Landlord Pest Control Responsibilities
A landlord is responsible to pay for pest control if there are pests in their building. There are two laws that outline your responsibilities as a landlord with respect to pest control:
- The Property Standards By-law No. 10-221 requires dwellings or dwelling units to be pest free, including bed bugs.
- The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) Sections 20 and 22 indicate that:
- The landlord is responsible for maintaining the rental units, lobbies, hallways, stairwells and laundry facilities in a good state of repair
- The landlord must ensure their building complies with health and safety standards set by the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario
- The landlord must ensure that their buildings are fit for habitation
- The landlord is responsible for the cost of building maintenance
- The landlord cannot interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental dwelling or building
Responding to Pests in your building
As a landlord, you should be ready to respond to pests found in your building. The faster you learn of the pests and respond, the easier it will be to eliminate the pests. Things you can do to be ready include:
- Have an Integrated Pest Management program for your buildings.
- Hire a licensed pest control professional who has experience managing pests using an Integrated Pest Management approach.
- Encourage tenants to report pests as soon as they know of a problem. Having a No Blame Policy can help encourage tenants to report pests immediately. A sample No Blame policy is included in the Landlord Toolkit.
- Respond quickly to tenant complaints.
- Keep a record of bed bug complaints and treatments.
- Inspect rental units suspected of having a pest infestation, as well as units beside, above and below the suspected unit. Inspect between 8 am and 8 pm, after giving tenants 24 hours written notice as required by Section 27 of the Residential Tenancies Act.
Integrated Pest Management Program
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a common sense approach to managing pests. IPM programs combine prevention, monitoring, and a wide range of treatment methods that go beyond just chemical sprays. IPM programs can be effective at eliminating pests found in buildings, such as bed bugs, cockroaches and mice.
Effective IPM programs require participation from tenants, pest control professionals and building staff.
Review some key activities for landlords & building staff in an IPM program.
Knowing some basic information about the pests you are fighting is important for all building staff. Every staff member should recognize the signs of common pests, how to prevent them and know their role in helping to eliminate them. Information on bedbugs, cockroaches and rats can be found in the Landlord Pest Control Toolkit.
Early Reporting Saves Time and Money
The earlier you know of a pest problem, the easier and cheaper it will be to eliminate the pests. Unfortunately, some tenants are reluctant to report pests to their landlord.
Encourage tenant reporting of pests through your actions:
- Make reporting easy
- Educate tenants on the importance of reporting pests
- Don’t let your words or actions put blame onto the tenant
No Blame Policy
Blaming residents for having pests can cause residents to delay or avoid reporting pests issues, allowing the infestation to spread and be more costly to treat. A No Blame policy for pests can encourage residents to report pest problems early.
A sample No Blame policy is included in the Landlord Pest Control Toolkit.
Landlords should inspect the whole building for pests at least once per year. This inspection can be combined with the annual unit fire safety inspection, or done at another time. It can be completed by building staff, or a pest control company. The sooner you learn of a pest issue, the quicker and cheaper it will be to eliminate.
Bed bugs are often not reported by tenants, so inspecting for bed bugs is especially important. Left untreated, bed bugs can spread to other units in your building, increasing the time and cost needed to eliminate them.
Here are some steps you can take to inspect for bed bugs:
Advise tenants that you will be inspecting all apartments
- 1 to 3 days before the inspection, send tenants written notice that you will be inspecting all apartments as part of your building maintenance and pest control program.
- Tell tenants that the inspection will check for signs of bed bugs around their beds and sofa areas.
- Consider also checking for other pests as part of this inspection.
- Tell tenants that the inspection will take approximately 10 minutes.
- Speak with tenants at time of inspection.
Speak with tenants at time of the inspection
- If tenants are present at time of inspection, ask if they have had bed bugs in the past or think they have bed bugs now.
- How long ago?
- Do you think your apartment still has bed bugs?
- Record that you suspect the apartment has bed bugs if the tenant indicates that they think they may have bedbugs, or if they have had bed bugs in the past.
- If tenants are not present, move to Check the Bed and Sofa.
Check the Bed and Sofa for signs of bed bugs
- For each bed, check the corners of bed sheets, bed frame, mattress and box spring for signs of bed bugs.
- Check the seams of sofa arms and exposed areas spring for signs of bed bugs.
- Do not turn over heavy furniture (bed or sofa).
- Using the inspection checklist provided in the Landlord Pest Control Toolkit, record that you suspect the apartment has bed bugs if you find any of the following during your brief inspection:
- Dead bed bugs
- Shed skins
- Bed bug stains
- Blood stains from crushed bed bugs
Provide inspection results and education materials to the tenant
Providing the inspection results to the tenant along with any planned next steps shows the tenant that you take pest control seriously. If no pests were found, take the opportunity to leave some general pest prevention information for the tenant. Samples of inspection result letters can be found in the Landlord Pest Control Toolkit. Samples of tenant education materials can be found in the Tenant Pest Education Toolkit.
Getting rid of hard to treat pests needs cooperation from the resident, the property manager and a pest control professional. Providing residents accurate information about pests helps them participate in a positive and constructive way.
Opportunities to provide residents with pest control information include:
- During lease signing;
- In a resident handbook;
- On building bulletin boards;
- In resident meetings;
- As part of annual inspections.
Be sure preparation requirements are reasonable
Tenants need to participate in prevention and treatment efforts. Many pest control treatments require that tenants prepare their homes before treatment. However, landlords need to be sure that the preparation instructions provided to tenants are reasonable for the tenant to complete:
- Preparation instructions should not require tenants to do activities that are unsafe to perform without proper tools or training. (Example: removing electrical plug covers).
- Preparation instructions should be based on the level and location of the infestation. (Example: Don’t require a tenant to take down living room drapes for a low level bed bug infestation in the bedroom).
- Preparation instructions should not be solely for the convenience of the pest control technician. (Example: requiring a tenant to disassemble their bed and stand the mattress against the wall when treating for bed bugs).
Providing reasonable preparation instructions will increase the likelihood that preparation is completed and treatments can begin.
Be sure tenants are able to prepare
Landlords should check to be sure that a tenant is able to complete the preparation instructions:
- Meet with the tenant to be sure they understand what they are required to do before treatment
- Ask if there are any preparation requirements that they cannot complete
- Offer to assist when the tenant is physically, mentally or financially unable to complete the required preparation steps. Examples of reasonable assistance are provided in the fact sheet titled “Unit Prep Accommodation” in the Landlord Pest Control Toolkit.
Simplifying the preparation requirements for tenants and providing needed assistance will greatly increase the effectiveness of your pest control treatments.
Providing assistance to tenants to prepare their apartment for pest control treatment is a support that may be required by some tenants.
"When a person with a disability needs support in order to work, use a service or access housing, the employer, service provider or landlord has a duty to provide these supports."
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
Landlords can take steps to reduce the spread of pests into and within your building:
- Seal cracks and crevices in baseboards, floors and walls with caulking to prevent bed bugs, cockroaches or other pests from entering or to eliminate places where they can hide
- Seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into the rental unit or building.
- Repair or remove peeling wallpaper. Tighten loose light switch covers.
- Provide tenants with large bags for disposal of mattresses and large furniture that may be infested with bed bugs or other pests. Bags are available from the City by calling 905-546-2489.
Landlords and building staff need to stay involved with pest control efforts in their building. Simply hiring a pest control company, unlocking an apartment door and walking away is not enough to solve the problem.
- Ask the pest control company to explain their IPM approach to pest control.
- Ensure that treatment methods go beyond simply spraying chemicals. For example, effectively treating bed bugs requires that the pest control company include steam and vacuuming as part of their treatment approach.
- Ask for advice when the routine methods aren’t working. Discuss what is preventing the treatment(s) from working and work together to find a way around the obstacle.
Many pest infestations are difficult to treat. Check with tenants after treatments were done to see if any pests remain. Things to check include:
- New signs of pests (Example: mouse droppings, live bugs, etc.)
- Pests caught in traps (Example: cockroaches on glue board, bed bugs in bed leg monitors)
- Tenant observations
Following up shows the tenant that you take pest control seriously, and that you have their wellbeing in mind.
Keep records of all pest complaints, inspection results and pest control measures taken. This allows you to:
- See the extent of your pest problem
- See what approaches work and make improvements
- Look for trends or hotspots in your building
- Have documentation for a Landlord Tenant Board hearing
Where to get help
Public Health Services
Call 905-546-2489 to speak with a public health inspector about identifying pests or recommendations for Integrated Pest Management.
Landlord and tenant board
The landlord and tenant board helps with disputes between landlords and tenants about bed bugs, cockroaches and other pests.
Hamilton Housing Help Centre
The Housing Help Centre can help support communication between landlord and tenants on pest issues. Low income residents who are unable to prepare their unit for a bed but treatment due to a disability may qualify for help.
If your tenants receive Ontario Works or are in the Ontario Disability Support Program they may qualify for Housing Stability Benefits or other funding programs to help pay for the cost of preparation services. Tenants should speak with their Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program worker or Housing Help Centre to find out if they qualify.
Pest control treatment companies
More information on professional pest control companies in your area can be found at:
Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario