If my apartment has had roaches since day one, can they make us pay for an exterminator?

UPDATED: May 30, 2012

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If my apartment has had roaches since day one, can they make us pay for an exterminator?

They told us basically as we were signing that our apartment “had been treated for roaches” but the problem was never fixed. We complained about 6 months later that there were roaches again, and they just gave us a few cheap bombs, they never hired anyone to actually exterminate. Now, over a year later, we still have roaches, and they are trying to make us pay for an exterminator before we can resign (they came in for a dishwasher repair and said “there were a bunch of dirty dishes” saying it was our fault) , is this legal?

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Kansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

All rental premises have what's known as the "implied warranty of habitability." This is the obligation, imposed by the law, that the premises be fit for their intended purpose--in this case, for use as a residence. Since insect or other pest infestations can breach this warranty by affecting health and habitability. landlords have an obligation to take reasonable steps to remediate, or deal with, pest problems.

That said, the landlord is entitled to recovery costs from tenants, or make tenants pay, when the infestation is due to the tenants willful/intentional or negligent/careless actions. So if the reason for a roach problem, for example, is that the tenants leave food around, don't clean dishes, don't secure and get rid of garbage, etc., the landlord may be entitled to seek the cost of extermination from the tenants.

So there are cases where the landord could charge the tenant for the extermination, but it depends on the circumstances, and would usually require fairly egregious behavior on the part of the tenant, not just a few dirty dishes.

That said, a question to consider is whether it might not be better to pay for the exterminator and night fight the landlord on this: if the landlord refuses to re-sign you as tenants, you'd have to sue him for a court order directing him to renew your lease, and it's not 100% clear you'd win: unless you're in public housing, which has its own rules, landlords have a great deal of discretion over who to rent to. Since extermination would help you, too, this may be a case where it is better to pay than try to insist on your rights.

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