Oh rats and rats and the law

15 Replies

Hello BP !

My question today is I'm in a bit of a pickle. I currently rent out a townhome. This townhome was previous treated for rats. I recently turned over this property and have new tenants in place. The tenants are now wanting to move out one month in. I have no problem treating the rats as HOA covers that. I tried to send them to the HOA lady herself to schedule it but the tides turned. The HOA lady loves to talk and gossip and told my tenants that the house was previous treated. Now they are saying i misrepresentation the home and threatening to sue, if I don't release them from the lease and give back the security deposit. I have also answered there every call for basic maintenance. Sent someone the next day each time. I pride myself in having a nice clean home to rent out but rats happen especially in Florida. Any Opinions on how I should handle this matter ?

Remind your tenant of the lease language regarding early termination and let the HOA deal with the rats.

Threats to sue are not uncommon, give them your lawyers contact info, they will likely not follow through. As long as you make sure the HOA addresses the issue you have legally done all you need to do.

@Thomas S.

Thanks. As in my lease I also have the tenant has 7 days to move in and conduct a Inspection of the premises and to note any deficiencies or inoperable appliances. They notified me 3 days into the lease ? Would this allow them to be released ?

No it does not allow them to break their lease. It simply allows them time to notify you of anything that needs attention. Which they have no done. It may have been a stove that needed repairs, it was a issue with rats, same thing.   

I do not think a rental unit that previously had pests is part of the mandatory disclosures and would be construed as "misrepresentation."  Hey, I never spent a day in law school, but that's my sense.

When you say "previously treated", how long ago was the treatment?  If it was two years ago, and the problem was gone, yeah, it's new, and you should have a chance to fix it.  I'm sure your lease is written that way.  If the treatment was recently, then the problem wasn't gone yet, and you rented them a place that had rats, knowingly, or you should have known.  

They could leave, and sue you in small claims court.  If you file against them in housing court for breaking the lease, their answer (and that's a written public document, usually posted on line and searchable by address) will make public the fact that the unit has rats. Another option they have is to call in the health department and get the place condemned.  That's gonna be harder on you. Rats are not cute.  Most people will not willingly live with them.  YOU would not live with them.  If they notified you of the problem 3 days after moving in, then obviously the unit was rat infested at the time that you rented it to them.

If I were you, I wouldn't have told them to go approach the HOA and get them to take care of it. I would have contacted the HOA immediately, and if they couldn't get someone in by the next business day, I would have paid an exterminator privately to come in by the next business day.

To me it sounds as if you knew there could be a problem with rats there. I think you should return their deposit, keep the first month's rent since they've lived there a month, and let them break the lease. Then get the place professionally exterminated, and keep on having the exterminator come back on a regular frequent basis until the problem is solved. Put pressure on the HOA to get the entire building taken care of, over and over until the problem is gone. Then rent it again.

@Karen F.

I appreciate your honesty. As previous it was earlier in the year when I occupied the unit. They did about a 3 week treatment and the problem was no longer. The previous tenants did not mention rodents. After the previous tenths left I had the unit professionally cleaned and I also checked the property for droppings. The property sat vacant for 1 month and no signs of activity. I have had problems with a connecting townhouse feeding the rats.

@Thomas S.

My mistake was sending them to the HOA office which I thought would make sense so they can figure what time they would be home and schedule times. I also forgot to mention that this girl is a "law student"

@Wesley W.

I told her I'm the property manager and the HOA lady her I'm the owner which I don't think is her information to give out. So she said that. But I'm both ? Lol

WHAT???? The unit sharing a wall with you is FEEDING the rats???  OMG!  Look, I owned pet rats at one time.  I love rats.  Whenever I see a wild rat (one of my pet rats had the same coloring as wild ones), I go, "Awwwww, ratty!"  And still, the thought of anyone deliberately trying to keep rats around a property is just astonishing.

If I were you, I'd be in that HOA woman's face first thing in the morning. Tell her to get those idiots next door to stop feeding the rats, or you're going to insist that the HOA sue them. Tell her to get an exterminator into BOTH units, immediately, and get a year long contract, to keep the exterminator coming on a regular basis for a year.

Again, you knew you had a problem. You knew you had crazy people who feed rats sharing a wall with you. Until that's taken care of, you've got rats in the building indefinitely. I still say you let them out of the lease. Put it this way, how would YOU have felt had you been in their shoes? You rent a unit in good faith, only to find out that it's rat infested, and that the LL knew it. Give them back their deposit, let them out of the lease, and fix your problem (which means getting the HOA to fix the neighbors).

Originally posted by @Ralph Dixon:

@Matthew Paul


 I would let them out of the lease since rats are inside . 

@Karen F.

It was reported to us today that the neighbors on the right are feeding them I'm not sure how much of this is true. I also been told today that the neighbors on the right are posing them. I would never rent knowing the rats were still in the property because I would have to deal with something like this. I keep clean great properties this just threw me for a curveball. It's hard in HOA when you don't just deal with your own outside walls and have to deal with other people. Thanks for your input

One of the many reasons that I don't like to own anything where I don't have control over the entire structure. I don't want to deal with an HOA or condo board, their fees, their lack of action, their rules.

Give me a freestanding multifamily or apartment building, I can whip it into shape, and control what goes on in it.

@Karen F. @Ralph Dixon

On the subject of tats, would you grant the tenant a one-time discount on the rent if you're actively addressing the issue?

We sealed all the mice/rats enrty points to the property and the exterminator comes every week to refresh the baits...