The house I’m renting has termites
Just because you’re renting a house doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to live in a safe termite-free environment.
One of the strongest rights created for a renter is the implied warranty of habitability. Before you go looking through your rental contract for a warranty of habitability clause, know that the warranty of habitability is a court created doctrine that gives tenants the right to occupy a safe and livable rental unit. In most states, the state legislature has gone a step forward and created laws based on the implied warranty of habitability.
For example the state of California has codified it’s version of the warranty of habitability into California Civil code § 1941.1-1941.3 and in the State Housing Law found in H&S § 17920.3.
The following problems render a rental unfit and substandard if they endanger you or the public:
a) Inadequate sanitation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(10) Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by the health officer.
b) Structural hazards shall include…
(1) deteriorated or inadequate foundations
(2) defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports
While the state code of California does not specifically list termites by name, their very nature as insects that are capable of causing major structural damage make them eligible under several provisions of the code.
In any case a large scale termite infestation can be a serious risk to the health and safety of your family.
What to do if you discover the home you are renting has termites
So now that you’ve discovered that your rental home might be infested with termites (For tips on discovering and recognizing signs of termite infestation click here) here is quick guide on how to proceed.
- First and foremost contact your landlord. Most attorneys will recommend that even if you have a very informal relationship with your landlord you should put a request in writing. A written request is far more likely to receive a prompt response. An even better approach would be to accompany the written request with pictures or other documentation of the suspected infestation. Remember to follow up the letter with a phone call to your landlord. In the case of a termite infestation you may find that your landlord is more receptive to your complaint than other requests. Because termites pose a serious threat to the structure and integrity of their property in most cases this is the only step that you will need to take.
- If your landlord refuses to take appropriate action it may be necessary to move onto the next step. Before moving onto the next step it is very important that you wait an appropriate amount of time (in some states this time period is codified) giving the landlord a fair opportunity to address the problem. Before resorting to one of the drastic solutions listed below it may be appropriate to call a termite inspection company, many of whom will come out for a free in home estimate to make sure the infestation is serious as you thought it was.
- More Drastic measures
- Calling state or local building or health inspectors (to find a regulatory agency for your state click here)
- Withholding the rent
- Having the problem repaired by a professional and deducting the cost from your rent
- Moving out
- Paying the rent and then suing the landlord for the difference between the rent you paid and the value of the defective premises
- Before you proceed with any of the above measures it may be prudent to meet with an attorney.
For more information on the implied warranty of habitability click here.