Pest Control in rentals can get confusing once there's a problem. Who is responsible? Who pays for extermination services? How do most common rental pest control issues start, and how to prevent them... these are our tips for handling your rental property in order to avoid, and address, these issues:

Pest Control Clauses in a Lease

Make sure the lease you are using address specific pest control issues, and clearly defines the landlord responsibilities, and the tenant responsibilities and expectations.

When you hand over rental property to a new tenant, make sure the unit is completely free and clear from any pests. No ants, no roaches, no mice or rats, no opossums or raccoons. (Don't laugh... they can live under the house and in the attic, even in Miami... we've had it happen!). By handing over a pest-free rental property, you are starting the lease off with the expectation that the tenants will keep the property in the SAME condition... clean and pest-free. It's also a good idea to provide a bottle of pesticide for the tenants with a recommendation of spraying the perimeters of the property both inside and out, with the treatment, once per month. This is especially important in warmer climates like South Florida where ants and roaches easily get in, and want to stay once their comfortable inside the property. Spraying the inside perimeter once a month (baseboards, door thresholds, window sills... tenants are effectively providing their own pest control service.

What if the rental property was given over pest-free, but an infestation  ended up happening during the lease?

It's common for landlords to want to immediately blame the tenants. But there are some circumstances where the tenant is not at fault for pests coming into the unit.

Pests in Condos:

It's very possible for pests to come in through common/shared walls in a condo building. If the unit next door is having pest issues, those pests will find their way into your unit. The most common pest this happens with is German roaches. They are, in our opinion, THE WORST pest control issue to have in a rental property. Why? German roaches at the hardest to find and eradicate. They build/live in nests, and reproduce rapidly. And they spread. All over. They'll eat nearly anything, so you'll find them everywhere - not just the kitchen. They are small, and hide very easily from plain sight. German roaches are commonly found living in the crevices behind refrigerators, underneath ovens,  behind baseboards, inside electrical outlets, and EVEN IN VIDEO GAME CONSOLES! YUCK!!

Condo associations generally do provide pest control services for the common areas of a condo community, so this does cut down on any possible infestations. There should be few/no rodents or ants, common roaches in the exterior portions of the building and common areas which could get inside. However, with German roaches and similar pest issues.... they often come inside with moving boxes, inside used appliances or furniture. Once they hitchhike in, they multiply. And they can then spread to surrounding units on the inside, which won't be affected by any pest control efforts done by the association on the outside.

So it's important for landlords not to place blame on their tenants right away. Send in a pest control professional to find the source of the pest problem. Notify the association of the issue, and ask if any surrounding units have also reported an issue. Ask the association to intervene and see if they will send notices to the landlords and tenants of the surrounding units. It's important once your have your unit treated, that the surrounding units also address the problem. If it's German roaches, they will eventually be back if you don't!

Pests in Single Family Homes:

Pests in single family houses commonly include a much larger range of issues. We've had opossums scratching under the master bathtub of a house in the middle of Miami, a family of raccoons living in an attic of a large two story home in the middle of Kendall (Miami), German roaches, ants, termites, and snakes. (no, never an alligator!)

Pest infestations in single family houses usually can not be attributed to neighbors. Termites do spread, but there's no way to place responsibility on another house in the neighborhood. It can also be harder to place blame on the tenant. More often than not, pest issues in single family homes can't be attributed to tenants - unless the condition they are living in is visibly conducive to attracting these nuisances. 

Who's at fault, and does it matter?

The fault can matter significantly, if the cost to remediate pest issues is involved. If tenants are asking the landlord to provide pest control service in order to eradicate pests... who pays for that expense?

The lease needs to be clear. If it isn't, or there's a question about who pays the pest control/treatment expense, It can get tricky. This is why we are huge fans of providing a professional pest control treatment prior to any new tenancy. This starts everything off right. Then, if there's a problem, it's easier to identify when that problem started happening, where it may have come from, and who would be responsible for the expense of remedying the issue.

If the landlord provided professional pest control treatment, also provided a bottle of pesticide for monthly treatments, and gave the unit over clean and clear of all pests... and the lease specifies that the tenant is responsible for their own pest control... there could STILL be situations where the landlord must incur the pest control cost. Why? Florida law requires landlords to provide a rental property that is free of pests! So by taking clear and precise measures to ensure a tenancy starts off right, expectations are clear, and the lease is specific... landlords are ensuring greater probability of avoiding costly expenses themselves in these pest matters.

Most Common Pest issues:

German roaches

These are small, and in our opinion, THE WORST pest to find in a rental property. They can range from tiny on up to about an inch long. They run and scatter fast. They are anywhere from light tan in color to brown. There can be one or hundreds. But when you see one, make no mistake - there are hundreds not far away. They nest, and live in communities. And they hide those nests and communities well: inside walls, behind baseboards, inside of video game consoles, under refrigerators and ovens, inside attics and tiny crevices, and even behind electrical outlets. They are nasty, and very hard to get rid of.

They like warm humid areas like kitchens and bathroom, but can be found almost anywhere. They are scavengers and eat nearly anything: crumbs, food particles in sinks, toothpaste, books, even soap!

They reproduce RAPIDLY. One adult roach can lay 40 eggs in a single day. They can live 3-6 months, and will reproduce 3-4 times in that lifetime (with up to 40 eggs each time!). You can go from a couple of German roaches, to over 1000 in just a few months.

It is nearly impossible to expect a tenant to be able to eradicate a German roach problem. Send a professional to eradicate the population completely. Otherwise, the infestation will quickly spread through walls and pipes, will spread outside and into other properties, and your unit will never be rid of these NASTY little creatures.

IF there's only a couple of German roaches, and no sign of an infestation yet... you can try to end the problem before it begins with a home treatment. Use this chemical as directed, and after a day or two, you should see dead insects. But if there is still any sign of live ones... call the professional.

It is not worth wasting any time, a German roach issue will only get bigger and more expensive and harmful with time.

Sugar ants

These ants are tiny, and depending on the type will be either tan, orange or black in color. The males can be winged, but they aren't as common to see. Sugar ants will start with one, and all of a sudden there will be a trail of one hundred. They are attracted to food. Spills, crumbs, food traces. They can be in cabinets, under refrigerators, in drawers. Keeping the kitchen super clean, and sinks dry, is the most effective way of making sure you don't get sugar ants!

What to do once you have a sugar ant infestation?

Home treatment to try: ant killer bait gel. If the infestation hasn't grown to epic proportions yet, you may still be able to handle it yourself! We've used this treatment successfully. Make sure to follow the directions. And make sure the kitchen is kept SUPER clean, free from all food/spills/crumbs/moisture. No dirty dishes in the sink overnight, no crumbs in the bottoms of drawers. Do this, and you'll eradicate the problem.

Don't like chemicals? Use vinegar completely clean the kitchen, top to bottom, inside to out. Then continue using vinegar regularly to clean countertops, etc daily. Vinegar is an excellent natural cleanser, great alternative to using bleach. And ants hate it!

Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants


Termites thrive in humid environments and eat wood. They are very common in South Florida. For whole house infestations, it's a common remedy to tent the whole house. It take a few days, and no humans or animals can enter the tent until it's all clear. If the whole house hasn't been effected, it's possible to do spot treatments.

But if you've notice just a small section of wood being eaten by termites, spot treatment may be your answer.

Make sure the affected area is surrounded by concrete, plaster, brick... NOT wood... and therefore the termites have most likely no other surrounding wood to have spread to.

You may be able to take care of the issue yourself successfully and without additional treatment necessary. Termite foam gel works well to get into crevices and spots you may not be able to spray or spread gel products into successfully.

We have used this foam successfully to treat small termite infested areas in both a door frame and also wood trim on patios and fascia.

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