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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Sunnyvale, CA
    Posts
    2

    Default Lease Makes Pest Control the Tenant's Responsibility

    Hi,

    I would like to know if it's legal to include pest control in tenant's responsibility in lease/rental contract.

    I rent a house in Sunnyvale, CA. Soon after I moved in I came to know that there have been roof rats even before I came. They've never been in the living area yet I believe, but the presence of rats was already a big headache to me because they might cause some health problem or cause some serious damage to the house. A neighbor told me that the house and its roof is 50 years old, and roof rat have been the biggest problem of the house and it was why the previous tenant left. So this roof rat problem is a pre-existing condition.

    But in the lease/rental contract, there is "Additional Terms and Conditions" where it states "Tenant is responsible for control and/or elimination of all insects and rodents including but not limited to ants, spiders, earwigs, mites, fleas and mice."

    My question is if this clause is against the law.

    This morning, two experts on rodent issue from the city authority came to my place and gave me a free inspection. They found traces of roof rats gave me the documented inspection result.

    They said that they've never seen such a rental contract as mine, making pest control tenant's responsibility. They also indicated that by law the house must be "rodent-proof", to be rented.

    But the worst thing they told me was, if there's fire and house's get burned, and if it turns out to be because of exposed wire by rats, (they found such exposed wire done by rats in the garage by the way) the insurance company won't pay for the loss. With that clause in my rental contract, I'm afraid that in the worst case I may get charged for the loss for not keeping the house pest-free. How nice!

    I have renter's insurance and called my agent to see if my insurance covers pest control or damages from it, and once again I got the same reaction. Why in the world the renter is responsible for the pest control?

    This is where I am and from what I've heard, I have a feeling that something is not just right with the clause. I searched the web to find the relavant law, but all I could find was Civil Code Section 1941 - "Habitability". And I'm not sure it will work for me.

    I need LEGAL advice on the clause in question. Please help me...

    Thank you very much for your time.
    ksquarekr
    :?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,653

    Default California Rental - Insect Infestation

    You can only get information here. For advice, you need to retain a lawyer who is licensed to practice in your state.

    California's Health and Safety Code speaks to infestations of rental units:
    Quote Quoting California H&S Code Section 17920.3
    Any building or portion thereof including any dwelling unit, guestroom or suite of rooms, or the premises on which the same is located, in which there exists any of the following listed conditions to an extent that endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants thereof shall be deemed and hereby is declared to be a substandard building:

    (a) Inadequate sanitation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

    (1) Lack of, or improper water closet, lavatory, or bathtub or
    shower in a dwelling unit.

    (2) Lack of, or improper water closets, lavatories, and bathtubs
    or showers per number of guests in a hotel.

    (3) Lack of, or improper kitchen sink.

    (4) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a
    hotel.

    (5) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a
    dwelling unit.

    (6) Lack of adequate heating.

    (7) Lack of, or improper operation of required ventilating
    equipment.

    (8) Lack of minimum amounts of natural light and ventilation
    required by this code.

    (9) Room and space dimensions less than required by this code.

    (10) Lack of required electrical lighting.

    (11) Dampness of habitable rooms.

    (12) Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by
    the health officer.


    (13) General dilapidation or improper maintenance.

    (14) Lack of connection to required sewage disposal system.

    (15) Lack of adequate garbage and rubbish storage and removal
    facilities as determined by the health officer.

    (b) Structural hazards shall include, but not be limited to, the
    following:

    (1) Deteriorated or inadequate foundations.

    (2) Defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports.

    (3) Flooring or floor supports of insufficient size to carry
    imposed loads with safety.

    (4) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that
    split, lean, list, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.

    (5) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that
    are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.

    (6) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceilings and roof supports, or
    other horizontal members which sag, split, or buckle due to defective material or deterioration.

    (7) Members of ceiling, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or other
    horizontal members that are of insufficient size to carry imposed
    loads with safety.

    (8) Fireplaces or chimneys which list, bulge, or settle due to
    defective material or deterioration.

    (9) Fireplaces or chimneys which are of insufficient size or
    strength to carry imposed loads with safety.

    (c) Any nuisance.

    (d) All wiring, except that which conformed with all applicable
    laws in effect at the time of installation if it is currently in good
    and safe condition and working properly.

    (e) All plumbing, except plumbing that conformed with all
    applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and has been maintained in good condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is
    currently in good and safe condition and working properly, and that
    is free of cross connections and siphonage between fixtures.

    (f) All mechanical equipment, including vents, except equipment
    that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of
    installation and that has been maintained in good and safe condition, or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition and working properly.

    (g) Faulty weather protection, which shall include, but not be
    limited to, the following:

    (1) Deteriorated, crumbling, or loose plaster.

    (2) Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls,
    roof, foundations, or floors, including broken windows or doors.

    (3) Defective or lack of weather protection for exterior wall
    coverings, including lack of paint, or weathering due to lack of
    paint or other approved protective covering.

    (4) Broken, rotted, split, or buckled exterior wall coverings or
    roof coverings.

    (h) Any building or portion thereof, device, apparatus, equipment,
    combustible waste, or vegetation that, in the opinion of the chief
    of the fire department or his deputy, is in such a condition as to
    cause a fire or explosion or provide a ready fuel to augment the
    spread and intensity of fire or explosion arising from any cause.

    (i) All materials of construction, except those which are
    specifically allowed or approved by this code, and which have been
    adequately maintained in good and safe condition.

    (j) Those premises on which an accumulation of weeds, vegetation, junk, dead organic matter, debris, garbage, offal, rodent harborages, stagnant water, combustible materials, and similar materials or conditions constitute fire, health, or safety hazards.

    (k) Any building or portion thereof that is determined to be an
    unsafe building due to inadequate maintenance, in accordance with the latest edition of the Uniform Building Code.

    (l) All buildings or portions thereof not provided with adequate
    exit facilities as required by this code, except those buildings or
    portions thereof whose exit facilities conformed with all applicable
    laws at the time of their construction and that have been adequately maintained and increased in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.

    When an unsafe condition exists through lack of, or improper
    location of, exits, additional exits may be required to be installed.

    (m) All buildings or portions thereof that are not provided with
    the fire-resistive construction or fire-extinguishing systems or
    equipment required by this code, except those buildings or portions
    thereof that conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their
    construction and whose fire-resistive integrity and fire-extinguishing systems or equipment have been adequately maintained and improved in relation to any increase in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.

    (n) All buildings or portions thereof occupied for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes that were not designed or intended to be used for those occupancies.

    (o) Inadequate structural resistance to horizontal forces.

    "Substandard building" includes a building not in compliance with
    Section 13143.2.

    However, a condition that would require displacement of sound
    walls or ceilings to meet height, length, or width requirements for
    ceilings, rooms, and dwelling units shall not by itself be considered
    sufficient existence of dangerous conditions making a building a
    substandard building, unless the building was constructed, altered,
    or converted in violation of those requirements in effect at the time
    of construction, alteration, or conversion.
    If you can get the health department to find an infestation as contempated by that statute, the rental unit would be substandard and thus unfit for habitation.

    Also, to the extent that you can modify the warranty of habitability, there must be a reduction in rent:
    Quote Quoting California Civil Code, Section 1942.1.
    Any agreement by a lessee of a dwelling waiving or modifying his rights under Section 1941 or 1942 shall be void as contrary to public policy with respect to any condition which renders the premises untenantable, except that the lessor and the lessee may agree that the lessee shall undertake to improve, repair or maintain all or stipulated portions of the dwelling as part of the consideration for rental.

    The lessor and lessee may, if an agreement is in writing, set forth the provisions of Sections 1941 to 1942.1, inclusive, and provide that any controversy relating to a condition of the premises claimed to make them untenantable may by application of either party be submitted to arbitration, pursuant to the provisions of Title 9 (commencing with Section 1280), Part 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and that the costs of such arbitration shall be apportioned by the arbitrator between the parties.
    From what you have stated, if the infestation affects the habitability of the premises (which I would venture that it does by virtue of the health hazard from infestation as well as the safety hazard from rats gnawing on wiring), the clause is probably unenforceable.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Sunnyvale, CA
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Dear Aaron,

    Thank you very much for your quick and thorough answer. Yes, I'll need legal advice from elsewhere but your answer was very very helpful. Thank you again for your time!

    Best regards,
    ksquarekr

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