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Are NYC Landlords Responsible for Pest Control?

October 28, 2020
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When pests invade your home, it’s only natural to contact exterminators. However, people in a rental situation usually find themselves asking who will be responsible for pest control because they do not legally own the apartment.

So is it part of the landlord’s responsibility to take care of pest control measures? In New York City, it is the landlord’s duty to provide the tenants with a habitable home that is free of pests and other health hazards. But tenants should also play their part in keeping the unit clean to prevent attracting indoor allergens.

Pest Control Responsibilities for Landlords in NYC

New York City is the third most pest-infested city in the country right after Philadelphia and Boston. In 2015, around 15% of the residential areas in the city reported rat infestations and 16% complained about cockroaches. The pest situation is so severe that in 2017, the city mayor declared war against rodents with a $32 million plan to decrease the rodent population in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.

According to New York state laws, the landlord must provide their tenants with a pest-free home. The appearance of rats, mice, roaches, and molds inside the tenant’s apartment or in the common area can result in a Class C violation under the Local Law 55 of 2018. Similarly, the landlord is also required to take care of bed bug removal in a unit.

Here is the owner’s list of responsibilities according to both state laws:

Pests

In New York City, owners are expected to:

  • Perform annual inspections to check the presence of indoor allergen hazards such as mice, rats, molds, and cockroaches in the rental units.
  • Respond to the complaints filed by the tenants or the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD).
  • Prepare the unit and make sure it is free of indoor allergens before the new tenant moves in.
  • Give the tenant a copy of the lease agreement, the Local Law 55 fact sheet, and notice that states the landlord’s duty to keep the apartment pest-free.
  • Remediate all reported infestations and implement the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

IPM is defined by the EPA as a comprehensive pest control approach that utilizes effective and environment-friendly methods. It aims to find the best practices to get rid of critters while keeping the least possible damages to the environment, people, and the property. In New York City, IPMs include:

  • Removing pest wastes, nests, and other debris using HEPA vacuum
  • Eliminating all points of entry by sealing gaps and cracks inside the apartment with durable materials such as wood, cement, and plaster.
  • Fixing leaks to prevent water accumulation that can become a source of water for rodents and roaches.
  • Attaching door sweeps to all entrances leading to the basement, hallways, or outside.
  • Applying the minimum amount of pesticide required. This should only be performed by a pest professional with a license from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Bed Bugs

Both the Health Code and Housing Maintenance Code requires the building owners to take care of bed bug infestation promptly. They are also required by the state law to hire licensed professionals who will perform an inspection and elimination of the bugs. Landlords are also asked to inform the new tenant of any bed bug infestation history as well as provide them a copy of the Bed Bug Annual Report.

If the property manager refuses to act on the infestation, the tenant can file a complaint online or call 311 – provided that they have given the landlord multiple reports about the incident and enough time to arrange for a pest control service.

Once the HPD receives the complaint, the landlord can be fined for failing to follow the state law. Depending on the severity of the infestation and the duration of the case, tenants may:

  • Withhold the rent until the problem has been solved
  • Contact a pest management company and deduct the costs from the next month’s rent
  • Break the lease

Before doing any of these extra steps, make sure to seek legal advice first so you would know what to do and how strong your case will be.

Pest Control Tips for NYC Landlords

Since it is the landlord who must shoulder all pest management costs, they should also be concerned with the preventive measures. By following these simple tips, building owners can reduce the chance of pest infestation in their property:

  • Set Up Regular Extermination Schedules – The landlord must schedule regular pest exterminations. Even if there are no pests present at the unit, these should be done as a preventive measure to keep rodents and insects away. It can also stop small problems from progressing into a big issue.
  • Block Possible Entry Points – Mice and insects can enter the property through the cracks and gaps in the wall. Landlords must seal these crevices inside and outside the building to keep the critters away. For better mice prevention, a mixture of steel wool and caulk will be tougher for the rodents to chew.
  • Manage the Garbage – Landlords must also ensure that the garbage bins are securely sealed. They should also have enough bins around the property to accommodate all tenants. Place the trash bins as far away from the building as possible to prevent attracting unwanted guests like insects and rodents.
  • Keep the Property and Common Areas Clean – Pests won’t be attracted to a place if there is no accessible food source. While it’s hard to control what goes on inside the tenants’ units, property managers may vacuum or sweep the common areas to keep it clutter-free. The landlord may also prevent an infestation by keeping the perimeter of the building clean.
  • Educate the Tenants – Although it is the building owners’ responsibility to prevent rodents and bugs from entering the building, tenants should also play an active part in keeping the place clean and sanitized. Landlords should inform the tenants about proper garbage disposal.

How Should Landlords Deal with Pest Infestation?

One common tenant issue that a landlord might face is dealing with pest complaints. It’s crucial to take care of these problems promptly because it can lead to worse issues such as lawsuits, fines, property damages, and health hazards for everyone in the building. Here is how your landlord should handle the issue:

  • Address the Complaint – There are two important reasons why landlords should address the complaint immediately. One of these is to keep the tenants happy – satisfied tenants are likely to renew their lease. The other is to protect the property from further damage. Since rodents and insects breed rapidly, they only need a short time to wreak irreparable damages to the building.
  • Talk to Everyone in the Building – For a residential building with a couple of tenants, talking to everyone can help the landlord gauge how widespread the infestation is. They don’t have to directly ask the tenant if they’ve seen mice or roaches around the building. Instead, they can ask about the tenant’s concerns that need immediate actions. Tenants will usually open up about rodents or bugs if they see one.
  • Identify the Pest and its Source – After confirming that there is an infestation somewhere in the property, the landlord should identify the pest first before calling in a professional.
  • Call for Extermination – Although there are home remedies that can get rid of the bugs or rodents, it’s still better to call in an exterminator to prevent the situation from escalating. Pest control providers are skilled and equipped to effectively eliminate pests while minimizing the possible damages.

Positive Pest Management: Reliable Pest Control Services in NYC

For all your rodent issues in the apartment, contact Positive Pest Management now. We provide management services even in the most rodent-infested parts of New York such as the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

By combining low-risk pesticides, rodent exclusion work, traps, and baits, we can guarantee to stop the infestation and prevent it from recurring. 

Learn more: Can I Break My Lease Due to Mice Infestation?