Roaches in Your Apartment: Your Rights and a Landlord’s Duty

You wake in the middle of the night, groggy, tired and fresh from a great dream. You’re thirsty and have been rolling back and forth in your bed thinking about that last can of Pepsi you have sitting in the fridge. You can no longer resist.

You make your way in the dark to the kitchen, stub your toe on the coffee table in the living room, and hop the rest of the way. You switch on the kitchen light. And there it is.

A roach. It’s sitting right in the middle of the floor, frozen in time. If you could see its little roach face, it would probably be cutting its eyes to the right in shock, wondering what to do next. Then when you scream, it acts-scurrying across the floor at lightning speed back to the crevice it came from. You are wide awake now, stamping your slippered foot all over the place trying to catch the dern little thing. But it’s too fast for you.

In a flash, it has disappeared back to it’s home behind the walls, probably to tell the story of how it got almost got smashed underfoot to its hundreds of other friends who are back there chilling and making babies. You can just see it now, “Man, you’ll never believe what just happened to me. I almost got killed!”

So as a renter who pays your rent bill on time every month, what do you do? You mumble “I didn’t grow up like this” as you make that first call to your landlord. But will the landlord be responsive to this particular maintenance request?

He must, or at least he darn well should. There is a rule in most landlord-tenant laws and statutes about “habitability.” A landlord has to provide a habitable living environment for his or her tenants, this includes a sanitary living space. A roach-infested apartment is not considered sanitary.

If a landlord is unresponsive to a tenant’s request to rid an apartment of roaches, most statutes support the tenant’s right to withhold rent until the problem is fixed.

So if you have a pest problem, whether it be with mice or roaches, put in a maintenance request immediately. If your landlord does not respond in a reasonable amount of time, be persistent. Threaten to withhold rent under the implied warrant of habitability-that might get things, other than the roaches in your walls, moving.

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