If you have a standard rental agreement or leasing contract then any case of bedbugs or other pests in your rentals is your responsibility. This holds true whether you have furnished the apartment or the tenants have brought their own furniture in, except under special circumstances.
When is the Landlord Not Responsible for Pests
If you can prove that the tenants were directly responsible for the pests, then they are responsible for the bills. For example, if the home was recently fumigated and received a clean inspection, but the tenants moved their bed in during the previous few days. Another example would be if the tenants have a great deal of trash, food, or other items in the house, which might attract pests. However, these circumstances are not the norm. Usually it is the landlords responsibility.
What To Do About Bugs and Pests
The first thing that you should do when you are told by a tenant that they have bugs is to inspect the property. You can inspect the property yourself, or hire an exterminator to come out and inspect it for you. In most cases, hiring the exterminator is the better solution, as most property investors are not qualified inspectors. If you choose to inspect the property yourself, you should look for signs of insects or infestation, and if you do not find any, ask the tenants to capture a specimen. You should only do this if it is not likely that the tenant has an infestation. Otherwise, call an exterminator.
It is important to keep in mind that if you have a multi-unit property, can easily spread from one home to the other. Consider having the exterminator inspecting all properties on the premises, and then have them all fumigated. This holds true for other types of pests including rats, cockroaches, spiders, and ants.
While handling and paying for an exterminator and an inspection may seem like a hassle, your best bet is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Seattle law, as well as local Issaquah city law, states that the landlord is responsible for keeping rental units pest free, so if you delay, you could end up in court over the issue. Most tenants just want a livable space, so handling the matter quickly ensures that they stay happy.
Protect Against Future Infestations
Asking your exterminator for a building inspection plus treatments to protect against future infestations is usually a good idea. Most exterminators offer treatments that last up to 6 months, which means that you can pay for a once yearly treatment in the spring, and not have to worry about most pests for the rest of the year. You can also get mattress casings if you are furnishing the home, fumigate regularly between tenants moving out, and ensure that the entire property is in good repair. Checking to ensure that windows, doors, and building seams are all properly sealed is also important.
Inspections, finding and hiring an exterminator, handling treatments, and handling repairs and maintenance are all time consuming. If you do not have the time, energy, or desire to handle them yourself, then a local Issaquah property management company can help to ensure that your tenants and your rental units are being cared for properly.