I Rented a House With Roaches: What Are My Rights?


Rental rights are different from one state to the next, but one thing that all states have in common when it comes to rental law is a statute regarding the habitability of a property. Landlords assume the responsibility to rent out homes that are safe and free from hazardous materials to tenants. While habitability by itself presents a broad definition, specifically regarding disease-carrying pests, there are some points that every tenant needs to consider.

Renter’s Rights

  • In most states, the landlord is required to furnish a copy of the state law regarding renter’s rights. At a minimum, the landlord must furnish a copy of the lease to the tenant. In the lease, there are specific items outlined regarding the burden of the landlord to eliminate pests from the premises and the tenant’s responsibility to share in that expense, if applicable. Tenants should refer to the language in the lease, and cross-reference that against the renter’s rights for that individual state. If the two coincide, the renter will probably be financially responsible for removal of the pests.

Notice of Move-Out

  • If you and your landlord are unable to come to an agreement regarding the removal of roaches from the property, you may be able to move out of the property without penalty. There is a usually a fee to break a lease, but if you can prove that the landlord failed to manage pest control in your unit, you can serve the landlord with a notice that you intend to vacate the premises within the next 30 days. In this case, you are eligible for a full refund of any deposits made on the property.

Pest Removal and Rent

  • In most areas, a tenant is well within his rights to appoint a pest control company to spray for roaches. His accommodations while the pest control company is eliminating the problem, however, are an out-of-pocket expense. After the property is treated, the tenant can charge the landlord for the expense or subtract the cost from monthly rent. The method of reimbursement from the landlord regarding this will be a direct result of the lease and tenant’s rights for that state.

Origin of the Problem

  • In some cases, a tenant might be living in conditions roaches find favorable and be part of the problem. If the landlord can confirm this, he is within his legal rights to evict the tenant for property damage. The landlord will retain enough of the tenant's security deposit to cover the damage done to the premises and pest elimination. If the security deposit does not include the extent of damage and cost to fumigate the property, the landlord can take the tenant to small claims court to recover the remainder.

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