Landlord Obligations to Control Pests

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Some natural pests seem to be a permanent feature of urban life. Back-yard rats, nibbling bed bugs, and the occasional poisonous spider are all things a tenant can encounter, especially in homes with plenty of nearby habitat for insects and animals. Sometimes pests can get out of hand, making life miserable for the tenant and in some cases creating potential health hazards. Landlords in Nevada have an obligation to address pests in some situations.

Sources of landlord obligations to control pests

There are two places for a tenant to look for a landlord’s obligations regarding pest control. The first is the rental agreement. Landlords who know that their properties are prone to pest problems will probably seek to shift onto the tenant the burden of pest control. That makes sense. A tenant can do all sorts of things that invite pests: piling up garbage, bringing home bed bugs from a hotel, or leaving piles of material outside where spiders and rats are likely to find homes. A smart landlord adds a provision to every rental agreement that makes the tenant responsible for the consequences of everyday living and messy habits, even if those things don’t rise to the level of irresponsible behavior. State law provides a backdrop to rental agreements and prevents landlords from passing on every kind of pest problem to their tenants. Nevada landlords have an obligation to provide tenants with habitable premises. To meet the statutory standards of “habitable” the premises must be maintained in good repair. Among the landlord’s obligations is a duty to keep building grounds and other areas that are under the landlord’s control “clean, sanitary and reasonably free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, insects and vermin.” NRS 118A.290.

A landlord’s obligations to control pests are subject to limits

The landlord’s obligation with regard to cleanliness is only with respect to the areas that are under the landlord’s control at the time the tenant moves in. For example, if after moving in the tenant discovers a rat-infested pile of garbage under the kitchen sink, the landlord has an obligation to clean it up. Likewise, if the landlord does nothing to address an infestation of black widows in common areas, and the tenant gets bitten, the landlord may be responsible. By law, tenants are responsible for the consequences of their own deliberate or negligent acts or omissions. NRS 118A.355(2)(a). A tenant who moves in with luggage full of bed bugs can’t hold the landlord responsible for the resulting inconvenience. And if a tenant knows that a back yard is infested with scorpions but walks around barefoot every night, the landlord is probably not responsible if the tenant gets stung. These are some steps tenants can take to protect themselves from pest problems and potential conflicts with their landlords:

  • Read the rental agreement to understand who is responsible for pest control.
  • Carefully inspect the premises before moving in and notify the landlord of any pest problems right away.
  • Assume that the landlord is not responsible for controlling pests unless they are coming from areas under the landlord’s control. If the rental agreement shifts responsibility for pest control onto the tenant, budget for the expense.

In serious cases, talk to a Las Vegas attorney

When a landlord neglects its obligation to control pests and creates real problems for its tenants, tenants may have the option of breaking the lease. Before doing this it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney to determine if other options are available. In some cases a landlord can be convinced to resolve a problem without resorting to breaking the lease or filing a lawsuit. The attorneys at GGRM Law Firm provide personal, attentive service to clients in the Las Vegas area. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-384-1616 or send us a request through our site.