What rights does a renter have to get roaches exterminated?

What Are My Rights?

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Natural Roach Remedy

Getting Rid of Roaches

Renter's Rights?

Do you have any advice about management not taking care of roach problems in an apartment complex? Or at least in my apartment.

Letter Reminds of Rights

We are landlords, but not negligent ones thankfully. My suggestion to LL is to call the landlord and also write a letter in which you keep one copy and send the other to the landlord. In the letter, kindly remind your landlord that the roach problem still remains, and if you still have the critters by a certain date (give a reasonable date - usually about 2 to 4 weeks), then you will be calling the health department. I don't know how it works in all the various states, but I do know that here in the State of Indiana, the health department will order treatment to rid a dwelling of any pests like that within a specified time limit. Roaches are a big health hazard, so you should treat this as a serious matter.

Regulations for Renter's Rights

Call your State Attorney General's office and ask to be directed to the agency that regulates landlord-tenant relations. Describe the problem, ask for advice, and ask if there is a booklet or other publication that sets out the obligations of landlords (and tenants) in your state, as well as the legal remedies for any problems you encounter.
Anna in Vermont

Renter Creates Deadline

When we were renters, we had a similar problem. We notified the landlord several times in writing of our problem and it was never resolved. We then notified them again, in writing (always in writing and keep a copy), that if the issue wasn't taken care of in 10 days, we would hire someone to come in and do the work. We would then take the amount out of our monthly rent. You wouldn't believe how quickly the problem was resolved!

Guide to Renter's Rights

Leases generally state the responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. Generally, there should be something to the effect that the complex must ensure that the apartment remains habitable. This may or may not cover roach problems depending on the state.

If so, find and follow your state's instructions about what to do next. You need to make sure that you are fulfilling your agreement by paying rent on time, etc., or you will be in breach of contract, too.

If not, ask your neighbors about roach problems. If "everyone" is having problems, a group of people standing in the management office may be more effective than one person. This worked for us regarding roaches. We found out that the people before us had abandoned the apartment, and though the complex had cleaned and exterminated the apartment, it just wasn't good enough. We talked to our neighbors and discovered that all of them directly attached to our apartment were also having roach problems. When we informed the complex of this, they paid for an exterminator to do the whole building, and they reimbursed us for a phone jack we had to have replaced because of the roaches.

If that doesn't work, you could try to negotiate getting the management to split the cost of an exterminator. If the problem is really bad and you have to play hardball, it doesn't hurt to mention that you'd be more than happy to discuss the problem with the Better Business Bureau, the Housing Authority, your city offices, and even a local consumer's advocate news anchor if needed.

Tenants Organized for Rights

Get together with all the tenants and have all the apartments sprayed at the same time. Otherwise the roaches will just play musical apartments. Plus, a group of tenants is much more likely to be heeded. In these times, many landlords may be feeling the pinch, so you may have to offer to pay half the price for a GOOD treatment. In the long run, this will be the least expensive approach to the problem. While the whole building is being sprayed, see if there is a way to determine if perhaps a certain tenant is the cause of the bug problems. If most of the apartments are kept clean, but one is a breeding ground for filth, no program will get rid of the bug problem until the cause is removed.

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Rights Could Cause Rent Increase

Notify your landlord in writing, using return receipt or certified mail. If you happen to have written down the dates and times that you called him in the past about this roach problem, record that in this letter. If nothing is done, then notify your board of health.

If the landlord only has your apartment treated, the roaches will return within a week or so. The entire building must be treated for the fumigation to be effective.

If forced to rectify this problem, keep in mind that your landlord can raise your rent. He could say that the added expense of the roach treatment justifies the rent increase.

You could also buy roach traps and put them about your apartment. From what I remember, the best places to set these traps is under the kitchen and bathroom sinks near the pipes (roaches like the moisture) and in the back of your cupboards (roaches like people food).

If you have concealed places in the hallways, place some traps there too. I say concealed places because you do not want to endanger children or pets that could find the traps.

Roaches are common in food storage areas so you can bring them home from restaurants, grocery stores (they often are in the paper bags), and hospitals/nursing homes. So once you have your home rid of the roaches, brush off your clothing before entering your apartment building.

Clean Before Demanding Rights

I'm a real estate paralegal, and in most states, if the Landlord persistently fails to take care of a roach problem, you have the right to make a valid complaint to your local health department. They will then investigate and compel the Landlord to clean up. In some states, you have the right to have the pests treated, pay the bill, and deduct the cost of payment from the next rent payment due. However, to take this action, you must first send a certified letter to the Landlord, giving him a period of time to "clean up" his own act.

Before you do this, make sure your own house is in order. If there are foodstuffs dropped by your kids or behind stoves, on sides of counters, or under the refrigerator or if there is a leaking sink or standing water (such as fish tanks), clean it up. Sprinkle shelves that hold open containers (such as cereal boxes) with Boric Acid and use Combat gel under sinks, behind toilets and around fish tanks. Then the Landlord won't have anything to say to you about why the roaches are coming in.

Control Roaches Yourself

When I moved into an apartment complex that was roach infested, one fell out of the bathroom ceiling exhaust my first night there. I bought a bottle of borox powder from the local Home Depot the next day. I thin-lined the entire apartment's baseboards, spritzed behind and under kitchen appliances, edged all closets, and lined the threshold into the apartment with borox powder. I never saw another roach again in my apartment. I lived next to the laundry room hallway that was literally littered with dead roaches after the pest control people sprayed once a month. None ever entered my apartment. I swear by borox powder for those nasty, filthy critters. I may have been the only roach-free apartment in the building!

editor's note: Boric acid is toxic by mouth, so keep it away from children and pets.

Recommends Renter Action

I am a third generation property manager/owner and there is no excuse for pests to be left untreated. My advice is to get "Combat" brand roach paste in the syringe and follow the directions for amazingly quick results.

Depending on the legal requirements in your state, you may have to provide proof of written notice of the violation to your landlord. After 30 days and no result, you may be able to purchase the "Combat" and apply it yourself, then present the bill for the roach paste with the following month's rent.

Unless moving is an option, it is better to deal with small issues yourself when dealing with a "no response" landlord. You'll be happier and roach free. Make sure you also keep your place crumb and food free to keep insects out.

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