Of Mice and Men: Who’s Responsible when a Home is Infested with Pests or Rodents?  

In the News

From the bed bug invasion in Paris cinemas to the booming mouse population in Montreal, some of your tenants may end up with unwanted “roommates”. While pest control is your responsibility, can you ask your tenants for compensation in certain cases? 

Financial compensation and obligation to keep the unit in good condition 

Whatever the pest – cockroaches, ants, bed bugs or rodents of all kinds – the origins of an infestation can be varied. 

Possible sources of pest infestation: 

  • Bed bugs can be found on tenants’ clothes or in their bags, suitcases or backpacks after a stay in an infested area (hotel, metro, cinema, office, bar, restaurant, etc.). 
  • Cockroaches can be brought into the home via a package (Amazon, Goodfood, Canada Post, etc.). 
  • A new tenant may bring in pests or rodents from their previous dwelling when they move in. 
  • Pests or rodents can enter the dwelling during repairs or renovation work.  

In such cases, tenants are not necessarily liable. However, they do have an obligation to keep the property clean and to use it responsibly

This means that if tenants compromise the safety or cleanliness of the property during their lease, you can take the matter to the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL, formerly Régie du logement or rental board). 

The TAL can order tenants: 

  • To compensate you financially (damages),  
  • To meet their obligation to maintain the dwelling in good condition.  

In a 2018 judgment, an individual was ordered to reimburse the costs of bed bug extermination, which were paid by the landlord. The tenants had discovered bed bugs in their apartment when they returned from a trip abroad. The court found them liable, citing that the other units inspected were not infested. 

In other cases, the court found that, in the absence of clear fault or negligence, no one is responsible for the appearance of bed bugs. This was the conclusion reached by the TAL in a 2013 case. 

However, this decision specifies that a tenant or landlord could be liable if their behaviour is faulty or negligent after bed bugs are found: “This could include inaction or failure to use recognized extermination services, failure to denounce, failure to cooperate with the extermination, etc.” 

As a result, the court could order you to pay damages to tenants if you delay taking action once you have been informed of the appearance of pests in a unit. 

Lease termination  

Tenants may sometimes neglect the upkeep of their units or refuse to let them be treated for a pest or rodent problem. This could have consequences for all the units in a building. 

In such a situation, you can take action before the TAL to terminate the tenants’ lease. Alternatively, you can obtain an order to make the dwelling fit to live. 

In 2016, the court terminated a lease and ordered the eviction of a tenant who failed to keep their unit in good condition, despite repeated requests from the landlord to this effect. The exterminator had to visit the tenant’s home 16 times to eradicate bed bugs, and each time, the unit was still very filthy. 

In another case the same year, a landlord requested that an exterminator inspect the unit despite the tenant’s refusal. The TAL accepted this request. The TAL’s order required “that the tenant give access to their unit for inspection purposes, and if necessary, that extermination treatments be carried out.” 

Third-party liability 

Often times, a pest infestation cannot be attributed to either the tenant or the landlord. 

In some instances, bed bugs are brought in by a third party, like blankets provided by a moving company, parcels delivered to tenants, clothes left in the laundry or infested after taking the metro.  

While you may have little control over the appearance of bed bugs in these examples, tenants may still be entitled to a reduction in rent. This applies either for the period during which the apartment was infested, or for the month during which extermination was carried out. 

In such cases, you will generally be responsible for the costs of extermination, but you may also be required to pay compensation for damages. 

Could you then claim compensation from the third party that was responsible for the infestation to recover the costs that have been incurred?  

Theoretically, yes, but it’s no easy feat! You’d first have to prove the source of the infestation. Then you’d have to show that the third party was negligent or at fault.