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Houston Property Management Tips

July 2011: Pest Control and Your Investment

Pests can be a problem any time during the year and are a common occurrence in the property management industry. If you check the dictionary, there are varying definitions for pests - here are three common ones.

  • An insect or other small animal that harms or destroys garden plants, trees, etc.
  • An annoying or troublesome person, animal, or thing; nuisance
  • A deadly epidemic disease, especially a plague; pestilence

You may not think so but all three definitions can apply when it comes to rental property. The problem could be ants, spiders of all kinds, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, bed bugs, mice, rats, voles, moles, gophers, snakes, and much more. It may seem that the third definition is not applicable but problems such as the West Nile Virus, caused by a certain type of mosquito can happen nearly anywhere, causing severe illness or even death.

The question is - who is responsible for handling the infestation - the property owner or the tenant? When it comes to pest control maintenance, many owners think this topic is cut and dried and should simply be a tenant problem. Investors should always take pest control seriously and minimize their liability.

The more common pest problems are ants, mice, spiders, etc. Counseling tenants and requiring them to do minimal maintenance can often solve these problems and most residents accept this responsibility. The most practical approach we use is to counsel them on how to use preventative maintenance to avoid problems in the first place. This includes basic housekeeping such as immediately cleaning up food, removing pet food in areas that attract pests, keeping garbage receptacles clean, and other hygienic practices.

However, pests can simply be a major problem. For example, if a tenant calls reporting they have rats or a major infestation of ants or wasps, this is no longer a simple pest control problem. It is now time to contact a pest control professional. When it can affect the health and welfare of tenants, it definitely becomes an owner responsibility. This comes under the URLTA, the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act. Many property owners have paid high fines and/or settlements because they ignored necessary pest control measures.

What is the best way for property owners to approach pest control?

  • Consider a quarterly or semi-annual pest control service. If the rental property is prone to certain pests, this can save a lot of headaches with tenants in the future and avoid major infestations.
  • Keep all problem areas free of potential pest problems. For example, resolve areas where water collects and attract mosquitoes, etc.; clear out areas that might encourage pests to set up a habitat on the property.
  • If a pest control situation occurs, listen to your property management professionals and allow use of professional pest control services to remove the problem quickly and effectively.
  • Weigh the costs of professional pest control services against losing good tenants (and rent) or incurring a costly legal problem.

As your property management company, we will work to minimize the problems and advise you of the best way to handle any pest control situation. A pest control problem may seem like an annoyance but you do not want a liability. Common sense steps can reduce your risk concerning pest control.