*IF* vermin or something attracting vermin were not present at the start of the tenancy, then you're generally right, the landlord isn't financially responsible. That said, three things: 1) how confident are you that you can show that mice weren't there from the beginning 2) how much do you want to spend proving it, and 3) you don't want mice in your rental unit now or afterwards. You might need to investigate your options between helping the tenants by teaching them what they can do, working out a payment plan for treatment of the infestation, or terminating the lease and taking care of the problem yourself.
Licensed in Oregon. Advice provided is general legal information relevant to the facts provided. It is not intended as legal advice applicable to your specific situation. No attorney/client relationship is created unless and until we have met and entered into a written representation agreement. Contact me at 541-250-0542 to discuss your matter further. www.MaugerLaw.com
I agree with Mr. Mauger. Also, I think his three common sense points are really spot on as to the choices you face. Below is just a brief rundown of both your and your tenant's duties and obligations regarding a vermin infestation.
First, you have an obligation to maintain the rented home in a habitable condition. Furthermore the rented home may lack habitability if, for example, there is an infestation of mice. See ORS 90.320(1)(f).
Second, your tenants can pursue several remedies if they believe that you are failing in your duty to maintain a habitable home. First, with written notice of the defect they may pursue a termination of the tenancy. See ORS 90.360(1) And second, your tenant may pursue an injunction (forcing you to fix the defect in habitability) and damages (money) after they serve you with actual notice of the defect. See ORS 90.360(2).
Finally, and again echoing Mr. Mauger, if the mice were not present during the beginning of the tenancy, but rather the infestation was caused by the either the tenant or one of the tenant's guests, than the tenant may not terminate the lease and may not recoup damages from you. See ORS 90.360(4)
As always, if you are faced with a demand letter from your tenants seeking damages, or you are considering having your tenants pay you for the cost of getting rid of the mice, it's a good idea to first speak with an attorney.
My answer to the above question is informational only and not legal advice. In addition, my answer does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you found my answer helpful please check the "mark as good answer" option. If you would like to speak with me directly please call my office at 503.567.2377 or visit my website at www.oglawpdx.com.