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Who's in charge of keeping my co-op mouse-free?

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Q. I just found a mouse in the kitchen of my co-op. Will the super take care of this or is it my responsibility to call an exterminator? 

A. Where are the mice coming from? That’s what you’ll have to figure out before deciding who should call in pest control, our experts say, but more likely than not, it will be the co-op board's job. 

“The obligation of the occupant in control, i.e., the apartment owner, does not require him or her to exterminate common areas, and if that is where the mice are coming from, it would be the co-op's responsibility under the housing maintenance code,” says real estate attorney Steven Wagner of Wagner Berkow.

The reason is the so-called warrant of habitability, a legal principle that requires landlords in rentals and co-operatives that control co-op buildings to provide a place “free of conditions that are dangerous to health, life and safety,” including rodents of all stripes, Wagner says. There is one exception: if you’re engaging in some kind of misconduct that’s causing the mouse problem—your proprietary lease will spell out specifics, but hoarding is one example—the co-op wouldn’t be responsible, Wagner adds.

“Assuming that the co-op owner is not a hoarder and has not otherwise created conditions conducive to infestation or harboring of rodents,” Wagner says, “I would recommend that he/she call the management company and/or the co-op board and insist that they resolve the rodent problem in the building immediately, including sealing any holes through which the mice are entering the apartment and exterminating them.”

In fact, most rodent issues stem from common spaces like refuse-storage areas, says Gil Bloom, president of Standard Pest Management, adding that sometimes a co-op board will hire a pest control company to take care of the basement and other public areas, and if they cover individual apartments, will charge back the owner. Also, treatment sometimes involves moving appliances like a stove, which could impact the gas line; in that case, you definitely want to call a super or other building personnel, he says. 

Related:

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