Can I Break My Lease Because of Roaches?

Moving is stressful enough. But finding that your new apartment has a roach infestation can be a real blow. Cockroach control can be tricky, especially if you are living in a multi-unit building where the bugs can easily transfer from one accommodation to another or if you are in a heavily urbanized area.

Luckily, persistent cockroach problems can be grounds to break your lease early. But how can you go about doing this?

Can you break a lease because of roaches? If so, how to do it?

If you have persistent roach infestations in your new home, it may be possible to break your lease on account of the presence of vermin. Because according to attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com David Reischer: “The law recognizes that there is an implied ‘warranty of habitability’ in all residential leases that the premises are fit and habitable for human habitation”.

When interacting with your landlord or the homeowner, take the following steps to address the problem:

  1. Have an initial conversation with your landlord: First, thoroughly document the situation and contact your landlord to alert them to the problem a soon as possible. Depending on your tenancy agreement, they should arrange for an exterminator or handyman to come over and spray for roaches. A long-time landlord and owner of AccidentalRental.com Domenick Tiziano also puts emphasis on allowing your property manager or landlord time to address the pest problem instead of trying to immediately break your lease since “most of the time a good landlord and pest control professional can get it taken care of quickly”. However, if your landlord’s efforts don’t effectively clear the infestation, try to discuss a peaceful end to your lease.
  2. Send a letter describing the severity of the problem: If your landlord refuses to take action after your initial complaint the next step is to send your complaint in writing. Pen a letter or email detailing the severity and continuation of the problem, preferably with time and date-stamped pictures and/or video proof, and request that your landlord takes the appropriate action. If they ignore your correspondence or refuse to address the issue even then, this is usually grounds to break the lease. As David Reischer further explained: “Landlord that does not hire a pest control company to remediate a situation in which a residential dwelling has roaches or other pests, allows a tenant to legally breach the terms of the lease agreement, including the making of any future rent payments due or possibly even allowing the tenant to vacate the premises”.
  3. Consult an attorney: If your landlord is still not cooperating, Shawn Breyer from Atlanta House Buyers advises to “seek counsel from a tenant-landlord attorney and ask them how easy it is to cancel the lease in your state with the documentation that you have built”. The attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed.

It is usually possible to break the lease on an apartment that has problems with vermin. However, your success may heavily depend on your landlord, your lease, the state you live in, how extensive your documentation of the situation is and how you approach the situation.

You can help your case by:

  • Checking potential new apartments for vermin before you move in: If your apartment has a history of infestation, this will be apparent before you even move in. When viewing potential homes, make sure to search for signs of infestation before signing a lease. Pay close attention to the spaces behind appliances, especially in the kitchen, and keep an eye out for signs of live or dead roaches, egg cases, and droppings.
  • Maintaining your property well: If your cockroach problem is a pre-existing issue specific to the apartment or the apartment complex, then you should be able to break your lease. If the cockroach problem is caused by you, however, then you probably won’t be able to break your lease. So, make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your home cockroach-free by maintaining the property and keeping it clean.

What if you can’t break your lease?

What happens if you can’t break your lease?

No-one can be expected to live among roaches, so you will have to implement an integrated pest control plan to clear the infestation. This will require a combination of direct roach control methods and preventative control measures to stop cockroaches from getting in.

How to get rid of and prevent roaches

Locate the nest

Finding out exactly where your roaches are hanging out is a powerful tool for their control. Head for the areas where you’ve seen the most cockroach activity and look for clusters of egg cases, dead bugs, droppings, and skin casks. This will give you a better idea of where to focus your control efforts.

Keep your home spotless

Keep your kitchen clean and tidy to avoid tempting roaches indoors. Wipe up all crumbs and spills and clean dirty utensils and plates immediately to remove potential food sources for roaches. It’s also essential that you stay on top of your garbage situation – trash should be taken out regularly and disposed of outside. Garbage cans should be stored at least 6 feet from the building, as these are common harborage sites for roaches.

Get rid of standing water

Cockroaches are drawn to places with abundant water sources, so removing standing water around your home can help to discourage them. Check behind appliances and under AC units for puddles, an unblock any drains that could have stagnant water pooling inside.

Clear away clutter

Empty recycling boxes, woodpiles, overgrown shrubs, and long grasses can all harbor cockroaches. If the exterior of your home is looking cluttered, get to work clearing away the debris to reduce the number of roaches hanging around outside your house.

Identify and seal up entry points

An effective way to keep cockroaches out of your house is to make sure they can’t get inside. Seal up cracks and crevices under doors and around windows and water pipes to keep roaches out.

Use a roach repellent

Cockroach repellents can be an effective way to keep cockroaches away from your home. Scatter boric acid along skirting boards and under appliances to kill existing roaches and prevent more from moving in. Repeat this process at least once a week throughout the control period.

Set up traps

There are a variety of roach traps available for purchase. Some of these (like glue traps) physically trap and kill cockroaches. Others use toxic baits to effectively kill the bugs.

Hire an exterminator

If your cockroach problem is out of control and escape isn’t possible, you may want to enlist the help of a professional. Pest control services can effectively assess the situation and implement an effective extermination treatment while providing valuable advice on how to prevent re-infestation.

Conclusion

Cockroach infestations can be distressing, not least because of how difficult they are to eradicate. Recurrent problems may be down to the location of your apartment, as those in multi-unit buildings or densely populated areas are more susceptible to repeated roach issues.

Fortunately, the continued presence of vermin in your home is often grounds to break your lease so, if you are seeing a constant influx of roaches, you should discuss the problem with your landlord to see if you can peacefully terminate your lease. For more specific information about your rights as a renter, look up the rental laws of your state of residence.

23 Comments

Debbie

Cockroaches were there before moving in. Land liars never said one word about it. Do I have recourse?

    Kristiana Kripena

    You should probably consult your attorney about what your options are in this case.

Susan Anderson

We moved into a rental property Last February we have had an exterminator come out monthly but still see cockroaches now we find we have termites and a rat chewed thru my brand new car… we have dealt with problem and honestly I have had respiratory problems since moving in. We have a year left on lease and I just want out. We live in SA TX

    Kristiana Kripena

    I would suggest you contact your property manager or landlord and try to talk to them either about a more extensive pest control treatment or that they release you from your lease due to a persisting problem. If not, you should seek guidance from a landlord-tenant attorney as they will be able to advise you on if there is anything you can do to get out of your lease. But most importantly, document your problem extensively so you have proof of the infestation. It will help you make your case for why you should be able to break your lease.

Amber Hunter-Henley

I just moved in one week ago and have had to kill several huge black/brown cockroaches. At first, when my roommate and I found the first two we thought they might have gotten in from outside while we were moving in since the is a wooded area. But once we hit 5 or 6 in the first five days of living here I am paranoid and tired. Is this grounds to break the lease? I am located in GA

    InsectCop

    It depends on your lease. You should start by talking to your landlord, perhaps they’ll provide an exterminator, if not, you should ask them about whether or not it’s grounds for breaking the said lease. If for any reason you feel mistreated, you can have a lawyer take a look at your lease and consult you on what your legal options are.

Mahipal Parmar

I recently signed a lease agreement. But before I move in my new apartment I found the place was infected by insects- roaches. We are family of 4. Including 2 years toddler. I did check with my new neighbours, they also said that the building was badly infected with insects. No wonder most of the units in the are empty. I have decided I am not moving in the building. How do I cancel my lease.

    InsectCop

    We do not provide legal advice. First, try talking to your landlord about your options. If that doesn’t work out, talk to your attorney. That’s what we would suggest.

Chrystal

Hello I moved in to apartment may 30 and 2 weeks later notice cockroaches in my apartment gross me out what can I do is this a health issue?

    InsectCop

    We suggest reading our article about getting rid of roaches if you want to deal with the problem (you can also contact an exterminator, or ask the landlord to deal with the situation). Alternatively, you can look into breaking the lease, but whether or not it’s possible, depends on the lease, so that’s something that should be discussed with the landlord.

Leah

I’ve lived in the same apartment going on 4 years. I did not get to see my apartment before leasing. The original work order the gave me when I moved in, I wrote extensively almost in every category about roaches. Only saw a few here and there and over time it has gotten worse. I have 3 children. We must put in a work order for the exterminator to come spray every week and only once a week. I’ve personally have spoken to the property manager. A lot of my belongings and furniture are ruined. I don’t have renter’s insurance. I’m just a mother trying to make it. I have trouble sleeping at night because of the problem. They are now in my refrigerator and in all of my appliances and electronics. I really don’t know how much more I can take. I cannot afford to break my lease or move. If so, I would have a long time ago. I need advice.

    InsectCop

    Is the exterminator spraying just your apartment or the whole building? In the case of it just being your apartment only, that’s most likely why it’s not resolving the issue, as the whole building should be exterminated.
    The truth is, there’s not much you can do to solve the problem on your own, but you should read our article about getting rid of cockroaches. You’ll find plenty of tips there to choose from. Even though it won’t fix the issue, it will give you relief and you won’t have to be dealing with them as much.

Tammy Knowles

hi there i been living in this apt for 7 yrs ..i did not have a problem with roaches until the pass year..im really stressed to the max and these bugs are taking over my place and all my furniture..i keep my place fairly tidey and the ppl who live around my unit dont clean up garbage and dont get their unit sprayed..this is my 7 time this year preparing the unit for bug spray ..nothing they do has worked ,,i can sleep or eat or try making a meal with bugs crawling ..i went to take a drink of juice from my nite stand and bugs were in it ..they are crawling in the hallways up the walls ..and everytime i open my door bugs come in…i have 25 traps that all full after they so sprayed .i cant afford to move at this time .. i would of been gone months ago,, what can i do to keep my insanity,, its just been getting worst.. how many times do we have to keep clearing out cupboards when they only come back in 2 days …please tell me what i can do before i lose myself completely ..so stressed out ..what can i do with all my furniture and electronics ? i cant take anything with me if i move? i be only transporting them as well? should landlord be responsiable for my belongs that are ruin from roaches ,, i never had that problem until the pass 8 months ..now i have to throw out all my new furniture ..this is the 3 rd time replacing my contents….any idea what i can do …thanks for hearing me out ..im so losted and hate having to live like this …so upset,,,

    InsectCop

    Take a look at our article about getting rid of roaches. While you probably won’t have any luck getting rid of them completely, as that would require treating the whole building, the article should help you make them less noticeable and less of a struggle for you specifically.
    As for furniture and appliances, as long as you make sure to clean them and rid them of any cockroach-presence. You can also refer to our article about roaches in electronics. Good luck!

Keysha Schuzette Chambers

I moved in my place in feb.2020,I hate it there roaches every where they lied to me trying to treat me like I’m the problem,no I never had roaches I have nothing in my apartment no furniture because I dont want them in my things. But I want to move like now cause there coming in my bed.

    InsectCop

    If possible, we suggest moving. Give our article about getting rid of roaches a try, where you’ll find ways to deal with it. Other than that, it’s also very likely that the building is infested, not just your apartment.

Tara

My sister, nephew, and I moved into this condominium on July 26, 2020. About a week or two after moving in we noticed cockroaches. One dead in the doorway to the patio and another crawling in our newly purchased microwave. I made the leasing office aware and they had an exterminator come on September 15, 2020. Since then me and my sister have still been seeing them in the kitchen which is so gross! We haven’t even lived here for a full 4 months yet. This has obviously been an underlying issue within this unit prior to us moving in and we are uncomfortable living in this situation. I spoke with the property manager advising her that we would like to end our lease as we will not continue living here and paying rent with this issue. I also tried to negotiate stating we will be out by January 1, 2021 giving them time to find a new tenant and us time to find another place to live. This plan would also allow them to receive payment for December but currently no agreement has been made. Any advice?

    InsectCop

    When it comes to legal aspects, we are not qualified to give advice, therefore, we suggest reaching out to someone will legal knowledge. As for the roaches, it’s possible the whole building is infested and should be treated, not just your apartment. In this case, treating your apartment alone won’t do much to help the situation.

Lois

Hi, I just moved into my new apartment tonight and within one hour of being there, I’ve killed four roaches. Throughout the night, I’ve not slept cause they keep popping out from wall crevice and the inhouse shag rug and everywhere. I’m sick and cannot afford to have insect and pest living around me but I don’t know what to do.
I will report the issue to the landlord tomorrow but if it persist, I don’t think I’ll be able to live here cause I cannot function with insects all around me like this.
I got videos of some of them crawling around

Hank

I moved into my apartment two months ago and from the beginning I have seen roaches not only in my unit but also throughout the building. I spammed my leasing company with numerous photos and videos. They never came to clean the dead ones in the community room. They gave partial responses to the numerous ones inside of my apartment and rather quickly they stopped responding all together. They had a company on retainer that came to spray monthly. They sprayed very lackadaisical in a few areas of my apartment. Once last month and once the first week of November. I have video footage of their poor attention to the issue. Not only has a company sprayed my apartment but I have also bug bombed the place. The infestation has not ceased.
I called my landlord asking to break my lease and there are apparently two options. I have copied and pasted those options:
“1. Providing 60 Day Notice – this will allow you to vacate the premises without an early termination fee, but you do maintain rent obligations if the unit is unleased after the 60 day period. Once the unit is leased, you would be provided your security deposit within 30 days.
2. No Notice Provided- you would receive an early termination fee equal to at least 2 months rent, you would forfeit your security deposit, and you retain rent obligations until the unit is leased.”
Is there any other option they are not telling me. Do I reserve any legal rights that can help me save money.

    InsectCop

    If you’ve gone through the first and the second step, we suggest consulting an attorney to see what your options are.

Tony

I have been finding roaches in my apartment. I already made a complaint. The superintendent came and placed a few bait traps in my apartment but they have made no difference. I have bought ortho max home defense spray and roach bombs twice and used them in my apartment but I’m still finding them. I have the receipts for my purchases and photo proof of roaches. Pest control is coming to my apartment but if the problem is still not solved after that will I have enough to back me up to break my lease if I need to hire an attorney?

    InsectCop

    We can not give you a clear answer to your question. However, it’s a good thing you have evidence in case you end up needing it! We also suggest reading our article about what to expect after roach exterminators.

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