Tips for Landlords: How to Prevent and Exterminate Pests - dummies

Tips for Landlords: How to Prevent and Exterminate Pests

By Robert S. Griswold, Laurence Harmon

Landlords and property managers are required by law to provide and maintain habitable housing. In many areas of the country, maintaining habitable housing includes the responsibility to provide living areas that have none of the following critters:

  • Rats or mice: Rats and mice pose a health hazard to residents and are known to spread more than 35 diseases to humans.

  • Cockroaches: Cockroaches not only pose a health hazard to humans, but they can also damage personal items, including electronic gadgets, and cause anxiety, sleep deprivation, and emotional distress.

  • Bedbugs: Bedbugs aren’t known to carry any diseases to humans, but they often cause severe emotional distress for anyone who lives with them and for landlords and property managers who have to deal with the public relations nightmare when word gets out that the property has bedbugs. For additional information, check out the EPA’s tips on bedbugs.

  • Termites: Although termites don’t pose a direct health risk to humans, the damage they cause to floors, walls, and cabinets may create entrances for rats, mice, and roaches, and if the termites cause structural damage, that can lead to accidents and injuries.

  • Fleas: Properties that allow pets are likely to become infested with fleas, especially if the owners don’t apply flea treatments. Fleas generally don’t pose a huge health hazard to humans, but fleabites cause intense itching, which often leads to scratching, which may cause infection.

  • Ants: Ants are more of an embarrassing nuisance than a health hazard, but most residents don’t want to share their walls, floors, and countertops with ants.

To keep these and other pests at bay, implement a two-pronged attack consisting of prevention and extermination:

  • Prevention: Caulk all cracks around the windows, foundations, drains, and pipes that may allow pests to enter the unit. Proper maintenance may help prevent infestations in the first place and contain them to certain units.

  • Extermination: Hire a professional exterminator to inspect your property, deal with any existing issues, and then follow up on a regular schedule to ensure that your property and all rental units remain pest-free.

    Prior to providing the initial treatment, the exterminator must notify the landlord or property manager and all residents and indicate the pesticides that will be used. Keep your copy of the notice and provide a copy to every future resident the treatments may affect.

If you encounter bedbugs at your property and want to get rid of them, be prepared for the process to take some time and require a fair amount of patience — as well as sizeable expense. The good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on pesticides.

Instead you can turn to an integrated pest management program that combines chemical and nonchemical treatments (such as applying excessive heat over an extended period of time). But don’t attempt this heat treatment on your own! Call a professional or someone with specific training in this technique.

Check state and local laws regarding conditions in the history of the property that you’re required to disclose to prospective residents. More and more states and local municipalities are beginning to require disclosure of pest infestation, particularly for occurrences of bedbugs.