Is Your Landlord Responsible for Pest Control in Wisconsin?
If You Discover Mice, Bedbugs, or Cockroaches in Your Rental Unit, There Are a Few Factors to Consider
There have been several changes to Wisconsin law regarding tenant responsibility for pest control in recent years which may make it less clear about who is responsible for pest control in rental properties. Ultimately the best thing to do is consult your lease and an experienced attorney familiar with Wisconsin tenant law. In general: your landlord has a responsibility to provide habitable housing, but it depends on who is responsible for the infestation.
Regardless of where responsibility lies, it is important to remember that many pest infestations such as bedbugs, rats 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 and 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?
It is every landlord’s responsibility to provide habitable living conditions for their tenants. 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 may be on the hook for pest control expenses.
When are you responsible for pest control?
Landlords are responsible for providing habitable units and often that means the responsibility of paying for exterminator services falls to them. However, if it is determined that a pest problem is your fault, it will be your responsibility to pay for pest control. For example, if your unit faces a swarm of bedbugs shortly after taking a mattress or sofa in off the side of the road, it is unlikely that your landlord 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, knowledgable service with lasting results so your day can return to normal as soon as possible.
Wisconsin Bedbug Laws - Who Pays
Wisconsin law clearly states that a premises' repairs are the responsibility of the landlord. Although bedbugs are considered a repair, there are caveats in regards to the cause of the repair issue:
Wis. Stat. 704.07(3)(a) says, under an explanation of 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."
This law seems to suggest that through "acts or inaction" that 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, so a tenant could be responsible due to their negligence. This has been shown to be completely false. Bedbugs live entirely off of blood, with with the vast majority being human blood. Bedbugs don't discriminate. 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 pick up 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 have just been lying dormant. This makes the cause of bedbug infestations hard to pinpoint, and also sheds some light on the "dirty apartments attract bedbugs" theory. 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, only to begin breeding and spreading months later. Higher class apartments generally have the money for a comprehensive exterminaton that will eliminate bedbugs indefinitely.
With these facts in mind, proving that a tenant is solely responsible for causing a bedbug infestation is quite a stretch in most circumstances.
Bedbug infestations are a serious health hazard, and will only become more dangerous and expensive if not treated immediately as you are aware of the problem. We recommened you contact a professional to asses the situatuion before you worry about who will pay for it. Contact Ehlers Pest Management for the most efficient bedbug extermination services in Milwaukee County and beyond.
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 that's 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.
Contact Ehler's Pest Management to take care of your pest problem immediately.
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