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landlord helpA tragic case that has been pending for years was just resolved after a jury awarded nearly $24 million to two young adults who suffer from permanent injuries caused when their landlord misapplied pesticides to their rental unit.

Just toddlers at the time, the two suffered severe neurological injuries. The eldest is unable to feed or care for herself.  A younger brother was spared some of his sister’s physical limitations, but still suffers serious brain damage.

After the children both became persistently ill, including suffering multiple seizures, pesticides were suspected as a possible cause. A test of the rental property where the children played revealed residue of a then-legal pest treatment applied in such a sloppy manner that residue was found splashed along the walls and had saturated the carpeting. Even the kid’s toys and clothing had residue.

Although the chemical used in this case was later banned, the manufacturer was let off the hook, given the misapplication by the landlord.  Also relieved from any liability was a professional pest control company that had earlier applied a different controverial chemical, presumably because that chemical had been applied according to legal standards at the time.

This case serves as a wake-up call for landlords who feel that doing their own pest control will save money. DIY pest control is risky on two fronts:  One, effective pest control, including application of chemicals, requires specific training. Applications must be surgically targeted to the type of pests and must be performed by someone with experience on the mechanics and frequency of recommended applications to avoid injuries.

Secondly, by hiring a licensed and experienced pest control company, the landlord may avoid liability by not assuming the duties of a pest control expert.

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  • Joseph

    I leave pest control up to the tenants. If they have ants,roaches in the house, it is their fault. They probably have food or trash that is attracting the ants. I don’t even exterminate for termites. If the tenants have termites and they don’t like it, they have the option to move out. The tenants are always out to stick it to the landlord, well two can play that game.

  • [email protected]

    As a landlord, Joseph may be wrong in his assessment of the situation.

    If the pests were left as eggs from prior tenants, or allowed in through cracks in foundation or lack of proper upkeep (lack of caulking in cracks or gaps), then the landlord may be materially contributing to the presence of pests.

    Furthermore, in units that are adjacent to or abut other units, the pest problem could be a “spill-over” due to conditions of the neighbor, in which case the landlord has a duty to respond to the problem.

    Finally, if the problem is present as part and parcel to the neighborhood (rats in local watersheds for instance), then the landlord is aware of the ambient, natural pests and has a duty to keep them in check if they invade the tenant premises.

    Careful, Joseph, or you might be negligent in performing due diligence on matters that are indeed your duty and responsibility to be aware of and monitor. You are not going to be held harmless against known, obvious problems like these.

  • cranky landlord

    Joeseph may be referring to a house rental, not an apartment. He does not specify. Yes, with an apartment you are right, I had a situation where a tenant was a total pig and didnt do dishes for weeks. It had a total infestation of German Roaches. It got so bad, that they started to invade the neighbors unit, and she was totally clean and had a phobia with bugs. I served the pig tenants with a 3 day notice to clean up their act, and pay for the pest control co.

    I would say that 99.5% of the time as far as roaches go its the tenants neglect that is the cause. Silversifh, termites and crikets are another story.


  • Short term Pest Control can be tricky. In rural or agricultural areas pests can be reptiles or mammals, not just insects. I try to maintain a building envelope which deters pests, but this is impossible if a tenant leaves food out. I know the seasonal pest patterns of my property and none are year round persistent problems unless being fed or otherwise encouraged by tenant behavior.
    I know that between tenants my units are super clean and no critters stay. After a move in, if pests arrive as well, then we have to figure out what has changed. Some young folks really don’t know that leaving a bag of birdseed or dry pet food open will attract bugs, mice, etc.
    The thing to keep in mind is that if you have young or otherwise inexperienced tenants, part of maintaining the relationship will be sharing knowledge. Having said that, there need only be a couple of discussions on a topic before you have to take action on your part to correct the situation. Sometimes that means they should move out.

  • steve

    joseph – don’t give good landlords a bad name.
    first off neglecting termites will only worsen the property. termites can eat through a wall in weeks. if he neglects this fact, what else is he neglecting? plumbing, electrical?
    come on joseph.. be reasonable and intellegent. ants come up from the ground during rainy seasons and during cold weather. they also are enemies of termites and will live around rotted wood in search of termites. termites may be present in a property because there is a leak in the building as well. you really can’t say that’s the fault of the tenant can you?

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