Tatiana Enriquez of Miami's North Bay Village had a pest control problem. She'd wake in the night to find giant cockroaches frolicking in her apartment. But there was nothing in her rental lease that obligated her landlord to deal with the infestation, so she was on her own.
It's not unusual for rental apartments to have pests. And, as Enriquez discovered, it's rare for leases to address potential pest control problems. So renters need to ask landlords the right questions up front.
"Tenants should always ask if the landlord provides pest control, or if it is the tenant's responsibility," advises Miami Realtor and landlord Patrick Jaimez. "Dealing with pests is never specifically the landlord's or the renter's responsibility. It's all dependent on the property, the property owner and the tenant."
Since landlords are not required to handle the problem, "it's probably in a tenant's best interest to work pest control into their lease on a regular basis," says Jaimez. Maintaining a pest-free building is in the landlord's best interest, too, which is why many buildings routinely have regular monthly visits from exterminators.
Jaimez, who owns two buildings in North Miami and manages another four, has plenty of experience on the subject of pests. When he embarked on a renovation of one of the Miami buildings, he found roaches lurking in every unit. "As I remodeled, I removed complete kitchen walls and bathrooms. In the process, I also removed the serious roach problem," he says. He also has battled termites, which are very prevalent in Florida.
Short of knocking down walls, Jaimez says, there are things a responsible landlord should do to keep apartment pests at bay:
1. Make sure to keep areas like garbage dumpsters and laundry areas extra clean, since these are known to attract insects and rodents;
2. Keep all common areas, including laundry and the grounds, clean and free from debris and food;
3. And although it seems obvious, he advises tenants to keep their units as clean as possible.
Jaimez encourages tenants in his buildings to approach him immediately if they spot an infestation of any kind. Not all landlords are as responsive. If, like Enriquez, you can't get help with a pest conrol problem in your rental unit, check to see whether any of your neighbors are having unwanted visitors, too. If tenants band together, it will put pressure on the landlord to correct the problem.
Another smart move is to consider joining the American Tenants Association before renting a home. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for all residential renters, to be a leading force for positive social change and to deliver value for their members through information, advocacy and service.
And don't forget to inquire about pest control at the beginning. "The more questions the tenant asks up front," Jaimez says, "the better."