Is Your Landlord Responsible for Pest Control in Wisconsin?
Factors to Consider If You Discover Pests in Your Apartment
There have been several changes to Wisconsin law regarding tenant responsibility for pest control which may make it less clear who is responsible for pest control in rental properties. Ultimately the best thing to do is consult your lease and an experienced attorney. It is every landlord’s responsibility to provide habitable living conditions for their tenants, but it depends on who caused the infestation.
Regardless of where responsibility lies, remember many pest infestations such as bedbugs, rodents and cockroaches can pose a serious health hazard. The first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with a pest control professional to remedy the problem. Worry about who will pay later. Even if your landlord fixes the problem before your appointment, having the paperwork from another company will show you took steps to fix the problem yourself in a legal dispute.
What if my landlord didn’t tell me about a pest problem?
Landlords are responsible for providing habitable units which often means the responsibility of paying for exterminator services falls to them. According to Wisconsin law, a landlord must disclose: “Any structural or other conditions in the dwelling unit or premises which constitute a substantial hazard to the health or safety of the tenant, or create an unreasonable risk of personal injury as a result of any reasonably foreseeable use of the premises other than negligent use or abuse of the premises by the tenant.” In other words, if your landlord knows of a serious pest issue in your unit and doesn’t tell you before you move in, they are liable and need to contribute to pest control expenses.
When are you responsible for pest control?
If it is determined that a pest problem is your fault, it will be your responsibility to pay for pest control. For example, if you find a swarm of bedbugs shortly after taking a mattress or sofa off the side of the road, it is unlikely that you will have to pay for their removal. If you're facing the burden of pest control, give Ehlers Pest Management a call today. We offer fast, knowledgeable service with lasting results.
Wisconsin Bedbug Laws - Who Pays
Wisconsin law clearly states that a premises' repairs are the responsibility of the landlord, but there are caveats in regard to the cause of the repair issue. Wis. Stat. 704.07(3)(a) says, about the duty of the tenant, that:
"If the premises are damaged, including by an infestation of insects or other pests, due to the acts or inaction of the tenant, the landlord may elect to allow the tenant to remediate or repair the damage and restore the appearance of the premises by redecorating. However, the landlord may elect to undertake the remediation, repair, or redecoration, and in such case, the tenant must reimburse the landlord for the reasonable cost thereof."
Through "acts or inaction," the tenant can be made the responsible party for eliminating an infestation. In regards to bedbug infestations though, proving where the problem came from can be difficult for two main reasons:
- Dirty apartments don't attract bedbugs. A common myth is that bedbugs prefer dirty apartments. Bedbugs live entirely off blood, with the vast majority being human blood. They'll be happy staying in a filthy apartment or luxurious penthouse all the same as long as humans are near. Bedbugs have the potential to infest any apartment or home, so as a tenant you won't be liable for a problem just because you didn't clean your room.
- Bedbugs can live up to 1 year without feeding. This means even after a new tenant moves in and there is a subsequent infestation, the problem could be dormant. This makes the cause of bedbug infestations hard to pinpoint. In cheaper, "dirtier" apartments, the landlord simply may not have the funds to hire a high-quality professional extermination service. This risks leaving an infestation unresolved, with breeding and spreading beginning months later. Higher-class apartments generally have the money for comprehensive extermination that will eliminate bedbugs indefinitely.
Bedbug infestations are a serious health hazard, and will only become more dangerous and expensive if not treated immediately. We recommend you contact a professional to assess the situation before you worry about who will pay.
If You Want To Dispute Pest Control Responsibility
- As a tenant - If you are in a bedbug responsibility disagreement with your landlord, contact an attorney. You may be eligible to sue for payments or break your lease as a tenant living in uninhabitable conditions.
- As a landlord - If you are in a bedbug responsibility disagreement with your tenant, you may be able to hold the tenant responsible for exasperating the problem if they were uncooperative with the pest removal services, or can be proven to have brought the pest into the residence.