If your landlord is insisting on having pest control done in your apartment, but you have objections, you are in the right place.
In this article, I am going to cover whether you can refuse pest control in your rental unit and discuss some of the key legal principles involved. I will also talk about some alternatives to standard pest control that you can propose that may raise fewer health or safety concerns when compared to standard sprays and pesticides.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
As a general matter, you can refuse pest control in your rental if you have valid health concerns relating to the treatment, however, some states may find you liable for refusing such treatment if it prevents the landlord from addressing a potential habitability issue arising from pests in the apartment.
Ok, let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Why Do People Object to Pest Control?
Most people object to pest control because they do not want potentially harmful pesticides used in their homes. Inhalation of fumes or, in the case of small children or animals, mistaken ingestion of pesticides can all be sources of concern.
What Does Your Lease Say?
The first place to look if you are wondering whether you can refuse pest control treatments in your unit is your lease.
Many leases clearly outline who is responsible for such treatments.
If your lease states that the landlord is responsible for eliminating pests and the lease allows the landlord to enter the premises to make needed repairs or remediations, then you likely have little grounds to object to the treatment.
However, if your lease is silent or unclear on the matter, then you may need to review what applicable laws say on the point. Let’s turn to that.
What Does the Law Say?
Landlords have a duty to maintain a habitable premises for their tenants.
In most cases, that includes keeping the dwelling free from pests. After all, pests can carry disease and cause a highly unsanitary condition if they are left unchecked.
So most states require landlords to treat for them, especially in large apartment complexes where the units are interconnected and it is difficult to figure out which unit is the cause of the infestation.
Ok, we know that landlords will usually have some duty to make this type of remediation if it exists in the apartment. Where does that leave the tenant who objects?
Although opinions are divided on this issue, as a general matter, a tenant may reasonably object to having pest control treatment in their apartment if they (or other members of their household) are suffering from a physical condition that could be exacerbated by the treatment.
For example, the EPA has found that pesticides are one of four environmental pollutants that can trigger asthmatic attacks by irritating the lungs when the fumes are inhaled. Source.
If they do suffer from a condition that would be triggered or made worse by a pesticide treatment, they should provide proof of such a condition to the landlord or property management company. In many cases, this may persuade them to skip that unit.
But a lot will depend on the severity of the issue. If the pest issue is modest, then it may not be a big deal, but if there is a serious issue, then your refusal could lead to harmful conditions for your neighbors and that is something that could result in liability for you.
Of course, state and local laws may differ on who is responsible for treatment and who is liable if treatment is refused.
For example, some states, like Virginia, require that landlords be given access to make necessary repairs or perform necessary services. Source. If a tenant refuses access, they may be found liable for violating state laws.
Of course, other states may have different rules or standards, so you should research the applicable laws in your region (or have a lawyer help you navigate them) if you want a definitive answer.
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Alternatives to Standard Pest Control
Ok, so let’s say that you are faced with a request from your landlord to allow pest control treatment in your apartment, but are worried that it may cause issues for you or your family. What are some alternatives that you can offer up?
Here are some options you can explore.
Treatments That Use Less Harmful Pesticides
If you have a specific allergy or are worried about a particular type of pesticide, you can suggest to your landlord that they use an alternative form of treatment.
For example, many pest control companies have now adopted more “green” alternatives that use less harsh chemicals and non-toxic methods to control pest infestations.
In some cases, your landlord may not be willing to switch their entire pest control company (they may be getting a significant discount for example). In this case, you may want to use your own company and see if the landlord would be willing to allow you to do so.
Naturally Occurring Treatments
If you prefer to try to use solely natural ingredients to treat pests, you can try things like castor, cinnamon, clove, corn, cottonseed, garlic, linseed, peppermint, rosemary, soybean, spearmint, and thyme oils.
Although they are naturally occurring, they should still be used with caution because they could nevertheless be harmful and irritating. Source.
Integrated Pest Management
If you are concerned with some of the environmental or ethical issues around pest management, you can propose using a company that uses integrated pest management solutions.
This a holistic system for managing pests that focuses on specifically targeting just the species at issue, and uses multiple strategies for managing pests, including biological control, habitat manipulation, and modification of cultural practices.
So there you have it – a detailed look at whether you can refuse pest control in your apartment and some options you can explore to manage a pest issue without being exposed to harmful pesticides.
Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!