A Practical Guide to Eliminating Cockroaches from Your Renters' Apartment

Kristi Stevens

12 minutes read

As a landlord, is it your responsibility to get rid of pests like cockroaches from rental properties? 

In most cases, the answer is yes.

Yet, with all legal questions, some caveats need explaining. Otherwise, misunderstandings can lead to unnecessary legal disputes between landlords and tenants. 

Due to these disputes from either party, landlords should be familiar with renter’s rights, cockroaches, and how to tackle a cockroach infestation.

It’s important to note that you can expect to find a few creepy crawlies in an apartment from time to time. Roaches are also notorious for showing up during the summer and in humid environments. 

But, a cockroach infestation is something completely different. 

When there’s an infestation, it can become a serious issue. And in some cases, these critters can even make an apartment unlivable.

Why Landlords Should Take Cockroach Control Seriously 

A cockroach infestation can be enough to make your skin crawl. 

It’s well-documented that cockroaches are harmful to human health. They carry bacteria that spread salmonella, streptococcus, and other deadly diseases. 

As a landlord, it’s vital to show concern for your tenants. 

The last thing you want is these gross insects in your tenant's kitchens or any place where they store food. 

But besides caring for tenants and preserving the landlord-tenant relationship, keep your property's reputation in the back of your mind.

When Is Cockroach Control the Tenant's Responsibility?


There's a lot that goes into a renter’s rights and their relation to roaches. 

But it comes down to tenants having the responsibility to keep their rental units clean. They may be willingly living in an unsanitary environment. 

If they're at fault for a cockroach infestation, then they're responsible for pest control.

Definition of Unsanitary Living

To elaborate further, unsanitary living doesn’t mean leaving dirty dishes in the sink for a few days. We all do that now and then. Instead, unsanitary living is when there’s a clear lack of hygiene in the entire unit.

If a tenant’s place is filthy, then cockroaches have easier access to food. And that's when cockroaches are more likely to call dibs. 

Keep in mind that state laws may require you to give your tenants proper notice before entering and inspecting their unit if you suspect a vermin, bed bug, termite, or roach problem. Otherwise, you could be violating your tenant's rights.

If an apartment doesn't meet housekeeping standards, it may have:

  • Dirty dishes stacked high in the sink
  • A dirty carpet in need of cleaning
  • Overflowing garbage
  • Crumbs or food on the floor

If the unit has these problems, then your tenant is at fault. 

When they signed their rental agreement, it outlined the Implied Warranty of Habitability Law. We’ll dive into this more later. But at its simplest, it explains that a new tenant’s apartment must be up to living standards at move-in. 

Still, as a landlord, you must document your tenant's lack of cleanliness. That way, you cover all your bases when their carelessness brews infestations.

Documenting the Infestation

To document everything, take pictures. 

Don't forget to write down what makes the apartment unsanitary (i.e., dirty dishes, uncovered trash cans). What's more, keep track of all communication in case a lawyer gets involved in the future.

If it's clear that your tenant's unsanitary habits are the cause of the infestation, write them a letter. In that note, inform them that they're at fault for the infestation and explain why. Also, let them know that their security deposit will likely cover any extermination expenses. 

When Is It the Landlord's Responsibility?

The flip side is when you’re responsible for addressing the infestation. After all, you, too, are on the hook for keeping rental properties habitable.

If the tenant doesn’t cause the roach infestation, it can jeopardize their health and livelihood. So the problem falls into your lap.

Habitable Living Conditions Is a Legal Requirement

Getting rid of the infestation is a legal responsibility. 

As a landlord, you must provide habitable conditions for your tenants. If you’re at fault, you may need to contact professional pest control. It’s also wise to communicate with a legal professional to see what your options are. 

Once you’ve eliminated the roaches, it’s now the tenant's responsibility to prevent future roach invasions moving forward. Tenants can keep the bugs away by keeping their unit tidy.

According to the Right to Repair Act, tenants can hire an exterminator to get rid of the roaches and deduct the final cost from the next month’s rent.

When Tenants Pursue Legal Services

If you fail to act, tenants may be able to pursue legal action against the complex.

To do this, tenants would need to keep track of several things. They would collect emails, phone calls, and all written correspondence about roach issues. And, they should also have a petition so pest control companies can inspect the unit.

Of course, there are caveats to this law that vary from state to state. 

For example, a tenant may move out of an apartment before their lease ends if the landlord doesn’t fix the problem fast enough. But, in most places, the state law doesn’t force a person to pay for or live in substandard conditions.

As a landlord or property manager, it’s your responsibility to solve a tenant’s unit issue if they provide you with written notice.

A roach-free complex begins with finding the right tenants. Learn more about the 15 questions to ask when hiring a leasing consultant.

When No One Is to Blame 

There are also circumstances where a roach invasion will happen, even if you take precautions. 

Roach Hotspots 

Cockroaches may become unwelcome guests in apartments located in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Unfortunately, these states have a reputation as roach hotspots. Also, inclement weather and cracks in the foundation can serve as entry points for these critters.

Maintenance Is Vital

Landlords must inspect and maintain the property on a regular basis. Maintenance is the only way to identify current entry points before roach or bed bug infestations take hold. Tenants should also take do-it-yourself measures to keep roaches from entering.

Implied Warranty of Habitability Law

As a landlord, you should be fluent in the Implied Warranty of Habitability Law

This warranty is a legal guarantee that the property will meet safety and living standards before tenants move in. It also stipulates that landlords will maintain those standards throughout the tenant’s lease.

When you draft up a lease agreement, include a section that your tenants sign about the warranty. That way, everyone is on the same page regarding who handles what in these unfortunate circumstances.

Of course, if there’s ever a point where either of you is unclear, it may be best to get legal advice. 

What Attracts Roaches?


If you hear there’s a pest infestation, act immediately. 

Roaches have a reputation for being hard to get rid of and challenging to kill. 

First, identify what it is that attracts the roaches. This step can help today and stop them from coming back in the future. The primary point of attraction for roaches is food left uncovered, including pet food.

Dirty dishes are also roach magnets. Leaving a few dishes in the sink overnight won't lead to an infestation. But if the sink has a perpetual collection of dishes with food remnants, this will attract these insects. These dishes will be the constant source of food these creepy crawlers need to survive.

Remember, food containers left around an apartment will attract roaches. All roaches need are food, water, and somewhere to hide.

How Do You Know Your Property Has a Roach Infestation? 

If there’s an infestation, you’ll likely hear about it first from your tenants. 

Yet, as a landlord, you need to be vigilant and keep your eyes out for any clues that an infestation is likely. That way, you can stay a step or two ahead of roaches and get them out quickly.

1. When There’s One Cockroach, There’s More

Where there’s one cockroach, be it dead or alive, you can be sure there are more. 

Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures. During the daytime, they hide in dark, damp spaces. Then, at night, they come out to party. 

If you see cockroaches during daylight hours, you likely have an infestation on your hands.

Roaches also leave unhatched eggs lying around. That means seeing their eggs is another sign you likely have plenty of cockroaches on the property.

2. You See Roach Droppings

Roaches leave their droppings in conspicuous places, and they most often appear in clusters. If you or your tenants notice these pellets, sanitize the area immediately.

3. You Smell Roaches 

Believe it or not, roaches have a musty smell. Even when you thoroughly clean an area, it’s hard to get rid of that roach odor. 

If you’ve noticed a strange odor for some time, you might be dealing with a full-blown infestation. The larger the infestation, the stronger the scent.

Eliminating Roaches from Your Tenant's Apartment 

Your tenant may come to you and say they have a roach problem. When that happens, you need to be aggressive with your roach control methods. 

Let's start with the least aggressive ways to get rid of roaches and then move on to the more aggressive strategies!

Set Bait 

Baiting can be an excellent tool to counteract a roach infestation in an apartment unit. But for roach traps to be effective, you need to understand how roaches feed.

Roaches will eat and defecate on the go. They don't stop at one verified food source. So, for baiting to be effective, you must be smart about it. 

First, don't leave a big pile of roach bait in one spot. Instead, scatter tiny droplets in areas where roaches might pass through (based on their droppings). 

The placement should match their feeding pattern or get as close to it as possible. The closer you match their patterns, the more likely they’ll consume more bait.

Use Compressed Air 

Another idea is to get a can of compressed air and a vacuum cleaner. Compressed air can be a landlord's best friend when it comes time to hunt cockroaches. This combination allows you to suck up any roaches you see.

Start the hunt for roaches under the sinks, in cabinets, and in other dark or damp places. Don’t forget to check the tiny cracks between the walls and the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. 

Stay on top of where these roaches are, and this technique should flush them out quickly. 

Dealing with a relentless cockroach problem? Learn about the unit transfer process to keep good tenants from fleeing!

When to Contact an Exterminator 

There are a lot of resources that landlords can use to get rid of roaches. But, unfortunately, roaches sometimes outsmart us. If that happens, you may want to get a professional involved. 

Using conservative approaches doesn’t always treat a widespread and large pest problem. 

That’s because roaches breed fast. A large colony can be challenging to remove, and their breeding may outpace your extermination efforts. Pursue pest control services if the infestation is overwhelming your property.

An exterminator will use more extreme measures to get rid of the roaches.

We mentioned earlier that cockroaches cause serious health hazards for humans. For that reason alone, you can't ignore them. Always deal with an infestation as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Roaches from Coming Back


You have done your due diligence as a landlord. You contracted pest removal service, and the unit is pest-free. Now, you have to put strategies in place to prevent these pests from coming back.

Preventing roaches from infesting your apartment building is usually a question of sanitation. If small sanitation steps get missed, all the work you did will be in vain.

Eliminate Food Sources 

Encourage tenants to remove food sources inside and around the apartment. 

That means tenants should:

  • Clean kitchen appliances.
  • Empty and clean cabinets.
  • Limit food consumption to one room.
  • Vacuum or sweep the kitchen floor.
  • Vacuum the rest of the apartment once a week.

As for cleaning, remind your tenants to:

  • Use a disinfectant to wipe down countertops each night.
  • Store pet food in an airtight container.
  • Secure trash cans with a tight lid and empty the bin each night.

Eliminate Water Sources 

It’s impossible to remove all water sources from the property. Yet, limiting them can put stress on a growing roach population.  

To reduce their water supply, here are a few things tenants can do: 

  • Fix leaky pipes and faucets.
  • Keep sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms as dry as possible.
  • Keep wet dish rags and sponges in airtight containers overnight.
  • Leave water dishes for pets outside overnight (or dry them out).
  • Store toothbrushes in a container.

Some of these tips are hard to follow. But keep in mind that every little bit helps. 

Take Away a Roach’s Living Space 

Another way to deter roaches is by making the interior and exterior of your property unattractive. That means getting rid of crevices and other points of entry that provide them a home.

To make your property unappealing to roaches: 

  • Rake mulch at least six inches away from your property.
  • Trim back shrubs, plants, and trees so that they don’t invade your property.
  • Get rid of yard debris.

As for insecticides, you can use that to your advantage as well. 

Consider using long-lasting insecticide dust on exterior walls. You can also use residential insecticides every 60 days inside the property.

Using these techniques, you should be able to keep roaches at bay.

See Also: How to Get Rid of Mice In Apartments: Complete Guide

Say Goodbye to Roaches Forever 

Roaches have a reputation for being an invasive species that’s difficult to kill for a reason. A massive roach infestation can make your apartment unlivable. And, they can also give your tenants a reason to seek legal action. 

Thus, try to do what you can to get rid of roach infestations and prevent them from coming back. 

Your tenants will be much happier, and your property will have a better reputation. Even better, you will create a healthy living environment for everyone there.

The best way to prevent in-unit infestations is by finding the right tenants from day one. Schedule a LeaseLeads demo today to match prospective and responsible tenants with the right units.

Kristi Stevens

Content strategist - My mission is to fuel the growth of the multi-family industry by crafting impactful blog content and innovative solutions.


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