What Landlords and Pest Management Professionals Need to Know
If you’re a landlord, knowing what reasonable habitability is important so you don’t end up in a lawsuit over things like bed bugs.
And if you’re a pest management professional, it’s good to know this landlord-tenant law in order to serve your multi-family housing clients the best way possible. This way you can encourage them to actively work on preventing pests like bed bugs and cockroaches with your services. You can help them prevent lawsuits and landlord-tenant issues, while also differentiating your business by offering top-tier service.
Upon move-in, tenants expect a few things to be true:
- That all appliances work they have running water
- That the toilets flush
- To have a residence free of infestations from things like bed bugs or cockroaches.
There are laws that reinforce this expectation for renters in every state except Georgia. The law protecting renters’ rights to reasonable living conditions is called reasonable habitability.
And, there are 25 states that have specific bedbug laws. The other 25 states don’t have specific laws, but they still fall under reasonable habitability.
The states without specific bed bug laws are Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
What is Reasonable Habitability?
In every state but Georgia, a landlord is required to offer an implied warranty of habitability to renters. This requires things like the plumbing in the rental to be functional, running water, clean living conditions, and no pests like rats or bedbugs.
The reasonable habitability laws are implied in most states, and are not detailed as they are in states like Oregon. In Georgia, as well as in states where the basic requirements of the reasonable habitability laws are not called out clearly, renters might have to secure legal assistance to take care of issues with the living conditions on their property.
What Does Reasonable Habitability Include?
In most states, reasonable habitability includes the following items:
- Connected to the sewer system for proper waste disposal
- Working roof and weather protection
- Hot and cold water
- Water supply that provides safe drinking water
- Working electrical wiring in all parts of the house
- Clean and sanitary
- Floors and ceilings, and walls are in good repair
- Safe from fire
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are in good working order
- Locks that work
In some states, the wording of the law is that the building must be fit to live in, but no other specifics are applied. This means that issues with reasonable habitability in these states will have to go before a judge for enforcement.
Are There Items That Are Not Covered Under Reasonable Habitability?
There are some cases where reasonable habitability is not going to apply to a renter’s situation.
Things like air conditioning, and the installation of items like swimming pools and spas are not considered part of reasonable habitability. A tenant would need approval from their landlord to have these kinds of extras installed. Landlords are not required to provide anything that is not required for basic comfort and sanitary living.
Renter-Caused Situations Such As Vermin and Bed Bugs
If a renter is a hoarding items, or moves in bed-bug infested items, they can be responsible. However, it can be extremely hard to prove these issues are tenant-caused. The question of who is responsible, the landlord or the tenant, is one of the most asked bed-bug related questions online.
Both Tenant and Landlord Have Responsibilities
In most states, the landlord and renter both must provide and maintain a property that offers reasonable habitability. Tenants must throw out the garbage, clean up messes, and generally care for the property as part of their rental agreement. And, most rental agreements clearly state that the tenant is required to maintain the property while they are residing.
Questions of renters versus landlord responsibility can become complicated when it’s not clear in the lease. These events are usually best resolved with the help of a lawyer and might also need to be heard by a judge.
Reasonable Habitability Summary:
It Protects Both Landlords and Renters
Reasonable habitability works in both directions. Both the renter and the landlord are required to provide the upkeep and care for the property that makes it livable. Supporting this implied law is good for both the renter and the property owner.
While a resident cannot expect their landlord to provide air conditioning, add a pool or a garden shed, renters should be able to expect essentials. These essentials are things like running water, a roof, sturdy walls, and the absence of vermin and pests.
Reasonable habitability might be an implied contract. But, it is one that both parties must follow in a rental agreement.
As a Pest Management Professional, You can Help Landlords
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