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An Ohio Landlord's Responsibility for Pest Control

Insect, rat, and rodent infestation is a common tenant complaint. Because extermination of these pests can be expensive and also necessitate the use of harmful chemicals, many landlords are reluctant to provide pest-control services to their tenants, leaving tenants sharing their rental space with unwanted 4-, 6-, or 8-legged friends.

But who is responsible for paying for pest control - the landlord or the tenant? The answer varies depending on the lease agreement, the municipality in which the tenant lives, and Ohio law.

Lease agreement

As the first method of determining who is responsible for paying for pest control, look to the terms of the lease agreement. If the landlord included a section in the lease in which he or she voluntarily undertook a duty to keep the leased premises free from insects and rodents, then the landlord must honor the terms of the lease and provide pest control services.

Material effect on health and safety

Second, Ohio law (R.C. 5321.04(A)(1)) states that a landlord must comply with all applicable building, health, safety and housing codes that materially affect health and safety. If the township, village or city code in which the lease premises are located calls for pest control, then the landlord must comply with the applicable code and provide pest control services.

For example, the City of Columbus Housing Code Chapter 4551 states the landlord "is responsible for elimination of insects, rats, or other pests in a dwelling containing two or more dwelling units..." However, in order for the landlord to have violated this particular section of the Ohio Revised Code, the defect or infestation must materially affect health and safety. In ITR Properties v. Smith, an Ohio appellate court found that a bird's frequent nesting in a dryer vent, while violating the local municipality's housing code, did not materially affect the tenant's safety, and thus the tenant was not excused from paying for rent.

Fit and habitable condition

Third, Ohio law (R.C. 5321.04(A)(2)) requires a landlord to "do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition." This requirement has been interpreted by some Courts to include a duty for the landlord to undertake pest control measures. For example, in CMB Partnership v. Baker, an Ohio appellate court found that a hole in the roof that allowed birds and insects to enter the structure (among other defects, including leaky plumbing that caused a water-logged carpet) constituted an unfit condition.

If a landlord breaches any of his or her duties under the lease or the Ohio Revised Code, the tenant may elect to give the landlord notice, in writing, of the acts or omissions giving rise to noncompliance. If the landlord has not complied with a reasonable time (often interpreted to mean 30 days), a tenant can deposit rent with their local clerk of courts, terminate the lease, or bring an action to recover money damages.

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