Landlords, don’t let your tenants self-treat their pest issues!

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Landlords, don’t let your tenants self-treat their pest issues!

You have rental property and the tenants have some type of pest issue. How does this situation get resolved? Do you give the tenant a fogger, a can of spray or rodent poison? Does the tenant hide the fact that they have a huge infestation and attempt to treat it themselves? Does the tenant know what they are doing with hazardous chemicals? Do you? Do you want to assume a liability in the event that the tenant damages your property or potentially causes someone injury or death because they did not use the chemical properly?

We all have grabbed a can of bug spray from under our sink to kill a spider or ant was crawling across our kitchen floor. Have you ever stopped to read the label of the product to find out how it is supposed to be used? All legal pesticide labels have specific instructions that say what it is used for, how, where and how often it can be used. Most labels include phrasing similar to, “It is a violation of the law to use this product other than it is intended”.

In my observation, no one reads the label instructions to treat their home for unwanted pests. People are often, what I call “treating with emotion”. Meaning; “This product is not working. I am going to use more of it!” I have personally witnessed tenants in an apartment building throw pounds of rodenticide pellets all over their floors. The same floors where their three-year old children or pets crawl around on. I have witnessed tenants lighting thirty foggers under their box spring in their bedroom to get rid of bed bugs. Meanwhile they were sitting in the next room with the door closed and thinking they were totally safe. In both cases, neither method worked and posed a serious risk to the occupant’s health. Using a pesticide incorrectly can also make a small problem even worse. Even worse is the problem can spread to multiple units in apartment building situations.

An important tips for when you use any pesticide or chemical:

Read the label!

• Target Species: If the pest you want to get rid of is not mentioned on the label, do not use it. It is likely not designed to be effective for that type of pest. Since the beginning of Integrated Pest Management standards and the “Green” movement, chemical companies have developed chemicals that are intended for specific targets. Example: People sometimes pour Boric Acid dust on the floor as a treatment for bed bugs. Boric Acid is a stomach poison and is meant to be ingested. The problem with using it on bed bugs is that they do not even have any chewing mouth parts. They feed on human blood with sucking mouth parts that pierce the skin similar to mosquitos.

• Directions for Use: All labels will tell you how the product is supposed to be used. If it says for outdoor use only, Do not use indoors! If it says for use in cracks and crevices only, that is the only place it should be used. All labels will say how much and how often it is to be used.

• Warnings: Chemicals can be hazardous to more than just pests. They can injure people and pets through acute or prolonged exposure. The label may say that it is dangerous to breath in, to get on your skin or eyes, to swallow etc. Most labels say to wear protective clothing, gloves, goggles or masks. Some chemical formulations can be flammable or explosive (many foggers) when near an ignition source. People have started fires and blown up apartment buildings! Some chemicals are potent several months after they are applied. The label will say how long you should remain out of the treatment area.

Many pest issues can be resolved by means other than spraying chemicals. Keeping your home clean, reduce clutter and keep dry will lower the attraction and harborages for pests. Closing up holes in your home that pests use to enter is a safe and long term preventative measure you can take. Following the labelling instructions on chemicals or calling a professional to apply materials in a safe and effective manner can correct or prevent infestations.

In many cases, self-treating causes more expensive treatment methods. This is similar to if you try to repair something on your car. It may have been something minor but in the attempt you break something else or pour coolant into your oil. Taking your car to the mechanic is going to cost you much more than it would if you had brought the car in to be serviced in the first place. Over the counter products sometimes do not have the strength to kill off pests and results in scattering them and/or making them immune to certain products. As a landlord, this could result in the loss of hundreds or thousands of dollars. I recommend keeping an open door with tenants. Tell them to report their problems. Many pest companies log pest sightings at their client’s properties to better service them. In multi-family situations, it is better to take care of the problem before it spreads to adjacent units, costing you even more money!

For more info regarding the safe use of materials, please visit:

If you have been exposed to chemicals and need help, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-2222 or visit:

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