It often starts with a subtle gnawing and scratching sound coming from the walls or ceiling, but soon the noises are constant, and there’s no denying it - your apartment has a rat problem. What should you do, and what if your landlord refuses to act? Keep reading to learn more about your rights as a renter and how to respond to a pest infestation. If you believe the poor conditions in your unit require legal action, contact a tenant’s rights attorney at Wolford Wayne.
First, always notify your landlord if you see rodents or signs of them in your unit or around the property. Be specific, recording when, where, and how many rats you see. It can be challenging and downright gross to collect evidence of a rat infestation. However, you should attempt to take photos of the rodents and their droppings if you see them. Even if you have a positive relationship with your landlord, it is important to put any notice in writing. It’s fine to have a conversation with your landlord but even then, it is important to memorialize the conversation in writing so that you have a record of putting your landlord on notice of the issue. This ensures you have proof if the situation escalates and you need to take legal action.
We also recommend that you take photos of any damaged walls, ceilings, or personal property resulting from a pest/rat problem. Be careful to keep the apartment clean to avoid being blamed for causing the infestation or giving the landlord fodder to try to make you pay for the exterminator.
Your landlord is legally required to provide a safe and inhabitable rental unit, and that includes dealing with any pest infestations promptly and hiring the right people to do the job. Often with pests, it’s not just a matter of killing the ones already there, but also making any necessary repairs to seal cracks and crevices in order to prevent rats or other pests from entering the property. In addition to being bad roommates, rats and mice can carry many infectious diseases, making them a public health problem.
Often times we see landlords try to resolve a pest infestation themselves or with the help of a handyman. This often entails giving a tenant some traps and a pat on the back to wish them luck. This is not sufficient. If your landlord sends someone to inspect your unit, get their contact information and ask them if they are a licensed pest inspector. If they are not, write your landlord and insist they hire a professional. If the problem continues or your landlord refuses to deal with it, consider contacting the city Department of Public Health to schedule an inspection.
Your landlord does have an obligation to address a rat infestation issue, but as noted above, you are responsible for making sure they know about the problem. Avoid admitting fault or putting anything in writing that might lead to blame for issues in the unit.
You also have a duty to keep the unit reasonably clean. If your apartment is unusually dirty, the landlord will likely attempt to blame you for the infestation. They may even try to sue you for damages.
You pay rent for a safe, inhabitable place to live. If your landlord is failing to provide you with that, then you are arguably overpaying for rent. We never recommend withholding rent payments as that can open you up to exposure for an eviction lawsuit. However, depending on the severity of the situation you may have grounds to negotiate a rent reduction, file a lawsuit or bring a petition before the Rent Board for a reduction in services.
Do you have a rat infestation in your apartment, and your landlord isn’t doing anything about it? Your landlord must address any issues affecting your health and safety, and that includes rats. If they refuse, you should immediately speak to a San Francisco tenant’s rights attorney. If the situation is so bad you are considering moving out, it is critical that you speak with a lawyer before you leave the unit.
At Wolford Wayne, we advocate for tenants in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley who are subjected to unlivable conditions in their rental units. We have extensive knowledge of local rent and eviction laws and use our experience to help people in need. When we handle pest cases, we handle them on what’s known as a “contingent fee” meaning we don’t get paid unless you do. If you’re dealing with rats and an uncooperative landlord, give us a call today.
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