It is quite easy for termites in rental units to go unnoticed since it usually takes a while before tenants notice the damage caused. These tiny creatures are known for their voracious appetites and the fact that a termite colony grows very fast, which makes them all the more dangerous when they invade your apartment. Here is a guide on the steps you can take when you find termites in your apartment.
What to do if you find termites in your apartment? When you find termites in your rental unit, the first course of action should be to alert your landlord of the issue. A landlord is generally expected to deal with pest issues in a rental property, and this includes a termite infestation.
Whether you only notice a few termites or you find a whole colony, a landlord is responsible for hiring a licensed exterminator to get rid of the infestation, and depending on how serious the situation is, you may be relocated temporarily or be compelled to move out of the apartment. During the period that the rental unit is uninhabitable, your landlord is required to compensate you, although there is no law that spells out how much you should receive in compensation. However, when a termite infestation can be linked to a tenant’s behavior or actions, such as excess moisture as a result of poor upkeep or failing to report leaks, then the tenant is required to cover the cost of treatments.
When termites make their way into an apartment, it may cause conflict between a tenant and landlord as to who is expected to handle the issue. This article covers who is responsible for pest control, the signs to look out for, and prevention methods you can use to keep termites away.
Who handles pest control in an apartment?
1. A landlord’s responsibility
Controlling a termite problem in your apartment can be quite expensive, especially if the infestation is extensive. In most cases, a landlord is usually responsible for dealing with a termite issue in their rental property. A landlord is responsible for maintaining a habitable environment, which means that a rental unit should abide by the health and safety regulations as stipulated by local and state laws. A rental unit could be considered to be inhabitable if there is a serious pest issue, such as having termites in your living space.
If you find termites in your apartment, your landlord is obligated to hire a licensed exterminator to take care of the problem. Professional pest control services get rid of termites using a variety of methods, with one of the most effective being fumigation of the property, which is otherwise known as tenting. This method involves covering the home with a large nylon tent to seal it off so that a gas that is poisonous to termites can fill the living space and kill the termites present. Pets and humans cannot be within the home during this treatment, so you will have to relocate during the extermination. Your landlord should give you reasonable notice if extermination is going to take place in your apartment so that you have time to prepare yourself for relocation.
Your landlord is required to compensate you for the period that you will be relocated as a result of extermination taking place in our apartment. However, there is no law that dictates exactly how much you should receive in compensation, and some states only require that a landlord provides reasonable benefits upon relocation.
In some cases, landlords will divide the monthly rent by 30 and then pay you the resulting figure times the period of time you had to find somewhere else to live. The main issue with this approach is that it may not be enough to cover the cost of staying in a hotel or meals unless your rent is very high. Another way through which you can work out a relocation benefit with your landlord is by finding out the cost of staying at a motel or hotel that has a similar quality as your rental unit- in addition to the compensation for the cost of eating out above the amount you would have spent for cooking your own food. This option is more reasonable for both you and the landlord. Take into consideration the quality of your apartment, the amenities offered, and the featured common areas, and then try to find a hotel of similar quality nearby.
If your landlord is not willing to offer you compensation for the relocation, opting to withhold rent or deducting the cost of staying at a hotel/motel from the next rental payment may result in complications especially if you don’t go about it the right way. Ensure that you review the laws regarding the situation in your state, or consult an attorney on how to go about the matter. Another option you may have is to sue your landlord in small claims court for these expenses. You can also opt to give your landlord a 30-day notice that indicates you plan to vacate the apartment. In most states, you can break the lease and move out of a rental unit that is inhabitable as long as you give your landlord reasonable notice.
2. When the tenant may have to cover the cost of pest control
If the landlord is able to prove that you are responsible for causing a termite infestation, they may be able to get you to pay for the extermination services. In some cases, the presence of termites in an apartment can be linked to the actions of a tenant. Termites are attracted to warm, moist, spaces that are dark, so if there is excess moisture in an area of your home that doesn’t get too much light or unreported leaks, the presence of termites might be your fault.
If the exterminator that is brought in to take care of the termite problem can determine that your living conditions are drawing in termites, then you may have to cover the cost of pest control. In addition to this, the landlord may even go as far as issuing a comply or quit notice to make certain that you improve the condition of the rental unit or risk being kicked out.
Signs to look out for
Detecting termites early in your apartment may save you the trouble of having to be relocated or potentially paying for pest control. Although termites generally end to stay out of sight, there are several signs of their presence that you need to look out for.
- Mud tubes – Mud tubes serve as shelters for termites, providing them with protection from dry environments as they travel between a source of food and their nest. They usually have a muddy, flattened exterior, and are one of the most common indicators of the presence of termites. You can usually find mud tubes along exterior walls, beneath flooring, on pipes, behind plumbing, siding, and other fixtures.
- Damaged wood – Damaged wood is not as straightforward as mud tubes to spot. Other than inspecting the wood for visible nests and holes, another way you can check for wood damage is by tapping it. If the wood sounds hollow or there is a dull thud when you knock it, this indicates that termites have eaten the wood from within. If the damage is extensive, the wood surface may even break. Termites can be found on doors, wooden wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, wooden floors, wall dividers, and beams.
- Termite droppings – Termite droppings, sometimes referred to as frass, are shaped like pellets, and are similar to sawdust in appearance. This is a sign of the presence of drywood termites, and this proves that there is a healthy termite population munching through the wood in your apartment.
- Termite wings – Another sign of termite activity in your home is detached wings. Termite swarmers typically shed their wings when they are on the lookout for areas to set up their nests. They often emerge from hiding when conditions are humid and head to lighted areas. Therefore, if you find discarded termite wings in wardrobes, doors, cabinets, and window sills, there may be a termite colony in your apartment.
- Swollen floors – Termites are attracted to moist and dark areas of your apartment. Therefore, if you have wooden floors, you may find termites living below the surface which may cause your floorboards to swell. This is because they create elaborate passages which they use to move around under your apartment, causing wooden floorboards to become slightly raised.
- Visible termites – One of the first signs of a subterranean termite infestation is the presence of winged termites in your apartment. Swarmer termites are usually attracted to light, and can often be found near doors, windows, light fixtures, and vents. Worker termites have a small, light-colored appearance and will scurry away when they are exposed to light. You will also want to check heating vents, windows, doors, bathtubs, and sinks for dead termites.
- Cracked or bubbled paint – Since termites typically avoid sunlight, they may resort to building their nests within your walls. If you notice that the coating or paint on your walls has begun to bubble or crack, this could be a sign that there is a termite infestation within your walls.
How to prevent termites in your home
As always, prevention is better than cure. You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort by taking the necessary steps to keep your apartment clear of termites.
- Ensure that leaks are fixed promptly – If you have a leaky pipe or roof in your apartment, ensure that you alert your landlord to fix them as soon as possible. Termites thrive in conditions where there is moisture, and neglecting to alert your landlord of a leak may attract these pests.
- Good air circulation – Ensure that you have a good air flow within your apartment so as to prevent moisture from accumulating and consequently attracting termites. This is especially important in areas of your home where there may be a lot of moisture build-up such as around your bathroom. You can use air conditioning units to facilitate air circulation, or if you are conscious about energy use, simply crack open a window open to let fresh air in.
- Ensure your landlord carries out maintenance duties regularly – It is the responsibility of a landlord to conduct regular maintenance and repairs of the rental property. Maintenance includes checking to see if there are any signs of pest infestations in the apartment. If there are any signs of the presence of termites, regular inspections may help to prevent it from spreading and consequently reduce the cost of treatment.
- Get rid of excess moisture – Ensure that you don’t allow moisture to pool on wood-based materials in your home since this could be a condition that attracts termites. Wipe down these areas as soon as possible to reduce these chances.
- Put screens on windows and outside vents – Another strategy that may be helpful in preventing termites from invading your apartment is installing screens on the windows and vents of your apartment. Some termites, especially the winged species, may access your home through these entryways, so this is an effective way of keeping them out.
- Let in the light – Termites thrive in darkness. To reduce the chances of an infestation, try letting in as much sunlight as possible into your apartment by opening your curtains and clearing away items that may be blocking the light.
- Monitor humidity – Termites tend to move in swarms to form new colonies when humidity is high, so you will want to be extra careful during such seasons. Invest in a dehumidifier or vaporizer to manage the levels of humidity in your home and consequently make it less habitable for termites.
Termites are considered to be harmful pests to homes since they feed primarily on wood which makes them very capable of negatively affecting the safety and strength of an infested structure. Extensive termite damage can render an apartment unlivable, and getting rid of a termite infestation can be very costly. Therefore, you will want to alert your landlord as soon as you discover termites in your rental unit.