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Renter's rat damage
Old 11-13-2018, 09:49 PM   #1
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Renter's rat damage

We've owned a small half-duplex home for the past 7 years in the town where our main residence is located. While we lived overseas (2011-2016) we rented out our main house and used the duplex for seasonal housing when we visited in the summer and at Christmas. Our DD also lived there for a couple of years after finishing college and getting established with a local nursing job. After we moved back from overseas we moved in there for a few months while we did minor renovations on our main house. For the past 22 months, we've rented out the unit. We're currently on our second set of renters.

During the first 6 years of our ownership of this place, we never saw any evidence of rats, but we did occasionally see mouse droppings on the kitchen floor, so we left baited traps behind the fridge and beneath the range and we caught 2-3 mice during that time. The first set of renters never mentioned either mice or rats. A couple of months ago the second set of renters complained of seeing a rat in the kitchen. Our property manager took a few rat traps over to the house and baited and set them. They caught a couple of rats and for the next month all seemed well. Then the renter went out and bought a nice new sectional sofa for the living room, and within a couple of weeks, called up the property manager crying that the rats had ruined her new furniture.

Somehow I got called to go take a look at the damage, and sure enough the rat(s) had taken a good chunk out of just about every section and cushion in the sofa, presumably to build a nest somewhere. In response to this we've hired a pest service to go around the house and close all possible entry points, suck out all the blown-in insulation in the attic (which they said was contaminated), and set traps for any rats that may still be inside. The cost of this service was about $2500.

So my question is, what responsibility do we as owners have regarding replacement of the damaged new sofa? We've pretty well agreed that what attracted the rats was the plateful of wet and dry dog food that was perpetually left on the kitchen floor for the tenant's small dog. We asked the tenant several times not to leave the food out like that, but until the sofa incident, they didn't comply. When I took out the dishwasher to replace the power cable and drain hose that had been chewed through, I found a large hoard of dry dog food and rat droppings behind it. We're pretty sure that's what the rats were after. Still, I feel that we have some obligation to provide a pest-free environment for the tenants to live in.

The tenant thinks we the owners should pay to replace the sofa. The property manager thinks the tenant should replace it herself because she wasn't diligent with the traps and with the dog food. My DW thinks all three parties should share in the replacement since neither the renter nor the property manager was diligent in fully dealing with the problem, and the buck stops with us to deal with at least a part of the problem. What are your thoughts? BTW we are in California and the sofa cost around $2000 at Macy's.
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Old 11-13-2018, 09:57 PM   #2
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It should be covered by renter's insurance - their renter's insurance.
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Old 11-13-2018, 10:18 PM   #3
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It should be covered by renter's insurance - their renter's insurance.
One of my first thoughts, too, but they don't carry a renter's insurance policy.
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Old 11-13-2018, 10:25 PM   #4
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One of my first thoughts, too, but they don't carry a renter's insurance policy.
They should.
I always insist my tenants carry renter's insurance, and so should you.

They can do lots of things, like what happened, or a break-in steals all their stuff.
Your insurance might not cover the damages and the injured parties will sue you if they don't have insurance.
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Old 11-13-2018, 10:43 PM   #5
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I don’t think you can blame the renters for rats getting into the house. If it weren’t the dog food it would have probably been dried goods or something else. If there are rats in the area, they’ll come in if things are not sealed. If the renters complained and all that was done was traps, that’s not sufficient.

Fwiw, not sure if ‘north bay’ is the Bay Area, but the rat population in the east bay seemed to explode in the last few years. It’s definitely possible that the difference isn’t this particular tenant but an issue in the area.
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Old 11-13-2018, 11:13 PM   #6
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If the renters complained and all that was done was traps, that’s not sufficient.
+1.

If I was the tenant, I'd go to small claims court with tears and horror stories regarding the "rat infestation" and the landlord's unwillingness, at first, to do anything about it other than hand me some traps, tell me I can't have my pet's food dish on the floor and wish me good luck. I'd also document the situation with the health department (or other appropriate municipal bureau) to use as evidence. The later work done by the pest service (especially the attic insulation being contaminated) would also serve as evidence.

Gave tenant some traps and wanted them to be diligent in using them....... Really? Did you include the tenant having keen pest control talents as a clause in the lease?
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Old 11-14-2018, 01:04 AM   #7
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They should.
I always insist my tenants carry renter's insurance, and so should you.

They can do lots of things, like what happened, or a break-in steals all their stuff.
Your insurance might not cover the damages and the injured parties will sue you if they don't have insurance.
I also require all tenants to show proof of renters insurance if they want to rent one of my places. If they then later cancel it, any damages to their stuff is their issue.
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Old 11-14-2018, 03:48 AM   #8
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In the last 15 years we have rented apartments in Louisiana and Texas plus 2 different houses in England. In every instance the lease agreement included the requirement for renters insurance.

In this situation I would offer to share or pay the cost and make sure that new leases required renters insurance.
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Old 11-14-2018, 07:07 AM   #9
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If you don't pay it, I'd suspect you find a lot more than 2k worth of damage to your place when they move out. Food for thought.
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:01 PM   #10
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We free feed our dogs so food is down all the time. Never had rats anywhere we have lived. Replace the sofa. If I was the tenant I would be moving out. Definitely your fault for not totally dealing with the problem in the first place.
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:19 PM   #11
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Personally I think you owe the tenant the amount they paid for the sofa...you might try saying this is a one off and asking the tenant to pay for renters insurance.

So asking anyone who might know the answer, is this something that an insurance company would actually pay for?

I think you might have a little talk with your property manager, mice are one thing and really difficult to completely eradicate, but since he caught RATS in the kitchen just killing the two he found didn't do a darn thing as you just found out. You would have been on the hook for the pest control but the sofa might not have been damaged with prompt attention. Kind of rich for your property manager to say the tenant wasn't diligent. I've lived rural for a long time and never had a rat in my 100 year old farm house. If I found one rat, my next call would be to the exterminator.
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:20 PM   #12
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I also require all tenants to show proof of renters insurance if they want to rent one of my places. If they then later cancel it, any damages to their stuff is their issue.
In this case since it was caused by a rodent infestation is it really their issue or your issue because the house isn't rodent proof?
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:27 PM   #13
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From my landlord experience (thankfully over) you are pretty much on the hook for the sofa damage. Renters insurance does not cover that kind of damage. As a landlord you are legally required to provide safe clean housing the rats and if they notified you previously would make you responsible, however, if they did not say anything previously then yes you might be able to fight it in court.
After saying all that, it's nice you allow pets!!! I always did and never regretted one pets stay in my rental.
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:33 PM   #14
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it's nice you allow pets!!! .
Clearly the dog in this case was not a Rat Terrier!
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Old 11-14-2018, 12:53 PM   #15
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If I found a rat in my kitchen I think I’d move out the next day and post about it on social media. It might not be your fault but definitely still buy her a new sofa and step up the pest control immediately imo.
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Old 11-14-2018, 01:05 PM   #16
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From my landlord experience (thankfully over) you are pretty much on the hook for the sofa damage. Renters insurance does not cover that kind of damage. As a landlord you are legally required to provide safe clean housing the rats and if they notified you previously would make you responsible, however, if they did not say anything previously then yes you might be able to fight it in court.
After saying all that, it's nice you allow pets!!! I always did and never regretted one pets stay in my rental.



This is one thing that I was thinking... why should insurance cover it? And even if it did I would think there would be a deductible...


BTW, have them check where they bought it... we just bought a couch and one place said they covered damage 'no matter what' for a year and we could buy longer... this was in response to our having 2 cats and one that loves to scratch the furniture... another said we could buy a policy during the first 12 months... might get it done cheap...
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Old 11-14-2018, 01:28 PM   #17
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Never been a landlord so I can't answer some of these questions, but as someone who loves dogs and hates rats.........how do you know the rats ate the couch and not the dog?

Just anecdotal, but I've seen many videos of damage done by pet pooches, you know the sweet perfect dog who freaks out when left alone?

As for the RAT PROBLEM, I'd be moving out ASAP. That's a lease ending event for me. We had to cope with 2 mice in our basement and that was enough!
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:33 PM   #18
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So my question is, what responsibility do we as owners have regarding replacement of the damaged new sofa? We've pretty well agreed that what attracted the rats was the plateful of wet and dry dog food that was perpetually left on the kitchen floor for the tenant's small dog. We asked the tenant several times not to leave the food out like that, but until the sofa incident, they didn't comply. When I took out the dishwasher to replace the power cable and drain hose that had been chewed through, I found a large hoard of dry dog food and rat droppings behind it. We're pretty sure that's what the rats were after. Still, I feel that we have some obligation to provide a pest-free environment for the tenants to live in.
Unless you have a "no pets" clause in your lease agreement, it's hard to imagine that you could win if this were brought to court.

The tenants will claim "rat infestation" caused the sofa damage and I honestly don't see a court relieving you of that responsibility.

If I were you, I'd pay for the sofa and ask the tenants to please try and keep the dog food cleared when not being eaten. Then hope for the best.
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:38 PM   #19
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Unless you have a "no pets" clause in your lease agreement, it's hard to imagine that you could win if this were brought to court.

The tenants will claim "rat infestation" caused the sofa damage and I honestly don't see a court relieving you of that responsibility.

If I were you, I'd pay for the sofa and ask the tenants to please try and keep the dog food cleared when not being eaten. Then hope for the best.
Dog food or not you shouldn't need to put up with an apartment where rats can come and go as they please.
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:44 PM   #20
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Dog food or not you shouldn't need to put up with an apartment where rats can come and go as they please.
Agreed. It's unfortunate that the property manager just set a few traps, rather than calling in professionals. That was a costly mistake.

Maybe a long discussion with the property manager is in order, if not a new property manager.
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