Let’s face it – creepy crawlies and things that scurry in the dark can make your skin crawl more than any award-winning horror film. Pest control and these vexing vermin are major concerns for both tenants and landlords. In general, it is best to approach pest control as both the landlord’s and tenants’ responsibility.

As a tenant, there’s nothing worse than spending a long day unpacking boxes and finally crawling into bed at your new apartment, only to be kept awake by scratching in the walls or seeing small shadows flitting across the ground. Not only are pest infestations emotionally and mentally draining due to the stress of trying to deal with the issue, but living with vermin is also just a straight-up physical health hazard. As a landlord, clean living spaces – and tenants who are going to keep them that way – are also critical to a landlord’s peace of mind and business. Pest infestations can lead to fines, tenant complaints and turnover, and even condemned buildings! 

Generally, when wondering as a tenant and landlord the best practice for pest-free living conditions, working together is paramount to anything else. This article can help you determine how both parties can be accountable for a property’s pest control policies and keep an apartment or house pest-free.

 
Before Move-In

It’s important for tenants to ensure that their potential new living space is pest-free before move-in so, investigate for signs of pesky pests before signing any lease papers.

Around the building and apartment, look for:

  1. Cluttered trash or outdoor areas. Clutter only leads to creepy crawlies. Clean trash areas not only prevent places where insects and rodents can build nests, but it’s also a good indicator that a landlord or a property manager is taking good care of their property.
  2. Water issues. Water is very attractive to insects and rodents. Look for issues of standing water or leaky pipes. In the apartment and the hallways of the building, check out the ceilings and floors for water stains (usually brown- or rust-colored stains).
  3. Small holes or cracks. Not only is this important to check for the apartment for small holes and cracks, make sure to check the hallways, stairwells, and any basement/laundry room. When inspecting the apartment or house, pay special attention to the corners of closets, cupboards, the bathroom/kitchen, behind any furniture, and along the floorboard. Check out the heating units or vents too – large vents have large gaps for insects and rodents to climb into your apartment.
 
Pest Control in the Lease

Ah, leases. They are the core tenet of the tenant and landlord relationship. While they may seem like an annoying piece of paper, it may be helpful to think of leases as a document designed to protect both tenants and landlords and provide clarity, responsibility, and accountability. Landlords should consider, if they don’t already have one, adding a pest provision in their leases. Tenants, read through your lease carefully—what does it say about pest control? 

A good pest provision that works well for both landlords and tenants clearly delineates what support the landlord will provide for pest control and what is the tenant’s responsibility. For landlords, a critical concern is that if tenants think they have to pay for pest control, they won’t always report a problem. If you’re interested in checking out potential wording for a landlord-tenant pest provision, check out this example pest addendum.

 
After Move-In

Tenants, after move-in, make sure you’re taking preventative measures for keeping pests out. During winter, not only are frozen pipes a concern but so are the insects and rodents that will be on the move and looking for warm houses, such as yours, to hide from the cold. Here are six steps you can take for pest control in your apartment or house.

  1. Keep cupboard and food on locked down. Mice can chew through cardboard and plastic so move any boxed or plastic bag food items on the counter and in the cupboard into sealed glass containers. Or keep items in the fridge—I know it’s weird to keep a box of Instant Rice in the fridge, but I promise you it doesn’t change how it cooks or tastes. If you spill or drop food, immediately clean it up, especially from the floor, counter, or cupboard.
  2. Eliminate moisture. Make sure to immediately clean up any standing water around tubs and sinks and report any water leaking that appears in the ceiling or wall immediately to a landlord. As noted earlier, mice and other pests are attracted to water so maintained a dry environment is helpful for keeping pests at bay and also preventing mold!
  3. Eliminate cardboard storage. Bedbugs love to hide in it and rodents can easily chew through it. Instead, consider using hard plastic totes for storing items for the season or long-term (especially clothes and bedding).
  4. Plug or block any small holes with steel wool. If a hole does suddenly appear, report the problem to your landlord and immediately plug it. The most common method of plugging a small hold formed by mice is with steel wool, as they can’t chew through it.
  5. Reduce clutter. Eliminating clutter is critical, not only does it prevent creating hiding places and nests for pests, but it makes noticing signs of a problem and eliminating it easier in case a pest infestation does occur.
  6. Clean and vacuum frequently. Sometimes when we’re going through our day-to-day, it’s easy to miss the signs of a pest problem. Set a weekly cleaning day so that food gets cleaned up, the carpets vacuumed, and the clutter put away. Not only will this help prevent a problem from occurring, but you will also be paying closer attention to your home while cleaning it so you are more likely to notice the signs of pests moving in.

 

In general, while landlords are responsible for providing fit and livable conditions, tenants also share responsibility upon move-in to help maintain the livability of the housing. Following these steps before move-in, when writing and signing the lease, and after move-in can help provide a little peace of mind about pest control. Both parties should be aware of who is accountable and responsible for what—especially when little critters decide to move in unannounced!