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Could a tenant sue a landlord over a pest infestation?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2021 | Real Estate

Tenants living in a Florida apartment complex or another type of rental unit have reasonable expectations about living in a safe and healthy environment. Unexpected things happen, such as pest infestations, and the landlord may be responsible for addressing those issues. For example, if a property becomes infested with bedbugs, roaches, mice, or other pests, the tenants may approach the landlord to remove the pests. When the landlord fails to act, the tenants might take legal action.

A landlord’s non-action may lead to litigation

Florida law does address a landlord’s responsibilities when it comes to pest infestations. State statutes note that a landlord must make “reasonable provisions” for the extermination of pests, and the landlord must abate rent during the time the tenants must leave the premises. However, the tenant cannot collect damages.

Tenants should realize there are other points noted in the statute about pest infestations. The landlord-tenant-pest infestation rule only applies to apartments, with both duplexes and single-family homes excluded.

Other points worth reviewing about pest infestations

The statute also includes the words “unless otherwise agreed in writing.” So, a tenant could sign a lease that leaves him or her responsible for pest removal. Carefully reviewing a lease’s language appears advisable.

However, if the landlord does not take action when legally responsible for the pest, as with adjoining landowner issues and other matters, the tenant may take legal action. When filing a lawsuit, tenants may need to provide clear evidence of an infestation and proof that the landlord failed to act.

Issues may arise regarding the language in a lease. A landlord could rely on vague language to claim an exclusion from covering costs associated with pest removals. Challenging the landlord’s interpretation in court might lead to a judgment favorable to the tenant, depending on the case’s specifics.