If you've seen creepy crawling critters in your rental apartment or house, you're probably wondering, what is the landlord's responsibility for pest control? While landlords usually have a legal obligation to provide some pest and vermin control, other mitigating circumstances may modify or even relieve them of this duty. Their responsibilities may also vary depending on where in California you're located.
Pest Control: Tenant or Landlord?
As a tenant, it's essential to know what the situations in which you might be liable for this task are. Furthermore, you have specific responsibilities when it comes to maintaining and caring for your leased or rented home that may negate your landlord's duties.
The short answer is that pest control falls under a landlord's set of legally bound obligations for all of their rented properties. However, these rules are very specific. California landlords aren't always responsible for all types of vermin.
Responsibility by Vermin Type
One of the most common pest control issues with home rentals is that of invasive cockroaches. Because they are considered to be the most common problematic critter in California rentals, landlords must provide ongoing treatment against cockroaches. If you see a roach, call your landlord. You may also want to ask what they do to prevent roaches before signing your lease.
If the property has a history of mice and other rodents, then the landlord is also legally responsible for treating them. If you live in an area prone to mice, such as on a grassy property, then this becomes the landlord's obligation, as well. The same goes for ants; if the property has a history of ants or has had any evidence of ants before you move in whatsoever, then your landlord also needs to provide coverage. When you tour the property, look for ant traps. As far as other pests and vermin are concerned, it depends greatly on your region, the property's history and your lease agreement.
Have a discussion with the landlord about the property's history and what they're planning to do to prevent vermin and pests before you sign the lease. That way, there won't be any misunderstandings in the future and you can rest easy knowing that your home and belongings are well protected.
What Circumstances Change a Landlord’s Obligations?
Several things can change a landlord's obligations when it comes to pest and vermin control. The biggest one that you, as a tenant, must be aware of is improper cleaning or maintenance of the property. According to California Legislative Information, these circumstances fall under California Civil Code 1941.2.
Suppose you fail to keep the kitchen in relatively good order or don't take the garbage out regularly. In that case, you may void your landlord's obligations, because they can reasonably argue that the infestation is because of your negligence. Landlord responsibility for pest control, therefore, isn't the whole story; your efforts are also required.
Other Pest Control Considerations
In addition to cleaning your kitchen and taking out your garbage, you must also avoid clutter and anything else that may cause pest control to become your responsibility. It's a good idea to take proper precautions; that way, if there ever is a problem, you know you won't be liable.
Keep in mind as well that the burden of proof in these circumstances falls on the landlord. They must be able to prove that your negligence or sloppiness caused the infestation, not the other way around.