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Can I Break My Lease Due to Mice Infestation?

October 28, 2020
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Pest problems are damaging to both the home and health of the residents. If you’re living in a rented apartment, all you need to do is report the infestation to the owner and they will take care of it. But if the mouse problem is still not solved after a few weeks, it might be better to move out and find a new home.

So is it possible to break your lease because of mice infestation? In New York, landlord tenant laws require owners to provide their tenants with a safe and habitable unit. If the landlord neglects the lease agreement and fails to act on the issue even after your notification, then it’s legal to break the lease without paying for the rent of the remaining months.

Does Mice Infestation Justify Terminating My Lease?

According to NYC’s Local Law 55 of 2018, also known as the Indoor Allergen Hazards Law, property owners are required to lease their tenants with a safe and habitable home. This means that landlords should keep the units mold and pest-free. They should fix the conditions that caused the problem – it can be sealing up wall cracks, fixing water leaks, and others.

If the pests still persist even when the issue has been reported multiple times, then you have enough reason to break your lease due to the health hazard that it poses. However, you must keep written proof that the landlord was informed and given enough time to provide a solution.

What Should I Do When Mice Infestation Occurs?

In most homes, owners contact a trusted pest management company or attempt to solve the rodent problems alone by buying rodenticides or setting up traps. But it might be a different case for rented units because legally, the property is not theirs.

As the third most rodent-infested city in the country, it is the landlord’s responsibility to lease their tenant with a safe and habitable home. All you need to do is to contact the landlord and notify them about the rodent problem. If the hazard is still not fixed after giving them an ample amount of time, you can file a complaint against them online or call 311.

Before deciding to break the lease, you can also consider the “repair and deduct” option. This means you can have the repairs done and just subtract the costs from the next month’s rent. Make sure there is written proof that the problem is significant and the landlord was informed of the condition a couple of times before taking matters into your own hands. You should also keep receipts from the pest control company to justify the deductions made.

Tenant and Landlord Mice Infestation Responsibilities

Upon signing a landlord tenant agreement, read it thoroughly so that you are aware of the owner’s responsibilities and renter’s duties. Although it is the landlord’s task to keep the place habitable, keeping mice away from the unit is a joint responsibility that tenants must actively participate in.

Here are the tenant responsibilities and owner requirements as stated in the Indoor Allergen Hazards Law of New York City:

Tenant Responsibilities

Although the law requires the landlords to keep the unit habitable, tenants should also play an active role in preventing indoor allergens such as pests and molds from plaguing the apartment. They are expected to:

  • Keep the unit dry and clean
  • Get rid of cluttered newspapers and bags
  • Store food using sealed containers
  • Clean sinks and counters
  • Take out the garbage and tie them up
  • Avoid chemicals and pesticides that have strong smells

Once tenants notice a leak, mold growth, or pests in the apartment, the first thing they must do is contact the landlord. If the condition is still not fixed for some time, they can call 311 or file a complaint against the landlord online. They can also request for a free home environmental inspection through the NYC Health Department online registry if someone in the unit has asthma and pests or molds in the unit are discovered.

Owner Requirements

The “owners” defined by the law are those residential building proprietors who possess three or more units. These landlords are expected to:

  • Perform annual inspections of the units for indoor allergen hazards (mice, rats, cockroaches, and mold).
  • Respond to hazards reported by the tenants or received from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
  • Ensure that the units are cleaned and free of indoor allergens before the new tenant moves in.
  • Give the tenants a copy of the Local Law 55 fact sheet and a notice detailing the responsibility of the landlord to keep the building free of molds and pests.
  • Address pest infestation using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
  • Assess and remediate mold conditions.

They are also required to adhere to the city rules when identifying and correcting the root cause of the infestation. The IPM mentioned above includes:

  • Removing pest wastes, nests, and other debris using a HEPA vacuum.
  • Sealing and repairing gaps and cracks around the unit with durable materials to eliminate pest entry points.
  • Repairing the plumbing system to avoid leaks and water accumulation that serves as a water source for pests.
  • Installing door sweeps in the basement, hallways, and outside.
  • Minimal application of pesticides to be performed by a pest control company.

When to Contact Professional Pest Management Services

Once the tenant spots a mouse in the apartment, it’s best to notify the landlord about a possible mice problem. However, some landlords may be unresponsive, causing tenants to solve the problem on their own. But before suing the landlord for violating the lease contract, the tenant’s welfare should come first.

The renters can try a DIY solution but there might be times when calling a pest exterminator is the best option. Here are a few situations when professional help is needed:

  • Pests Don’t Go Away – If the home remedies and DIY solutions are not enough to get rid of mice problems, it’s better to contact pest management services. They will determine whether or not the problem is limited to mice.
  • Infestation Reoccurs – A recurring rodent infestation is not unusual but that landlords and renters prevent it from happening again. If they were successful in eliminating the pests during the first time, critters and rodents might return stronger. This is when calling pest control becomes their only hope. These companies are equipped with the right tools to eliminate rodents and keep them from coming back.
  • You’re Dealing with Larger Pests – Smaller pests like cockroaches or bed bugs can still be eradicated with proper management and a little pesticide. But if you’re dealing with mice and rats that bring diseases and cause property damages, it’s best to leave the job to the professionals.

Call Positive Pest Management for Mice Extermination

If mice are lurking in the apartment, calling a pest control company like Positive Pest Management can help eliminate the pests before they cause more damage. Using traps, baits, and other tools, we can guarantee to eliminate rodent problems and keep them away for good.

Our service areas include commercial and residential properties in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Call us now to book an appointment.

Read more: How Can I Mouse-Proof My Apartment?