Tenant asking for bug treatment

73 Replies

If you choose to pay out of your own pocket for pest services for your tenants, that's your right, @Anthony Wick , but just because you do something nice for tenants doesn't mean you'll keep them happy. You can not control people. And you can't do favors/nice things for people thinking that they will in return be super kind to you, have a great relationship, or even keep your property nice. It's unrealistic.

In fact, *some* people expect more and more and more when you do nice things for them. And when you finally draw the line and say "no more", they get angry.

So don't think you're doing yourself or your property or your tenant/landlord relationship any favors by paying for services that they should be handling, and could handle for much less than $175.

@Michael Temple , your only "mistake" was mentioning to them that while you lived in there, you experienced ants. As someone said before, when you mention something, they will definitely see it and exaggerate the issue 10x over. You know very well that your former home does not have an infestation. Rather, like many normal homes, some bugs will make their way indoors. It's part of life. 

You're doing fine, don't let anyone make you feel guilty for not bending over backwards and throwing money at every request and *perceived* problem.

I just want to reiterate,  living outside Chicago (same zone as Toledo)...when long winter becomes spring or it rains for days on end,  the bugs DO appear overnight.  Did you not experience that when you lived in the house?  For us in Naperville,  it's no ants for 2-4 years and one morning it's a science fiction novel...ants EVERYWHERE.

@Nicole A. 

Well, that response to me was a bit salty. You kind of jumped the gun on assumptions. But that’s ok. My tenants pay top dollar, and I paid $175 to keep MY property from being infested by ants and bugs. And my tenants just signed a 2 year lease extension. Seems better than vacancies. And, it wasn’t a “favor”. It was business. I don’t believe cheapest is always best. I’ve learned that from going cheapest before. But that’s just my way of doing business. It’s not for everybody. 

@Anthony Wick I didn't mean to come across as salty. My apologies. And I wasn't saying it's a guarantee that your or anyone's tenants will definitely not appreciate things like that. But I do stand by the general idea that one can not do things for tenants thinking that in general it betters the relationship or how they treat the property. 

I think it just sets *their* expectations, and so when/if they keep asking for more and more and more, the landlord will finally draw the line. And that's when the tenants get mad. They typically won't be understanding that the landlord finally said no. They'll just see that they've been provided above and beyond before, and demand that to continue. Not always. But many times.

To me, taking care of something that tenants should handle is indeed a favor, and while one should be sure the property is kept in good condition, I don't think it's the best business decision to spend unneeded money. To clarify, that doesn't mean always taking the cheapest route either. This is solely about what should be a tenant's responsibility. 

Originally posted by @Michael Temple :

@Jonathan Holmes

Do you have some recommendations of how to "de-needify" a tenant? I am still a relatively new landlord (3 years) so I am still learning my way through this process.

 On the topic of "de-needifying" tenants, I have a few of suggestions:

1 - Do not return texts.
2 - On every piece of paper or email that you give them, have your contact information, business hours (M-F, 9am- 5pm) and phone number. Underneath that have DO NOT TEXT in bold.
3 - Only return voicemails. Texts are easy to fire off. Phone calls are (usually) actually important & voicemails means something's UP.

I also have some very "persnickety" tenants (you use kinder words than me, I should try that) - whom I've caught in various violations of their lease in just their first 6 months. It's funny (or is it?!) I've have more contact with these 2 tenants than I did with all of my landlords over my entire lifespan as a renter. Fact is - they pay rent on time (early sometimes) and you can't put a price on that (or can you?!). I issued them a modest 2-3% increase on their renewal - and if they don't stay - whatever, it's summer and I can get someone else in there. If I were you I'd tell them to get some bug spray and hit the door thresholds and baseboards and welcome to spring time! Good luck!

I'm with you,  Anthony.  In 8 years of this it hardly ever has bitten me in the butt to spend a little money and be accommodating.  Boundaries are necessary,  sure.  "Yes"  doesn't jump out of my mouth immediately.  But we're getting a reputation as good landlords.   In fact,  I had an open house last Saturday..tenants have purchased a home..and the wife left a handwritten note on the counter "To Whom It May Concern:  You will be so lucky to rent this condo.  You could not ask for better landlords".  7 of the nine people that went through in 90 minutes applied.  It will be vacant for 3 days,  just long enough to touch up paint and have the carpets cleaned.  What did I do for these tenants in two years?  Brought space heaters at 2 a.m. when the furnace failed,  and provided a filter for the water in the fridge.  That's it.

Depends on what your lease says, mine states that tenants are responsible for regular pest control. If something gets out of hand and we have an infestation of some kind we will step in but for regular service we just give them the number of the service we use and let them handle it.

I had to take a stand on this with some tenants that I inherited when I purchased a house. They nit picked everything, but it was hard to tell them know since I jacked up their rent and they paid so good. They called my wife one night wanting us to spray because it was "obviously" fleas. We told her that we have a can of bug spray she was more than welcome to use, she declined. After that her roommate brought their rent checks that month my wife asked her about it, she said I don't know what she was talking about and that she personally didn't see anything. Ever since then they have been model tenants only calling on serious issues and handling everything else themselves. Their lease says that anything under 200 is their responsibility.

Anytime my people complain about bugs I said exterminator. Then for $45 a month going forward any bug problems they have they just called the company. I hate to waste that money also but to get these people off your back for a small amount of funds I believe is worth it.

@Christen G. - Great suggestions. One other person said to stop allowing text messages as well. I think that is a great idea. The couple in there now are Millenials and I believe they would rather text than writing a letter or call in the case of a serious problem. I believe I am making it a smidge too easy to fire off quick texts for every little thing that occurs to them. I don't want to ignore legitimate requests or provide bad service, but I think there is a balance somewhere in between allowing these guys to text every little issue that bothers them and being some type of unresponsive bad landlord.

1) what does your lease say

2) what kind of condition is the house in (I recently had a tenant move out that complained of ants...upon move out I found excessive food splatter on the stove and unwashed roasting pans in the warming drawer of the oven).  Is this due to negligence?

3) Do they have pets?  Pesticides can harm pets...and it can be a good deterrent to tenants requesting you to poisoning the area that may affect their pets.

4) Electronic pest deterrents are cheap and instructions state it could take up to 3 months to get results...in 3 months, those pests are doing other things....

Account Closed - Great suggestions. Unfortunately, my current lease that these tenants are under does not have any language regarding pests or who is responsible. I added it immediately upon getting into this dispute. It will definitely be in place next time. Live and learn I guess.

They are keeping the place very clean so that isn't the issue. I really believe the issue is part the fact it is spring and warming up. Bugs and spiders naturally make a resurgence in the spring. I used to live in this house for 16 years, yes, spiders are there, but it isn't an "infestation" and vacuum cleaner typically solved the issue and made me a hero to my daughter. The part is a giant pile of old firewood stacked in the garage, which I told them to promptly move out to the yard away from the house.

Your idea of the electronic deterrents is really good. They have small children so I am a bit concerned with dumping a variety of poisons in the house that they could come into contact with. Then they might sue me for poisoning their kids and forget entirely that THEY wanted me to do this in the first place!

Another issue I just thought of as a result of my last post. Since I am a little concerned with putting poisons down knowing they have small children and wondering what type of liability that could generate I wonder if it is a good idea to draft a disclosure and release of liability for them to sign BEFORE I put anything down. That way they can't come back after the fact and say I did something to harm them or their children. What does everyone think? It sounds like a good idea to me.

I am really NOT trying to over think this entire issue, but I have a strong aversion to being sued.

Originally posted by @Michael Temple :

@Ed E. - Great suggestions. Unfortunately, my current lease that these tenants are under does not have any language regarding pests or who is responsible. I added it immediately upon getting into this dispute. It will definitely be in place next time. Live and learn I guess.

They are keeping the place very clean so that isn't the issue. I really believe the issue is part the fact it is spring and warming up. Bugs and spiders naturally make a resurgence in the spring. I used to live in this house for 16 years, yes, spiders are there, but it isn't an "infestation" and vacuum cleaner typically solved the issue and made me a hero to my daughter. The part is a giant pile of old firewood stacked in the garage, which I told them to promptly move out to the yard away from the house.

Your idea of the electronic deterrents is really good. They have small children so I am a bit concerned with dumping a variety of poisons in the house that they could come into contact with. Then they might sue me for poisoning their kids and forget entirely that THEY wanted me to do this in the first place!

I can only speak from my own experience...the electronic pest deterrents work for insects (spiders especially).  They advertise they deter mice but I've not seen that as being an effective solution for mice.  I have a doggie door in my home and mice still make their way in to eat the dog food I have set out for my two dogs.  Flies tend to come in, explore, and then leave.  If insects are the only issue, try the electronic stuff and tell your tenants it's the best option when pets are around.  I would also recommend citronella candles in the summer.

That's what I would do.

Originally posted by @Gary Florin:
Originally posted by @Lisa Kovac:

@Michael Temple

With that being said, first thing you need to understand is you are dealing with a female.  Females do not like spiders.  The reason for this is because Females understand that spiders communicate.  Not only do they know you are trying to kill them, so they run like little Tasmanian devils, but they also notify all their relatives who will come watch you at night while you are sleeping.  If you happen to knock one to the floor, they play dead until you are asleep at night, and then they come back and notify their friends.  Before you know it, they are making cocoons in the corners of your ceilings, preparing their fortress for the takeover that is going to happen the minute you close your eyes to sleep.  The only 100% cure for a spider in most female minds is a flame thrower, and that may cause you fines if you have your smoke detectors in the wrong locations.

Therefore, do not take your tenants lightly if they have a fear of spiders, just remember the spiders are there because bugs are presents, such as ants.  Ants can be quite destructive, particularly if they are carpenter ants or winged ants such as termites.  

Consider your tenant's complaint as a good alarm mechanism that your house could sustain structural or fire damage that a little bag from Home Depot or Lowe's could have prevented.  

Treat your tenants how you would want to be treated and you can usually get along very well and take of their concerns pretty cheaply.  What you may conceive as tedious and unimportant may be very important to your tenant.

Lisa

 ahahHAHAHAHA!!!  

Although that is a gender stereotype, it seems to be true!  My experience has been that most women are absolutely unnerved by the mere sight of a spider. Males don't particularly like spiders, but are usually not terrified of them. At home, I get "the yell" about once of month to "COME KILL THIS SPIDER!!!"  So in comes dad with a tissue paper to capture the offending arachnid. The daughters stand by at a safe distance as the grab is made.  Before flushing it down the toilet, I will sometimes hold the wad of tissue up and say, "does anyone want to see the ...." and before the sentence is finished there are screaming girls running from the scene!

Absolutely!  Your girls are very smart!   I am not quite sure why I am afraid of them, I don't know if it is because they shoot webs out their butts and can hang from them (which is kind of freaky, if you think about it) or because they crawl on you, or because of how fast they run and skitter.    I can't put my finger on the reason, but I am not a fan.  My husband knows that if there is one on the bedroom ceiling (which I check every night before I sleep), he won't get a wink of sleep until it is disposed of.    He also knows if it disappears, he better find it quick.  So, yes, I can relate to this tenant, but I can't say I ever thought to call my landlord.  That's probably because my husband gets bug spray before it would ever get to that point because he values his sleep.  ;-)

Admittedly, I did not read through the entire thread and replies. So if this is resolved and my response is irrelevant, my bad. I would just take care of it if it's a nice house and nice neighborhood. Doesn't cost you much and not only keeps them happy, but also keeps them speaking nicely about you to other people. If it were in a worse area and a worse house I wouldn't worry about it as much.

Originally posted by @Michael Temple :

Another issue I just thought of as a result of my last post. Since I am a little concerned with putting poisons down knowing they have small children and wondering what type of liability that could generate I wonder if it is a good idea to draft a disclosure and release of liability for them to sign BEFORE I put anything down. That way they can't come back after the fact and say I did something to harm them or their children. What does everyone think? It sounds like a good idea to me.

I am really NOT trying to over think this entire issue, but I have a strong aversion to being sued.

Good point. I would also never purchase and leave a jug of bug spray at the property for a tenant to use for the same reasons you mentioned -- possible litigation.

I love the feedback this post has received!  Here’s more (restating what’s been shared a few times):

1. Buy Home Defense for $7.98 from Home Depot

2. Spray early spring every year  (all exterior home, yard and fence perimeter where spiders hang, window bottoms, entry ways, inside garage walls adjacent to house, basement windows, etc.) 

3. (Regarding annoying texts). Unless text is actual emergency, give it a 12- 24 hour cooling- off period.  Call tenant the next Day; in my experience, most communication challenges arise from our interpretation.  Simply being on the phone or in person will disarm most people.  Train them to be diligent and take control for things. (We had a tenant that complained about ants and left food out in kitchen 24/7; after a couple discussions, this has been resolved.)

4. If above doesn’t work, hire a PM, let them manage it and focus on finding new deals.

@Account Closed - Good point. Personally, I find texting a reasonable tool to use so I do. When I started managing my properties I attracted some younger tenants so I thought texting was a reasonable way to allow them to communicate with me. I am starting to see that may have been a mistake. I certainly see some benefits, but I also see some downsides as others have pointed out and as I am experiencing first hand.

I had a local pest company come out and spray in the attic for $75 last week because the insulation company found roaches in the attic. I thought it was a one time service but he said I could call again anytime in the next 3 months and he would come out again for no charge.

Originally posted by @Gary Florin:

 ahahHAHAHAHA!!!  

Although that is a gender stereotype, it seems to be true!  My experience has been that most women are absolutely unnerved by the mere sight of a spider. Males don't particularly like spiders, but are usually not terrified of them. At home, I get "the yell" about once of month to "COME KILL THIS SPIDER!!!"  So in comes dad with a tissue paper to capture the offending arachnid. The daughters stand by at a safe distance as the grab is made.  Before flushing it down the toilet, I will sometimes hold the wad of tissue up and say, "does anyone want to see the ...." and before the sentence is finished there are screaming girls running from the scene!

 I had to chuckle at this one, as my dad did the same thing my sister and I when were kids (and we fleed the scene screaming, too!). To this day I detest spiders (in my eyes they're all the size of my hand, can leap 100 feet in a single bound, and could eat me alive if they so chose), and an infestation equals 2 or more. Lol. However, I've learned to accept the presence of a single daddy long legs in the house if I see one. I promptly give him the lone survivor speech - he's there to do a job, and if he fails or invites friends, everybody dies. Needless to say, I've rarely seen a daddy long legs in my house two days in a row.

CA tends be pretty critter free compared to some other locales, and my condo complex sprays the property regularly (one of the few things the HOA fees are good for). I thankfully don't have to think much about pests, except for those that frequent my garden.