Bed Bugs and Other Pests; Knowing Your Tenant Rights
General Pest Control
Knowing your rights as a tenant in DC
Weighing the pros and cons of selecting a single family rental home over an apartment or condo will vary from person to person, based on your individual lifestyle needs. Keep in mind that by occupying a single family residence in DC, you may be held responsible for maintaining the “premises free from vermin, rodents, and rodent harborage,” according to DC housing code. Unless, the infestation is a result of the landlord or property manager’s inability to “maintain a residential building in a rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition.”
Because the regulations are a bit subjective, you should discuss the obligations of pest control before you sign the rental agreement.
In multi-unit buildings, the regulations are a bit more in your favor—while your risk of having a pest or rodent infestation is also higher.
- Common areas in a multi-unit building will be kept pest free by the owner or property manager
- If you are the only unit infested, the responsibility may remain your own
- If two or more units inside a multi-unit building are to be found with a rodent or insect infestation, it is the owner or property manager’s responsibility to provide extermination services
The property code in Prince George’s County, Maryland, makes for a good case to set up your residency there, as the responsibility leans more towards the owner or property manager when it comes to extermination.
- The owner of a structure containing two (2) or more dwelling units, a multiple occupancy, a rooming house, or a nonresidential structure shall be responsible for extermination.
- The owner of any structure shall be responsible for the continued rodent- and pest-free condition of the structure
In most situations involving a single family residence, the tenant is more likely to be held responsible for any and all pest related. You may want to keep this in mind when searching for a new place to hang your hat.
Questions to ask your landlord/property manager
1. Have there been recent (or past) problems with bed bugs, ants, mice, rats, or cockroaches in the house/building? If so, what (if any) treatments have been done? Is the house/building under any sort of ongoing maintenance?
2. Who is responsible for the pest control?
3. Under what circumstances would the responsibility fall unto the owner, property manager, or condo association?
4. Can you show me where in the lease that it covers the pest control obligations?
Learn to identify troublesome areas before you sign
- Are the common areas kept clean, tidy and free from food? Consider the grounds as well as laundry and trash rooms.
- Is the dumpster area well maintained and kept reasonably clean? Is there excessive garbage overflow?
- Are there cracks or holes in the walls of the prospective unit? How about under the sink in the kitchen?
If you have a bed bug problem or other related pest problem and you believe that it is in violation of the DC Housing code, you can contact the DCRA to schedule an inspection of the property. An inspector might be able to ascertain conditions that bind the property owner to solving the problem—in the event that you didn’t bring bed bugs or other pests into your apartment.
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