Can I force my roommate to get rid of her flea infested cat even though it’s permitted in the lease?

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Can I force my roommate to get rid of her flea infested cat even though it’s permitted in the lease?

My roommate and I are co-tenants in a 1 year lease that just began in Sept. She has a cat which is permitted in our lease. I was okay with this until the cat got fleas a few weeks ago. I find fleas in my bed everyday despite constant washing of my sheets and spraying chemicals. I have bites all over my body that itch. This is making me uncomfortable just to sleep in my own bed. This has been a problem for weeks, and I do not want the possibility of this ever happening again. Is there any way I can force her to get rid of the cat even though it’s permitted in our lease?

Asked on October 26, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You can't yourself make her get rid of the cat...but your landlord may be able to. Every lease has two terms which are implied, or added, to them, even if the lease doesn't itself list them. One is the implied warranty of habitability, which states that a rented premises must be hygenic and safely inhabitable--which includes no pest infestations. Another is the covenant of quiet enjoyment, which states that tenants must be able to actually "enjoy," or make use of, their space. These implied terms are enforceable against the landlord, and the landlord can take action against tenants who violate them and cause problems for other tenants. You need to tell you landlord about the issues and ask him/her to do something about it; the landlord will then need to take steps, which could mean forcing your cotenant to get rid of a cat that is brinigng the fleas in (or else at least take strong anti-flea measures--baths, collars, sprays; maybe don't let  the thing outdoors to pick up new fleas; etc.).

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Situations such as your are very frustrating and can indeed be even a hazard to your health.  Even though your roommate has a right to the pet under the lease, having the fleas and not doing enough to get rid of them could be seen as a violation.  And if they spread to the other apartments, well the landlord will be in deep trouble under all sorts of health laws.  While you can not evict your co-tenant or the cat, you can assist the landlord in doing what is necessary to do so.  The tenant may have the right to rectify the situation under your state law and you can put in to place some preventive measures when bargaining the matter.  Seek some guidance in your area.  Good luck.


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