Pest issues = violation of terms of lease?

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Old May 20th, 2008, 11:34 PM   #1
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Default Pest issues = violation of terms of lease?

We are renting a house in which we have had swarms of winged bugs crawling out of the heat register in to our kitchen for the past three weeks. We believe them to be termites and immediately contacted our landlord to have an extermination company come out.

She refused and instead dropped off a huge bottle of pesticide from a local hardware store telling us that "this takes care of everything."

We are not willing to pump a pesticide into our ventilation system. We cannot see where the bugs are coming and can therefore not effectively treat the problem (whether or not this is our responsibility is another question). As they are also swarming up from the concrete slab up under our dining room carpet, we also question the structural integrity of the surrounding walls.

In addition to this, our garage flooded last weekend. We were not told that this would be a problem and the space was advertised to us as a place in which to store our personal items. Our boxes were ruined and we now have a house full of damp boxes with nowhere to store them.

Do we have suitable grounds for release from our contract? With two small toddlers in the house this has been a nightmare.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 02:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pest issues = violation of terms of lease?

These issues will not release you from the lease. The winged insects may be termites or they may be swarming ants (going to build a new colony). Both swarm at this time of year. Catch a couple in a small jar and take them to any pest control company for identification. Termites should be professionally exterminated. (Swarming ants are a do-it yourself job.) If they are termites, write a letter to the LL letting her know they have been identified by ABC Pest Control as termites and they require professional extermination. Request that she contact you to let you know when the exterminator will come. Send it by certified mail, return receipt requested and keep a copy. Keep the receipt that come back. If she fails to respond or exterminate in the case of termites, you can then look into other legal remedies you have. (Please post where you live so I can tell you what other option are available to you.)

Ants are a "do it yourself" job. You do not need to use strong pesticide, although that will work quicker. To do this yourself, turn off the ventilation system before you spray and leave it off until the spray dries. You may have to reapply it again later to kill them all. Ants swarm only for a short period so they will be gone quickly. Although it is alarming to see them swarm, they don't do the damage that termites do.

The garage is not living space. As such, it is not guaranteed to be dry. Your renter's insurance will cover your loss of belongings.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 09:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: Pest issues = violation of terms of lease?

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Originally Posted by OHlandlord View Post
(Please post where you live so I can tell you what other option are available to you.)
Sorry about that. We're in VA.

As for the garage not guaranteed to be dry--if she advertised it to us specifically to be used as storage place, does this make a difference?

Thank you so much for your input. I really appreciate it!
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 11:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Pest issues = violation of terms of lease?

VA does not have a repair and deduct law, but it does have a rent withholding law. If they turn out to be termites (ask for a written identification), and the LL does nothing after you send that letter, call your clerk of court and ask about it. I can't tell you if they would approve rent withholding for termites as I've never heard of it being used for that. (Normally it is used for habitability reasons, but a judge may allow it.) Only do rent withholding with the court's approval and by following their specific instructions. Rent withholding does not mean you keep the rent. You still have to pay it, just not to the LL. You pay it to the court to hold until the LL does the repairs. If the court doesn't approve rent withholding, try calling the buidling inspector or the health department for an inspection. They may help.

As for the items, they could just as easily have been ruined inside the house from a broken pipe or a leak from a hail damaged roof. Those areas are supposed to be dry too. There really is no guarantee. That's why its important to have rental insurance. Unless the flood was the LL's fault, he isn't responsible. I suggest you store items off the floor on skids or in waterproof boxes in any garage or basement area. Tenants have had entire closets full of clothes ruined by leaky roofs. Unless the LL knew about it and failed to act, he isn't responsible. Floods would be considered an act of God. Sorry.
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