blood sucking hitchhikers can come from just about anywhere, but are often associated with places which are not clean. You're advised to never bring home furniture unless you know the person giving it to you, or it's brand new (other than what you already own). Bedbug treatment is extensive and costly, and it's entirely yours as a tenant.


Regardless of the pest, the circumstances will usually dictate the responsible party. If you're ever unsure, just let your property manager know what you're seeing, and ask for their advice. Yes, they work to protect the owner, but they also must be honest and fair. If you're my tenant and asking for advice, I will be mostly preoccupied with figuring out what liability the owner has, and responding that way. So I'd only tell you it's your responsibility if it actually is.


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