Does a landlord have to reveal a roach infestation before renting an apartment?
August 4, 2007 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Is there any chance of getting back first and last month's rent from a landlord who didn't reveal known problems with an apartment?

My roommate rented an apartment for him and his girlfriend to move into. There was no lease, just a deposit of first and last month's rent. He was supposed to take possession of the place on July 15th, but that was pushed back to August 1 since the landlord hadn't finished everything that needed to be done in the apartment.

My roommate checked out the place a few times as repairs and such were being done, and on more than one occasion he saw cockroaches, and not just one or two. On one twenty-minute visit, he saw more than 25 roaches in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom, and this in the middle of the day. He brought this up with the landlord who informed him that the infestation was a known problem, and that the building was sprayed once a month. The last spraying was done a couple days ago, and when my roommate went back to see if the place was in order to move in (it wasn't, and this was August 3rd), there were still dozens of roaches running around despite the apparent extermination attempt.

My roommate has written up notice to give the landlord stating that he does not wish to move into the apartment, given the undisclosed roach problem (besides the gross factor of roaches, his girlfriend has asthma and doesn't need to live in a place which could potentially exacerbate the problem). What he's trying to figure out is if he can get back the deposit he already made. He's obviously not giving 60 days notice, but he also hasn't moved into the place, nor has he been able to move into the place at any of the previously agreed upon times.

The information page for Tenant's Rights hasn't been terrifically helpful, and since it's a long weekend, it's unlikely that the roommate will be able to speak to anyone about this situation until sometime next week. Does anyone know if the law is on his side in this case? Will he be able to get his money back? Who should he best speak to?

This is in Toronto.
posted by Felicity Rilke to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can he get back in WITH a newspaper showing the Bridge Collapse in big font to set a date of record and photograph these vermin? A small claims court judge would love that and having it in a camera already taken as evidence would go a long way towards forcing the landlord to do the right thing.

but it would seem a habital apartment was the object of the contract and absent a habital unit no contract can be held valid.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2007

I had a similar problem during my undergrad (in Entomology, no less). Spraying isn't going to do anything about roaches. If you see that many out in daylight, you don't even want to think about how many are in the walls.

I got out of my lease by talking to the landlord and citing the fact that it posed health issues. Rather than dealing with legal action, he let me out of the lease, but I did not get my deposit/last months rent back. Tenant rights are not strong here (midwestern college town), so my options were limited.

Maybe call the local health department? They might be able to advise you on codes for apartments (when it comes to roaches).
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:40 PM on August 4, 2007

My advice as a former property manager? Don't move in, kiss the money you have given this asshole goodbye. Take this as an expensive lesson that you never put down a deposit before seeing the actual unit, or at the very least a "ready" unit of the same floorplan (NOT a model).

Generally, deposits will only "hold" an apartment for a relatively short period of time (3 days, for example), and if you don't cancel before that time is up it goes into the bank. Furthermore, "no lease" (I assume there is no pre-lease agreement on the lease application? That document would have spelled it all out) means no proof of anything.

But he certainly doesn't want to live there!
posted by ilsa at 3:05 PM on August 4, 2007

Best answer: In Ontario, a landlord has a responsibility to meet health regulations. You may want to call the City to ask for a free health inspection -- just explain the situation. It would help if you could walk through the unit again and take pictures of roaches. The landlord is responsible for making an attempt to control cockroaches.

Once you've documented everything, you can seek to terminate the lease. Given the situation, you can apply to the tenancy board for termination of tenancy. You may or may not get your money back. It may take a few months, even if you do win. However, if you can document things now, that will help. Moreover, if the landlord finds someone else to rent the unit, s/he can't claim as much money as in cases where they can't find another tenant.

Tell your roommate to find some reason for going back in -- and take lots of pictures. Maybe he could say he wants to see if a piece of furniture will fit or that he needs to measure for a closet organizer or something. And call the City for an inspection. In the meantime, talk to the tenancy board when they open on Tuesday.
posted by acoutu at 3:24 PM on August 4, 2007

Not very helpful, but I had never known cockroaches until I moved to Toronto for college. The apartment building I was in near York U was completely infested with them. They were in the kitchen, and if you'd go down to the parking level elevators, the walls were covered in them. People would politely ignore them while waiting for the next lift. When looking for an apartment in TO, it's something to look out for.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:29 PM on August 4, 2007

Document the cockroach infestation. Take pictures, get the name of the exterminator, and names of other tenants. If you have to sue to get your money back, you'll need supporting evidence.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 PM on August 4, 2007

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