What are my rights if my rights if my apartment is infested with roaches?

I have been living in my new apartment for a little over 2 months. When I looked at the apartment nothing seemed wrong but the day that I signed the lease I opened the door and it was infested with roaches. The landlord called a bug guy right away and I thought this would be fine. They are not. It’s not as bad but I’m still finding big ones and babies. Every time we call the landlord all he does is bring by 1 or 2 foggers from the store. I now have a baby and I want this job done right. What are my legal rights? Can I withhold rent? If so, how much?

Asked on November 10, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

All residential leases have what's known as an "implied warranty of habitability". This means that a rental must be clean, safe and sanitary. This extends to being free from pests and vermin, such as cochroaches. You could go to court to seek "injunctive relief" which would be a court order forcing the landlord to bring in an exterminator. However, the problem is that since your landlord is attempting to take care of the cockroaches in a reasonable way (as they may or may not be) then the landlord would not be doing anything wrong. The fact is that their obligation is to take reasonable steps when informed of a problem, which arguably they are doing. A very bad infestation might permit you to terminate the lease but some cockroaches would likely not rise to that level. Bottom line, you may just have to live with them. 

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