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LANDLORDS OR TENANTS - WHO PAYS FOR PEST CONTROL COSTS?

August 14, 2012

Categories: Industry News, Health and Safety, Bed Bugs

 

Are you as a Tenant Responsible for Pest Control Costs?

The laws regarding rental agreements between tenant and landlord differ from province to province. Before you enter a rental agreement or a short or long-term lease with a landlord, you may want to consider checking the local laws regarding who is responsible for the cost of pest control. For example in Toronto, Ont. it is the landlord who is responsible for making sure the rental unit is in a good state of repair and fit for habitation. These safety measures include pest control. If your landlord requires you to keep up on pest control, they are in violation of health standards set forward by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

While it is your landlords responsibility to handle situations that deal with rodent and/or bug infestations, it is your responsibility, as the tenant, to comply with the treatment of any infestation. Is it also permissible for a landlord to raise the rent at a renewal time to compensate for the cost of excessive pest control measures that some tenants require.

What about Bedbugs?

Even though your rental agreement may clearly state who is responsible for these costs, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t any debate over a particular pest control problem. One situation that comes to mind is the growing epidemic of bedbug infestations in Toronto.  For example, this image by the Bed Bug Registry shows where in Toronto bed bugs have been reported.

Based on the LTB rights and responsibilities between landlord and tenant, it is the landlord’s responsibility to deal with bedbug infestations, while it is your responsibility as a tenant to comply with treatment options. Some landlords balk at the idea of having to pay for treatment for bed bugs, especially if it's clear that the tenants are not maintaining their property correctly. Regardless, laws stipulate that the landlord has to comply or he or she will face censure from the LTB.

Steps to Take as a Tenant

If you're being forced to pay for pest control services, then you need to bring this issue to the attention of the LTB. They can help force your landlord to pay for the services or they can make arrangements for you and other tenants to stop paying rent until the landlord complies with the law. 

You’ll find that most established landlords offer up leases that are in line with any governing laws or regulations concerning who is responsible for pest control. It's difficult for them to rent apartments if they aren't compliant with the law.

Steps to Take as a Landlord

There are many companies in Ontario that can help you with your pest control needs. While most pest control companies can handle all issues, if you have a specific need in one of these areas, you may want to choose a company that is focused on dealing with the pest problem that your building is experiencing. Some pest control companies cover everything but specialize in a certain type of treatment for specific problems such as bed bugs, roaches and so on, and that's something to consider as well.

Real Life Bedbug Cases: Tenant vs. Landlord

The following are real cases the LTB has heard and made decisions on and each refer to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 subsection 20(1): 

A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.

Case A

Location: Toronto, Ont.

Date Application Heard: February 10, 2009

            Tenant applied for an order determining that the Landlords’ failed to meet the Landlords’ maintenance obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 or failed to comply with health, safety, housing or maintenance standards. Tenant also applied stating that the Landlords interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit by the Tenant.

Reasons: The Tenant moved into the rental unit on December 5, 2009. She woke up the next morning with multiple bedbug bites on her arms. The Tenant told the Landlords of the problem on December 7th. The Landlords contacted a pest control company and attended the unit that same day and determined both bedbugs and fleas were present and the unit was treated. After this incident, there were more infestations resulting in the unit being treated a total of seven times from December 7th to December 31st. During this time the Tenant moved out and left the Landlords in possession of the vacant rental unit.

Determinations: The Landlord and Tenant Board determined that the Landlord did fail to comply with subsection 20(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 because they failed to adequately address an infestation of bedbugs in the rental unit. They also agreed that the failure to resolve the issue interfered with the Tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit under section 22 of the Act.

The Landlords owe the Tenant $2,160.56 as a result of the Tenant having to dispose her property after her mattress and sofa were unsalvageable, the out-of-pocket expenses she incurred such as medical, laundering and protecting clothing and bedding and an abatement of rent.

Notes: In this case the Tenant did everything she could to prevent the spread of bedbugs. Ultimately moving out of the unit was an action she was willing to take.

Case B

Location: Toronto, Ont.

Date application heard: July 15, 2009 and December 10, 2009

            Tenant applied for an order determining that the Landlord failed to meet the Landlord’s maintenance obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 or failed to comply with health, safety, housing or maintenance standards. Tenant also   applied stating that the Landlords interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit by the Tenant.

Reasons: The Tenant confirmed her rental unit was infested with bedbugs and told her Landlord immediately. The Tenant was given a preparation sheet for bedbug treatment and the Landlord arranged for a pest control company to treat the rental unit. The unit was treated on February 6th, February 23rd, March 2nd without success. On March 17th a Public Health Inspector found the unit was still infested with bedbugs and was then treated again on March 24th. During this time the Tenant gave notice to terminate her tenancy on April 30th. The Tenant left her belongings in the unit and instructed the Landlord to dispose of them.

Determinations: The Landlord and Tenant Board determined that the Landlord did fail to meet the Landlord’s obligations under subsection 20(1) of the Act to maintain the rental unit. The Landlord also interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit by the Tenant.

The Tenant is entitled to $2,385.31 from the Landlord for out-of-pocket expenses incurred for alternate accommodation, calking materials, medical expenses and an abatement of rent.

Notes: In this case the Tenant did not receive the full amount she asked for because she did not leave the rental unit vacant making it difficult for the Landlord to mitigate their losses. She filed for $2,500 for a replacement value of the bed and other materials in her rental unit. The Board felt that the items might have been salvageable with proper treatment. She also wanted to claim lost wages for having to take time off work from the bites she received, the Board found the doctor’s note the Tenant received did not mention the need for time off work.

Case C

Location: Toronto, Ont.

Date Application Heard: January 27, 2010

            Tenant applied for an order determining that the Landlord failed to meet the Landlord’s maintenance obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 or failed to comply with health, safety, housing or maintenance standards.

Reasons: The Tenant moved into the rental unit in February 2008 and saw the first bedbug in August 2008. The unit was treated by a professional on February 12, 2009. The Tenant said the exterminator soaked his futon with chemicals forcing him to get a new mattress. The Tenant said the bedbugs returned several months later in November and informed his Landlord. The Tenant refused treatment from a professional believing the chemicals used would harm his health. The Tenant paid to have a contractor seal up his unit in March 2009. He also had the unit steam cleaned and kept most his items covered by plastic, but claimed the bedbugs were still present. In January the Toronto Bed Bug Project inspected the rental unit and found no signs of live bedbugs or bedbug fecal matter.

Determinations: The Board found the Tenant failed to establish that the Landlord breached its obligations to comply with health, safety, housing or maintenance standards. Toronto Public Health suggests the unit is not currently infested with bedbugs. The Tenant’s application is dismissed.

Notes: The Tenant is likely responsible if the unit sees a bedbug infestation because he refused the Landlord’s offer to have the unit treated a second time. Although the Board understands the possible harmful effects of the chemicals used by the pest control company, the Landlord still proposed means of addressing the bedbug infestation by acceptable practice in the City of Toronto for dealing with this type of problem.

Summary

Pest control issues and who is responsible for the cost is an issue that seems to always rear its ugly head. However, regardless of who is responsible for the cost, it’s important to make sure that whoever is paying the bill hires the right service to handle the pest control needs that are present.

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