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Rats! You’re curled up with a cup of coffee on your couch in your rental apartment. Suddenly, you see two rats run past each other on the floor before you. You jump and scream at the sight of these disgusting rodents. You are even more dismayed when you realize they have gnawed through your food and left a trail of rat droppings and urine in your cabinets and drawers. Your apartment is infested with rats! This is the last thing anyone wants in their apartment. 

Rats are dirty, they carry bacteria, can spread disease, gnaw through electrical wires, dry wall, baseboards, and more. You may now be thinking, there are rats in my apartment, what are my rights, and can I sue my landlord for a rat infestation? 

As a tenant in California, you have rights if you have a rat infestation in your apartment. We will explain what your rights are and how to approach your landlord.

Tenant Rights: Rat Infestation California

As a tenant in California, your landlord is responsible for managing any issues with rats or mice infestation. Landlords must maintain the premises in a habitable condition. Habitable means the property is kept in a manner consistent with the health and safety of the tenants. Tenants can live in rental properties that meet basic structural, safety, and health standards. Under the California Civil Code, the landlord must ensure that the building and grounds are clean, sanitary, and free from garbage, filth, rodents, and vermin. Landlords must make all repairs not caused by the tenant within a reasonable time after learning of the problem.

Steps for Dealing with Rats in Your Apartment

Unfortunately, many rental properties in California experience rat, cockroach, and bed bug pest infestations. If you have a rat or mouse problem in your rental property, take these steps to protect yourself and your health.

Document the Issue

If you see a rat or evidence of a rat in your apartment, start documenting the problem. Keep track of what you see, hear, smell, and notice about the rats in your home. Rats like to hide in dark and hidden spots. Even if you don’t see the rats themselves, look and listen for evidence of their presence. Evidence might include holes or chew marks, droppings, urine stains, scratching or rustling sounds.

Note the date you observe or hear the evidence of the rodents, and take photos or videos if possible. Track any communication you have with neighbors about the issue. If you take any measures to address the problem, keep track of invoices, receipts, or communications with pest control professionals. 

Notify Your Landlord

Once you’ve seen clear evidence of a rat infestation in the apartment, inform your landlord immediately. Notify your landlord in writing to prove they were aware of the problem. Include the date on the communication and request immediate extermination services. Keep a copy for yourself. If you have to speak with the landlord, write notes from your conversation and date it, or have a letter for them to sign that you informed them of the problem. Remember, a landlord is not required to make repairs or address a vermin infestation if they do not know or should know about the problem. The best way to inform your landlord of a problem in your rental home is with a written and dated letter, e-mail, or text. If you landlord requires you to use a portal to communicate, send them a message via the portal. 

The time a landlord has to address the rat problem may vary depending on the situation and severity of the infestation. Generally, landlords should address the infestation immediately after receiving notice of the issue. If not immediately addressed, rats and other pests can cause severe property damage and health hazards. Landlords must take reasonable steps to eliminate the rat infestation, including hiring licensed, professional exterminators. If a landlord sends an exterminator to your rental, make sure they are licensed and get a copy of the technician’s business card or other information that will allow you to identify the exterminator and the technician if the problem is not resolved promptly.

What You Can Do If Your Landlord Fails or Refuses to Address a Rat Infestation

If you have notified your landlord of the rat infestation in your apartment and they have failed to make reasonable attempts to address the problem, you may be able to:

  • Hire an exterminator and subtract the cost from your rent payment,
  • Refuse to pay your rent until the problem is solved,
  • Terminate your lease,
  • Move out and declare a constructive eviction,
  • File a complaint with the local housing department or health department, or 
  • File a lawsuit.

Speak with an experienced tenant rights attorney about these options before taking action. Dealing with pests in your home is stressful and worrisome, but you want to be sure you follow the correct steps before taking action on the above options. An attorney can help you understand if your rat infestation is the landlord’s responsibility and what course of action is most appropriate. 

Tenant Responsibility for Rat Infestation

Although rare, a tenant can contribute to a vermin infestation if they do not keep their apartment reasonably clean and tidy. California laws require tenants to keep the property they rent clean and sanitary. 

Riley | Ersoff LLP LLP Can Help You Understand Your Rights if Your Apartment is Infested with Rats

If you are experiencing a rat infestation in your rental home, contact our experienced tenant’s rights attorneys. Riley | Ersoff LLP LLP believes it is important to explore all possible avenues to hold your landlord accountable for keeping your home clean and safe. Failing to remedy a serious rat infestation is unacceptable. The firm’s founders, Grant Riley, and Victoria Ersoff, have been practicing law for over 70 years combined. They have received recognition as “Super Lawyers” and have AV-Preeminent ratings from Martindale-Hubbell.

They have handled hundreds of cases and recovered millions of dollars for tenants against landlords who have ignored rat and pest infestations or were negligent in resolving those problems. Riley | Ersoff LLP will fight tirelessly to protect your rights to your health and safety in your home. 

Contact Us

Schedule a consultation today with our attorneys at Riley | Ersoff LLP about how we can help you manage your rat infestation.

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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