German roaches - tardy tenants

17 Replies

Hi All,

Looking for advice. We have a rental property which is infested with german roaches because the tenants are unclean. My property manager visited and sprayed the place but it was not effective. He saw food all around the house and general condition was filthy.

Now we are planning to get a pest control company to take immediate action but is there a way to penalize the tenants for failing to upkeep the property

Thanks,

Meena

@Meena Balaji Depends, what does your lease say? I don't mean to be snarky, it honestly comes down to what's in your lease. If you don't have a written lease or one that addresses the issue, then you may have challenges holding the tenant responsible - especially if the property is in California, which is notoriously tenant-friendly.

@Meena Balaji If you are using the standard CAR lease agreement (or most online forms), it should have a clause stating that the tenant is responsible for keeping the place clean. Have your PM (or yourself) inspect the property, take pictures and document everything. As a courtesy I'd paid for the first treatment and maybe one more follow up. But after that, it's tenant's responsibility. The spray stuff you buy at local stores doesn't work. I've used Advion Cockroach Gel Bait bought from Amazon with great success, but YMMV. As for penalty, it's a grey area. You can ask them to pay for the treatment, or 50% of it. But if it's not clearly stated in the lease, you need to be careful.

@James Qiu I was just going to say to Advion from Amazon. A pest control company I know even uses it.

@Meena Balaji It's hard to change people's habits, and the roaches are completely on them. Based on my experience, once the place gets clean, the roaches will go away. You might want to walk through their unit and point out the problem areas so they realize how they aren't clean. Check to see if there are scraps under the fridge, near or under the stove. Check to see if they have a sealed trash container. Make sure they have a sealed pet food container if they have pets. Take a look at their pantry. Tell them that next time, pest control will be at their expense. 

I once rehabbed a unit where it was filled with hundreds if not thousands of roaches. Basically, in that apartment, anything you pick up - a sheet of paper, a can of coffee, under the microwave, behind the sideboards - there would be a roach (or 5) under it. We paid the tenants to leave and did an extensive remodel, which took a couple of months, and probably starved those buggers. We moved in new tenants who are spotless, and I've not had problems ever since. Make sure the tenants are throwing out food waste. Target the pantry and ask them to throw out everything that's been opened for fear of contamination. And if they have pets ask them to store pet food in a tightly sealed container  

The tenants are responsible to keep the unit in a sanitary and clean condition, go in with the pest guy and take photos of the current mess.. Give them a heads up before doing treatment with what the pest guy says needs to be done,, trash, put food items in plastic containers,, ect.

If they don't comply give them notice to move, non- compliance with terms of lease, cleanliness. this could infest your entire building, and I would have pest guy treat all neighboring apartments. 

Originally posted by @Meena Balaji :

Hi All,

Looking for advice. We have a rental property which is infested with german roaches because the tenants are unclean. My property manager visited and sprayed the place but it was not effective. He saw food all around the house and general condition was filthy.

Now we are planning to get a pest control company to take immediate action but is there a way to penalize the tenants for failing to upkeep the property

Thanks,

Meena

 Hi Meena,  What a pain.  Unfortunately, in CA, it's pretty hard to pin any pest control charges on a tenant, because landlords are responsible for keeping a unit habitable.  

What I'd advise, is getting rid of the tenant as soon as possible, by terminating at the end of the lease or giving notice if they're on month to month.  Be sure and do it per the law, as far as proper notice.

In the meantime, hire a pest control company for regular treatments.  Normally, if you contract with one, they will come do regular monthly spraying, and then when there is an infestation, they deal with it for no additional charge.  There may be an initially higher cost to get the current infestation under control, but then going forward, it should be just the regular monthly charge.

What I'd do, is give the tenant written notice about how you are taking care of the infestation - that you've hired such and such company, details about how they are dealing with the infestation, and how they will be treating monthly going forward, and enclosed is the information the company provided about how the tenant needs to clean up food laying around, and take the garbage out regularly, etc.  This is to be able to prove that you are taking care of any infestation - in case they try to sue you over it.

So, hire a pest control company, write the tenant a letter saying you've done so, and how there will be regular treatments monthly going forward, and this is what's expected of the tenant to eliminate the problem...and get rid of this tenant as soon as possible.

From our lease:

14. PEST CONTROL: Your rental unit has been inspected and deemed to be pest-free. If you have a special problem with pests, notify the Property Manager. You are asked to assist our pest control by maintaining a high standard of good housekeeping. If the sanitary conditions in your unit are such that it attracts pests of any kind, and it becomes necessary for us to undergo remediation in the building, you will be held financially responsible for reasonable costs thereof, paid as additional rent.

Are your tenants bothered by the roaches?

If so, you need a sit down with them to explain it's got to be a partnership working together to take care of these critters.

The Advion is good (as are many other products from places such as DoMyOwnPestControl) but if the tenants continue to provide a food AND water source for the roaches they will continue to multiply and continue to infest the property.

Some tenants are simply stupid about the way they live yet expect the landlord to take care of the pest control situation.   I'm still looking for a insect spray that will also eliminate such numbskull tenants; unfortunately, haven't found such yet.

Gail

@Meena Balaji ,

Until you get the place cleaned up, the critters will keep coming back. As long as pests can find food, there will be a pest  problem.

Clean first, then exterminate.

If "cleaning" means taking action against the tenant, do THAT first, then clean the unit, then exterminate.

I agree with those that says it's all dependent on tenant's cleanliness.

I had two tenants in my 35 years of land-lording that were total slobs. In the first case, had exterminators come, everything they lifted up roaches came running out. After they left, started doing repairs, sprayed a molding where we saw roaches running in, and we got 15-20 roaches scrambling out. We took our time doing the repairs, and after two months, they were all gone. This unit we rehabbed in a triplex where we had contractors seal up holes between floors, and when the exterminator was going to do the units above and below, was told by tenants they have no roaches and extermination unnecessary.

Had another similar tenant recently, had to replace stove because dead roaches were stuck and died inside the clock on the stove. Looks awful and scary. In this case roaches ran into adjoining units. After they were gone, and the place cleaned out, took 3 months, roaches totally disappeared, the rental unit and adjoining units.

The chief reason we found with these tenants is they leave dirty dishes in the sink, don't wipe off tables after they eat etc. Exterminators in both cases advised all the work they do is for naught till the tenants changed their ways.

Here in NYC, with roaches everywhere, it's hard to prove that your tenant did it. Just have an exterminator under contract, and if they file complaints with housing, we can have to exterminator provide the proof. Just make sure all openings to neighboring properties are sealed as we found roaches showing up when neighboring buildings have tenants moving and starving roaches start searching for food.

Roaches can live for months off wall paper paste , cardboard, anything ... you won't be able to starve them out but if you want to get rid of them use

DUPONT ADVION GEL BAIT

They can't resist it then they die, their friends eat them, and then they die too :)

It will work. You'll have dead roaches everywhere.

I want to clarify that while the gel bait works great, it's only guaranteed to be really effective if you remove alternative food sources.  Roaches do develop resistance to the primary active ingredient, so you don't want to apply it without creating an ideal situation for total eradication.

It can also help to use multiple strategies for eradication.  Roaches don't develop resistance to boric acid. It's slower than the Advion but it's also effective.  You can use them in conjunction.

@Sue K. @Wesley W. @Gail K.  @Frank Jiang @Frank Chin @Jill F.

@David Dachtera  

Thanks to all of you for the great information and sharing your experiences. The property is in a very well maintained upscale locality in Bay Area.  We lived in that property for 5 years with no issues. My previous tenant maintained it well and no issues with them either. The new tenants moved in just 5 months ago. They seem to be trashing the place already :(

We have signed up a pest control company and taking the necessary steps to clean out the mess. We are informed the PM to let them know that any future infesting removal cost will be on them

Also you are right if they don't clean up their act, we need to provide adequate notice and move them out. The property is in a highly rent-able area so finding another tenant will not be a big issue

Thanks again

Originally posted by @Meena Balaji :

@Sue K. @Wesley W. @Gail K.  @Frank Jiang @Frank Chin @Jill F.

@David Dachtera 

Thanks to all of you for the great information and sharing your experiences. The property is in a very well maintained upscale locality in Bay Area.  We lived in that property for 5 years with no issues. My previous tenant maintained it well and no issues with them either. The new tenants moved in just 5 months ago. They seem to be trashing the place already :(

We have signed up a pest control company and taking the necessary steps to clean out the mess. We are informed the PM to let them know that any future infesting removal cost will be on them

Also you are right if they don't clean up their act, we need to provide adequate notice and move them out. The property is in a highly rent-able area so finding another tenant will not be a big issue

Thanks again

 Again, if this tenant takes you to court over any charges you try to levy against their deposit, you'll have to prove absolutely that the tenant caused the problem, in a state that says you are responsible for taking care of pests.  I think you're dreaming if you think you can collect from the tenant.

And really, if you are here getting help, and telling your PM what to do, why are you paying a PM?  What a waste of money.  Fire the PM (or let the contract expire) and keep the money and manage it yourself.  You will always be ultimately responsible for everything, as a PM is only your agent and therefore, you can never pass on any resposibility to them, because you have given them authority to act on your behalf.

Get rid of the PM, manage it yourself.  Buy this book:

http://store.nolo.com/products/the-california-landlords-law-book-lbrt.html

I don't do residential anymore. The worst place I ever saw was an apartment unit. Evicted tenants vacated and when the door was unlocked everyone jumped back 3 to 4 feet as a waterfall of roaches came falling from the top of the door onto the front patio.

Most pest control companies will tell you that the poison to kill off roaches will not work in an environment where food is available to eat instead. If you have a sloppy tenant and the tenant does not change they have to go. For every roach you see there are 10 in the walls you do not.

If you own apartments they will scurry to other units when poison is placed so have to treat the whole building. Leaving trash around and not cleaning where people live is the main cause of a cockroach problem.  The bug bombs and all that stuff just doesn't work when population levels reach a certain point.

The pest control company wore bio suits and filmed the fumigation and treatment of the unit in the building. It took about 3 to 4 months to clear as the population kept having to be knocked down by a certain percentage each time. All the walls and everything had to be scrubbed down.

I love commercial real estate these days. Left residential in my rear view mirror many years ago.

No legal advice given. 

Hi @Meena Balaji the answer is in the lease. But also I recommend you to check  the landlord tenant laws in California, Each state has different laws . Ether way, your property manager should be able to give you good insight. 

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