What to Do When Your Neighbor's Property or Unit Has Pests

If critters are skittering, creeping, or crawling from your neighbor's property or unit to yours, here are some measures to take.

By , Attorney · Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Nothing makes a home or dwelling less enjoyable than an invasion by rats, mice, bugs, or other creatures. This is true whether you're living in a city apartment—feeling the grime and congestion of your cosmopolitan surroundings—or a suburban or rural home. If you own your home, pests can also severely lower its market value, create permanent damage, and make it difficult to sell. Even more annoying is when you suspect the pests crept in from neighboring apartments or homes. If you believe that your neighbor is the source of these marauders, what should you do?

Identify the Source of the Pests

Your first step should be to ensure that your property is not creating conditions that attract or provide sustenance to the pests. Walk around and look for signs of pest trails. Make sure you don't have open food containers or crumbs that are attracting them. You wouldn't want to accuse a neighbor of having rodents or bugs if you are the true source.

If your own efforts don't help, of if you're dealing with something that stings or causes major health issues, immediately call an exterminator. Have them assess the situation, lay traps in your apartment or home, and mitigate the creatures to the extent possible.

Contact Your Building Management or Neighborhood Association

If you live in a large apartment building, the building might provide extermination or fumigation services free of change. After all, it is in the building's interest to maintain its reputation. In urban real estate, word-of-mouth travels quickly, and news of an infestation would surely hurt rentals and sales. See if your building can approach your neighbor directly about entering the apartment, and at least begin to fumigate the hallways and common spaces.

If you live in a suburban neighborhood, your homeowners' association (HOA) or neighborhood association might provide similar resources, or at least be able to recommend high-quality, toxicity-conscious exterminators who have helped the neighborhood during prior instances of infestation.

Approach Your Neighbor About the Pest Problem

Ultimately, you might have little choice but to approach your neighbor directly. Be polite, not accusatory. Mention that you have noticed a large number of pests in recent weeks, and emphasize that you have a common goal in eliminating pests from your mutual home.

See if the neighbor is willing to engage in a discussion about the cause, mention what you're already trying to do in order to reduce the problem, and suggest that each of you contact an exterminator to visit on a common date to deal with the problem holistically.

Consider Shouldering Some of the Cost of Extermination

It's possible that your neighbor hasn't dealt with the situation because cleanup efforts or exterminators are expensive. Perhaps the neighbor lacks the resources to buy rodent traps or hire teams of fumigators, or don't believe they're the main source of the problem.

You might frame the problem as an issue in common, so that the neighbor can save face. Offer to pay a large share, or a fixed amount, if you know how much the services will cost, if the neighbor is willing to open the property to exterminators.

Call a Local Government Animal Control or Similar Agency

If your neighbor is unwilling to work on this problem, even with your offer to share costs, you might have no choice but to call animal control.

Animal control might go by a different name depending on your jurisdiction. Many cities have helplines for people to call if unsure of the correct agency to speak with. Such helplines will be able to direct you appropriately. Local or state investigators might need to be called in. It is possible that your neighbor is failing to obey local ordinances on proper disposal of refuse or storage of food, which the proper government agency will address.

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