Fleas in an apartment: Who's responsible?

14 Replies

I have a tenant in an upstairs unit that notified me that they have fleas in their apartment.  This is a two-story standalone building consisting of two efficiency apartments, one on top of the other.

The tenant below them does not have fleas, and neither do the tenants in the front house.

I bug bombed the apartment in question, and the tenant claims to have bombed it again.  But they said they still have fleas.

At this point, I feel like it is fairly safe to say that they brought the fleas in with them or at least their cleaning habits (or lack thereof) have contributed to the problem.

Anyway, my question is who is ultimately responsible in this case?  I've been trying to treat the place, but if they don't clean up after themselves, there's only so much I can do.  Fleas love hiding in piles of dirty laundry.

Treatment would be simple if they and their stuff were out of the apartment.

To prevent this problem in the future, I will be putting pest control on the tenant in my leases (but continuing to spray the outside).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

-Nathan

@Nathan McBride this is a tough one because if it spreads into the other apartments then it will ultimately become your problem entirely. 

I have lots of student rentals and have dealt with some version of this 10,000 times. I pay to have it professionally done and taken care of at no charge. I let them know that I'm billing them for any issues after that. 

It's not fair to you but if it spreads to the other apartments then it's going to worsen your situation.

@Nathan McBride What does your lease say? This should be spelled out there.

If it is not then you may have to pay a professional to come in as the bug bobs are not getting the job done.

You didn't mention if they have pets that may have brought in the fleas.

You definitely don't want this spreading to the other units. Another good reason for you to just go ahead and make sure this is handled by a professional.

@John Underwood   The lease doesn't mention pest control (lesson learned there), so I guess I'm on the hook for the treatment.  And yes, they have a ferret, which could be the culprit.

I like @Will Gaston 's idea of doing the treatment with the understanding that the tenants pay for any issues going forward.

Thanks for the advice!

If you don't have one in place already, add a pet agreement to the addendum that requires the tenant to do what it takes to be a responsible pet owner. This includes veterinarian care. The vet will be able to determine if the ferret has fleas. Google "ferret fleas" and learn about some strategies for dealing with fleas. Rethink about allowing tenants to have pets that attract fleas. Enforce the terms of your agreement regarding cleanliness and care for the unit. Enlist the services of a qualified pest management company for treatment and recommendations. Good luck!

@Will Gaston made a great point about curtailing the damage that has already been done. @John Underwood and @Marcia Maynard  explained that to prevent this from happening in the future, the lease needs to be revisited and addenda for pets and pest control need to be added. Adding an addendum usually only requires a 30 day to 60 day notice.

In addition to that, if you did a pre move-in inspection of the property that verifies that the property was "flea-free" when they moved in and have confirmation from a pest control professional that the flee infestation is the fault of the occupants and/or their pets, I would first, politely make a proposition to share the costs of getting the problem professionally handled. If that doesn't work, consider taking legal action (posting a 3 day comply or vacate) and at the very lease make sure that you:

1. Require them to provide documentation that their animal is licensed, vaccinated, and flee free

2. Obtain documentation from the pest control company that the property is flee free after it has been treated

This way it will be easier to enforce your policies in the future and have them pay for any further damage. 

Good luck!

@Nathan McBride These typical scenarios should be spelled out in your lease.  I usually will treat before a tenant moves in (if need be) and if later on down the road they call me complaining that there is roaches, fleas, etc... in their property I will simply repeat what the lease they signed says. 

You could always get rid of the problem then bill the tenant.  Because you may run into the issue if it is a multifamily of the infestation spreading into other areas where this more likely becomes your problem as the property owner/manager. 

@Nathan McBride do a pet deposit and per pet per month rent in lease once you spray. This way you cover your cost and renting to pets becomes another add on profit center.

If there were no flees before they moved in and now have flees it is obviously them that brought in the flees. Treating will be a waste of money since they will only come back.

I would probably wait till the end of their lease and non renew. Once they are out you treat and find new tenants. If you are not getting rid of th ecause of the flees or th etennats I would make it very clear that I would treat but they will pay. In my opinion it is a tenant caused repair and they need to pay.