Who Is Responsible For Pest Control In DC, MD & VA - Landlords Or Tenants?


April 5, 2021 - Joey Hayes

Who Is Responsible For Pest Control, Landlords or Tenants?

The following question was posted on a public forum for resolving landlord-tenant issues (details have been changed but the facts of the case remain the same):

"Hi everyone, I live in an old row house in Washington DC. I recently rented the apartment with two flat-mates. A couple of months after I moved in, I found out the home had mice. Initially, I tried to deal with the problem by myself, using mouse traps. It didn't work; instead it got worse."

"Two weeks ago, I told the landlord about the problem and he says to me ‘Oh…that’s been a problem with that address for some time!’. When I press him to do something about it, he points me to the pest clause in the lease and says the problem was mine to fix.”

“Now, I don’t know what to do’ I called a pest expert and he said baiting and trapping would not help. If I wanted to solve the problem, I had to fix the holes and gaps in the home. This means doing work on the foundation and basement apartment. I would also have to move appliances.”

“…that would cost over $900; more than my share of the monthly rent. What should I do?”

Pest infestation in a rental property is one of the thorniest issues between landlords and tenants. As a tenant, after going through the trouble of finding and paying for what you thought was a perfect rental, the last thing you want is to share that home with smelly, annoying creatures.

Moreover, pest extermination is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Also, there are really no guarantees that the pests won’t come back after extermination, since it is very easy for insects and rodents to find their way into a home.

mouse trap in a rental property in Washington DC

Rental Property Pest Control Laws In Washington DC, Maryland &
Virginia

If you are a renter or landlord in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia, what does the law say about pest control in a rental? In these situations, landlords and tenants can only be expected to defend their best interests.

This is why the position of the law on the matter is paramount. Landlords must do the right thing to avoid litigation. Tenants who understand their rights and responsibilities can avoid situations like the one above.

The roles and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in rental property pest control are explicit. Here is what the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia laws say:

On The Condition Of The Building Before Tenants Move-In

  • It is the responsibility of the landlord, manager, or rental property operator to ensure that the unit and all the common areas are safe and sanitary from the first day of the tenancy.
  • This is to say that the landlord, or whoever represents the property owner, has a duty to not only ensure that the building complies with the applicable housing codes, they must make sure the premises is safe, secure, and free of pests and rodents.

On Pest Extermination In A Rental Property

  • If pest extermination is necessary, the property owner or manager shall be responsible for pest extermination within a unit and around the premises, before renting or leasing the home to tenants.
  • In single-occupancy homes - single-family dwellings - tenants are responsible for pest extermination within the home and around the premises. But this is on the condition that the landlord handed a pest-free home to the tenant.
  • In homes that contain more than one unit - multifamily dwellings - the landlord, manager, or rental operator is responsible for pest extermination within the units and on the premises. The exception to this rule is where the infestation is the direct result of a tenant's failure to prevent pest infestation.

On Sanitary Conditions In A Rental Property

  • It is the responsibility of tenants to keep the part of the structure or premises they occupy, control, or use in a clean and sanitary condition.
  • The landlord, manager, or operator of a building with two or more housing units is responsible for keeping the common areas of the building in a clean and sanitary condition.
  • The tenant is responsible for the storage and disposal of rubbish and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner, as required by the relevant laws.

Summary Of Washington DC, Maryland & Virginia Pest Control Laws

  • The landlord shall be responsible for handling all pest infestations in the building. Regardless of the cause of the infestation - whether it is the fault of the tenant or not - the landlord must first of all deal with the issue.
  • The landlord's failure to handle all pest infestations could expose the landlord to liability, even if the tenant is responsible for such infestation.
  • Payment for pest extermination will depend on the party responsible for the infestation. However, the landlord initially arranges and pays for the extermination. If and when the tenant is shown to have been responsible for the infestation, the landlord may recover the cost of pest extermination from the tenant.

There you have it, a summary of who is responsible for pest control if you live in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia. - Joey Hayes

Miche Pest Control

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