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Can I Withhold Rent For Mice?

Some people find mice cute. Others find them repulsive. Regardless of which side you stand on, you certainly don't want them living amongst you in your apartment. If you have mice or any other kind of vermin in your apartment, you may be wondering whether it's your responsibility or your landlords to rid the area of infestation.

In most cases, it's the responsibility of your landlord to handle mice infestations. Before you start withholding rent because of a mouse problem in your apartment, here's what you can do:

Review your lease

As a renter, your lease serves as a contract between you and your landlord. It explicitly spells out what each of you is responsible for concerning the wellbeing of the apartment. In most rental agreements, your landlord is expected to take reasonable steps to rid the building (or apartments) of vermin. In some cases, though, this responsibility can fall on the renter. For this reason, it's vital to understand every part of your lease!  

Notify your landlord

Regardless of who the responsibility falls on, it's important to let your landlord know what's going on in your space. After all, in most cases the mice are infesting many other apartments in the building, making the problem much more significant than you may have thought. It is the responsibility of your landlord to maintain a clean and safe living space for tenants, but if they don't know a problem exists, they won't be able to help you out.  

Seek legal counsel

If your contract states that your landlord is responsible for responding to the report of mice or any other kind of vermin and they choose to do nothing about it, seek legal counsel. Choosing to do nothing could leave your landlord facing fines or lawsuits, so you'll want a representative to speak on your behalf if that's the case. Similarly, if you're a renter considering withholding rent or terminating your lease early, you'll want the law on your side. In some states, it's illegal to withhold rent or terminate a lease early. To keep yourself protected from eviction or sued for back rent, you need to have a lawyer on your side.  

Report the problem to the authorities

If you have a terrible experience with a landlord who refuses to take action against vermin, report them to the local building authority or health authority. They'll know what steps to take moving forward and help you get your apartment back to a healthy and stable living condition. If your lease states that you're held accountable for infestations, you'll be expected to handle the problem on your own. Your landlord will most certainly expect this if your apartment is dirty (picture trash piling up, food left out in the open, dishes in the skink, etc.). If you choose not to handle the situation, your landlord could take you to court and seek compensation for property damage.
In any situation where you feel like withholding rent is the answer, know that there are other options first. Stay tuned to Whose Your Landlord for all the best advice when it comes to withholding rent from your landlord. Make sure to visit HUD.GOV for more information on any housing concerns.