Question: My girlfriend and I recently began renting a nice home. About a month after living here, ants began to invade. They started in the kitchen, and then appeared in the bedroom, living room and bathroom. I have found them on the outside of the house as well. We keep the house looking nice and clean. We have tried to get rid of them with over-the-counter ant killers, but with this many, we really need an exterminator. We notified our landlords about the problem, but they do not want to pay for an exterminator. With an ant problem this bad, should this be our responsibility?
Tenants’ attorney Kellman replies:
Ants may not be smart but they are persistent and somewhat predictable. They spend their days either looking for food sources or hiding from significant changes in the weather. The trouble is that they do these things in our homes. Obviously, if you keep food exposed, especially sweet items, they will find it. Then they will tell all their friends and you will have ant colonies popping up all over the place. Even if you keep the cleanest house, they may still pay a visit while hiding from a hot or wet day. They may come from a neighbor or just tunnel up from the ground scouting for food or shelter. Their arrival in your home may be by no fault of anyone. Getting rid of them can be a daunting task. Stamp out the ones you can see, and the ones you do not see may soon follow. Different methods may need to be used depending on the type of ant. Ant baits will work for some species, while pesticides and perimeter barriers work best for others.
If the ant problem persists, however, professional help may be needed. In a situation where the landlord and the tenant are both innocent in bringing about an ant infestation, I believe the burden of hiring the exterminator falls on the landlord. This may not seem fair, but the in case of a tie, the landlord is in the better position to control the fate and maintenance of their property. Also, since you keep a clean house, you should get what you are paying for, which is a rental free of bug invasions.
Question: About a year ago I moved into an apartment with a great location and the only available apartment in the area. The carpet was steam cleaned but was stained, matted down and looked old! When I did the walkthrough with the manager she agreed that the carpet was matted in the high-traffic areas, but indicated that they couldn’t change the carpet at that time. I am now approaching the end of my 12-month lease. I have been approached by management to renew the lease for another year and will be glad to stay if the manager will simply replace the carpet. I mentioned this to the manager and she tells me that she doesn’t see any reason to change the carpet. I have severe asthma, which is worse due to this carpet. What can I do to force them to change the carpet?
Property Manager Griswold replies:
I don’t know how successful you will be in forcing them to change the carpet but you sure can make a persuasive argument. For example, you can always seek feedback from a medical provider that the carpet may be enhancing some of your asthma symptoms; however, if challenged it may be difficult to prove that your conditions are related to the carpet without expensive testing. So I suggest that you simply put your request in writing citing the same facts you shared with me and including some of the positive aspects of your tack record as a good resident for the past year. If that doesn’t work, then you can definitely get their attention by seeking another apartment and giving the manager your notice to vacate. Maybe your current manager will then be in a position to contact the owner of the property and they will reconsider when they know you are serious. Tenant turnover can be very expensive and most owners realize that it is more cost-effective to retain their tenants even if they must upgrade the rental unit. Of course, then you must ask yourself if you want a landlord that requires you to go that far before they comply with your request. You could also offer to agree to a slight increase in your rent to share in the cost of the new carpet and ask that you be given the choice to select the new color.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.
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