Who Should Be the Exterminator: Landlord or Tenant?

October 4, 2017

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Who Should Be Responsible For Extermination? – Landlord Or Tenant?

After we finished making our first meal in our newly renovated apartment, my girlfriend and I assumed our favorite positions on the couch and began watching the newest episode of Game of Thrones. We both were locked into the season finale when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flying black object approaching the TV. To my surprise this was not one of Khaleesi’s baby dragons, but an actual bat. At this point my girlfriend had already hit the floor and was in the fetal position. Obviously, I had no time to call the exterminator, so as the bat made laps in and out of the living room, I Googled how to get him out. After about 10 minutes, I was finally able to broom him out the side door. Our first bat encounter left me asking a lot of questions; was this the only one? How did he get in? How long had he been here? Is it okay to sleep here tonight? Did he have rabies? Not exactly the romantic night I was expecting.

So, Who’s the Exterminator?

In my case, I had to take matters into my own hands; however, in other cases of bed bugs, pests, or rodents, an exterminator is often your only option. When this happens, who should foot the bill? The landlord or the tenant? The true answer is “it depends.” According to, in a multifamily apartment building, the landlord is responsible for pest control with the caveat that tenants must keep the unit clean and food properly stored. Tenants renting a single house or townhouse are typically responsible for the maintenance, which could include pest control. It all depends on your lease and the local code. If you are living in either, you will want to contact your local exterminator. Here is a pest library that might come in handy when you don’t exactly know what you’re dealing with.

Additional Reading: Efficient Growth: When Should Landlords Look For Software?

Bed Bugs on the Rise

It’s up to the landlord how they want to handle the exterminator cost, but the tenant must do their due diligence by keeping the dwelling clean. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky 2015 survey found that bed bug infestations in the United States are rising, with 99.6 percent of exterminators having treated bed bugs in the past year. That number is significantly higher than 15 years ago, when only 25 percent of pest professionals reported treating for bed bugs. The top three places for bed bugs are apartments/condominiums, single-family homes, and hotels/motels.

Keep your Lease Handy and Communicate Clearly

If a tenant informs you that the unit has bedbugs or some other pest infestation, make sure you have a copy of your lease on hand. If your tenants are like me, they might not have any idea where their lease was. I had to go back to my landlord and ask for another copy. If you store leases electronically, it can certainly reduce this headache, but if not, be sure to keep a copy in a safe, easily remembered location. Next to the exterminator, your lease will be your best ally in quickly resolving and removing any unwanted creatures.

Additionally, any landlord should make sure to focus on quick, responsive, and effective communication whenever a frustrating and disconcerting pest problem arises. It’s important to remain sympathetic to your tenant as an infestation can be both inconvenient and scary for the person going through it (just ask my girlfriend).


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