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Landlord responsible for outdoor pest control?

Discussion in 'Other Residential Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by rhscali, Dec 9, 2010.

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  1. rhscali

    rhscali Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi, I am the landlord of a single unit home occupied by a family in CA. About a month ago, the tenant reported a rat in the house. This house is brand new (only about 1 yr old) and I never had any rat problems on the property. There are no constructions near by and the neighbors keep their yards very clean. So I think it's reasonable to assume that the tenant’s actions have brought rats into the house. However, I told them to buy traps and I'll reimburse the cost.

    Over the next few days, the tenant kept on pestering me about the rat. Exactly a week after their first notice to me about rats, I contacted an extermination company. The exterminator company tried to contact the tenants but they were unresponsive for a couple days. Finally, when the company was able to get a hold of them, the tenant scheduled the inspection the following week. If this rat situation is so dire and disgusting (as they called me everyday to complain), why wait a whole week? Anyway, the exterminator inspected the house and determined that the house is rat-proof and there were no entries on the property for the rats to enter. Furthermore, although there were some rat droppings around the kitchen, there weren't any rats in the house both during and since the inspection.

    Now, the tenant is demanding that I still need to reimburse them for the cost of the traps. Furthermore, they now want me to reimburse them for pest-control expense from the past relating to spiders in the yard/patio. I was never notified of these issues by the tenant. Lastly, they are demanding monthly pest-control sprays at my expense.

    My question:

    1. who’s liable for pest-control expense relating to the rat if the house is deemed rat-proof?

    2. Am I (the landlord) responsible for outdoor pest-control (e.g. yard, patio) if the pest is potentially dangerous (e.g. black widow)?

    I appreciate your help. Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  2. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    If pest control is not mentioned in the lease, then it seems in this case that you are not liable... however you did tell the tenant that you would reimburse the cost of the rat traps.
    If the tenant paid for any other pest control, those concerns should have been made to you. The tenant chose to skip you and hire the service directly, and it is the tenant who is then responsible for that expense.
     
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  3. rhscali

    rhscali Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for the reply! Since I believe that I've done my duty as a landlord by providing a rat-proof house and taking appropriate action in a timely manner when they addressed this issue to me, I do not think I should be liable for this particular issue. It's reasonable to say that issue stemmed from the tenant's negligence and therefore I shouldn't be liable for the cost relating to traps and hiring an exterminator, right? So I've told them that, out of good faith, I will absorb the cost of the professional inspection by the extermination company, in lieu of trap expense reimbursement. I mean, the cost of the inspection outweigh the cost of a few glue traps by many folds! In my opinion this is fair...but not sure if it's legally ok. Please advise. Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  4. THEJKH1999

    THEJKH1999 New Member

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    I believe you have fullfilled your obligations as far as control upto this point, HOWEVER you did tell them you would pay for the traps, how much are we talking, $20 tops?

    as a landlord in Hawaii where there are MANY pests I have been thru exactly what you are going thru. For myself in my case I made sure it was not something from the house and helped get rid of the pests but let them know I was helping them out and was not responsible for pests if they werent caused by the house condition and they hadnt been in the area prior. I also made sure it wasnt being caused by the tenants by providing notice of an inspection and taking pics of any food or other things that would be pertinent in the case, IF you take pics do it with them in your presence, DO NOT take pics of personal items or take any pics while they are not home, if at all possible get them in a few shots so they cant later make a claim of invasion of privacy.
     
  5. rhscali

    rhscali Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for the reply. Proximity wise, it will be difficult for me to get to the house every time there's an issue. But the cost of hiring an exterminator is a couple hundred dollars. I could have easily billed them for the extermination fee (right?) but I paid for that cost in lieu of reimbursement of the traps (yea, probably $20 or so). I think they got a great deal, in my opinion. But please let me know if my reasoning is not legally justifiable.

    Just to clarify, I want to know what is within my scope of responsibility, for future reference. (I've been a landlord for only a few months now and they are my first tenant. I'm quite young--still in my 20s--and I believe they try to take advantage of that fact by making a lot of demands I didn't bother mentioning in this post). In the future, am I responsible for providing pest-control outside the house (e.g. patio, yard, etc)? The lease simply states that I, the landlord, "entered the contract for periodic pest control treatment" but did not specify which part of the property nor on the frequency.

    Once again, I greatly appreciate your advice!
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
  6. rhscali

    rhscali Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for your reply! So in my case I am not be liable for pest control expense since the pest entered the house as a consequence of the tenant's actions, right? Which means, I am not liable for the extermination fee, right? So instead of billing the tenant for the extermination fee (which was a couple hundred dollars) and reimbursing them $20 for the traps, I paid the extermination bill in full in lieuof reimbursement. I honestly think I cut them a great deal.. But I digress--I am still not completely clear on who is liable for the extermination fee. Please let me know so I could take actions accordingly.

    Also, as I've mentioned in above post: In the future, am I responsible for providing pest-control outside the house (e.g. patio, yard, etc)? The lease simply states that I, the landlord, "entered the contract for periodic pest control treatment" but did not specify which part of the property nor on the frequency."

    Additionally, is finding a couple black widows around the patio/yard considered a "pest" issue? Sorry for so many questions, I just became a landlord (read: lacking experience, haha) and feeling overwhelmed by the weekly demands by the tenants on various issues.

    I really appreciate your replies! Thank you! :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
  7. THEJKH1999

    THEJKH1999 New Member

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    I understand about the proximity thing, Im on average a 6 hour flight away :)

    I dont think you could have charged them for the exterminator under those circumstances.

    Finding the right tenants is the whole key to being able to handle being a landlord. the first tenants I had were great, paid on time, niever called to complain, I thought they were perfect. Turned out they were hoarders and would not call me even though there were some major problems and damages they were causing to the house. I didnt do any inspections for over a year and when I finally did I evicted them. Cost me over $20K in damages!

    The next tenants Was a guy I worked in the cunstruction field with so I knew he would keep the repairs up, I just told him to take it off the rent. He took care of it allright, untill he lost his job and started overcharging me for repairs that he would have caused to make the rent :(

    the tenants I have now are good and I like them, my mother bought the house next to mine so now she can keep an eye on it for me :)

    If all you have to pay is $20 I would do it, just to keep the peace. I dont think the black widows are your problem either, you might offer to take another $20 off rent for them to buy some bug spray so they can take care of it themselves. Keeping your tenants happy by making them think you care is as important as taking care of the house.
     
  8. rhscali

    rhscali Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So I decided to reimburse them after all. My brother-in-law, who often helps me out with managing the property, asked them to send over the receipts for reimbursement but they refused and wanted to break the lease. Then I got a text message from the tenant asking for my home address. I called her back but they refuse to talk to neither me nor my brother in law. I think they are up to something. I spoke with the real estate agent and she apologized for bringing such troublesome tenants and offered to find a new tenant for me free of charge. She also warned me to be careful--she thinks they are one of those scamming tenants who tries to get as much money from their landlord. They probably saw me as an easy target since I'm a girl and seem fresh-out-of-college young.

    The tenants have been making weekly demands to make me pay for this and that. So finally with this pest issue, I felt that I had to stand my ground but this is turning out really ugly. Oh this is a nightmare..
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2010
  9. THEJKH1999

    THEJKH1999 New Member

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    yeah, seems like they are trying to serve you.
    Best bet is to talk to a attorney if you have one, they would know what to do best in your area for your situation. If you dont have one make friends with one and ask questions, you will have pleny of questions being a landlord :)

    I suppose if it was me I would just wait them out to see if they file or pay rent. In the meantime you might want to send them confirmed letter saying that you are willing to reimburse for the traps.
     
  10. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    I wouldn't bother with an attorney until I was actually served some kind of document ordering me to court.

    Until then, cease all telephone communication. Do all communication through the mail and keep copies of EVERYTHING. If the tenant refuses your written request to provide receipts then you are pretty much off the hook for reimbursement of anything.

    If they decide to withhold rent and are late, do not hesitate to give them the pay or quit notice and proceed with eviction as soon as possible. If you let them play you then you will drag out the inevitable for a long time.

    Get yourself some better tenants as soon as you can.
     

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