Tenants want an exterminator but the house was clean!
This is a popular landlord/tenant dispute that New Jersey property owners like to discuss, so we decided to write a blog article about what happens when a tenant wants an exterminator after the house was delivered "clean". Let's break down the possible scenarios and how to solve this pain point in each scenario!
I can't speak for you the reader, but in our Lease here in New Jersey, it effectively says that "there is no known infestation of vermin, bed bugs, etc when a tenant takes possession." If an infestation is found, tenants could be liable for the bill, which would be due as additional rent. The keyword here is could.
In most cases, if tenants are clean you are not going to have a problem. Conversely, if tenants are filthy then it's pretty easy to hit them with the exterminator bill but what about the in-between? Sometimes tenants get spiders in the home, crickets, ants and every bug in between. Whose fault is that? In some cases, that is a landlord responsibility and in other cases the tenant is being overly neurotic and it's their responsibility to solve.
What about a tenant who just took possession and cockroaches arrive a week later? That is a departing tenant responsibility and you should deduct from their deposit. That happens occasionally with us. The tenants pretend they were very clean people, new folks move in and BOOM, roaches. That doesn't happen overnight.
What about mice during winter time? The tenants are clean but mice are in the house? You need to look outside. Is the trash strewn all over the yard and not in the cans? Then it's a tenant issue because they created a buffet for the local mice and rats. What if everything is tidy? Then you need to look for holes, cracks and crevices around the foundation. If there are entry points and your tenant is clean, it's your responsibility.
We can go on and on with examples but the point of this article is to demonstrate that a lot of these scenarios are on a case by case basis. The best way to prevent them is to do what our property management company does. We conduct quarterly inspections of the properties and investigate inside and out. One of the big things we look for is cleanliness because a dirty tenant brings a list of problems with them. We also want to make sure the garbage is well kept and there aren't entry points for animals to enter the home. That can be rats, mice, squirrels, etc. Aside from being dirty, not having garbage properly disposed by the tenant (they either don't even put the garbage outside or if it gets outside, it's not in the cans) is the second biggest cause of exterminator calls with our property management company.
The next time your tenant reaches out to you about an exterminator, feel free to use this article as a guide, or better yet, if you're located in NJ, just hire us. We have dealt with so many exterminator disputes over the years it makes us seasoned pros when it comes to the grey areas.