Q&A: Pest Extermination: Whose Responsibility Is It?

Q&A: Pest Extermination: Whose Responsibility Is It?

Q. I have this problem. Our building has six units on our side of the building, and I don’t know which one is the source of our constant roach encroachment. I don’t really want to go knocking on everyone’s doors and accusing them – it seems like the board’s job. Is it my responsibility to try to figure this out? Should the board or management company be assisting? Do I have any rights?

                            —Irritated Neighbor

A. “Lots to unpack here, so let’s take this piece by piece,” says Jonathan H. Katz, Esq., a partner at the Community Associations Practice Group for the Princeton office of the law firm of Hill Wallack LLP. “First, I’m an attorney, not an exterminator, so I am looking at this from a legal perspective and not from the perspective of someone who can give you an answer as to how to combat your bug dilemma.

“With that in mind, your first step should be to reach out to the association’s management and/or the board to make sure they are aware of this issue. It is quite possible that they might not be aware of the problem (or at least the severity of the problem), in which case they may be able to step in to assist in locating the source and correcting the issue. It may also be that the association has an exterminator under contract, and once they are aware of the issue, they can send someone out to address it. Or, if they do not have an exterminator on speed dial, hopefully they will be able to get one out to your building as soon as possible.

“Since you indicate that this problem does not seem to be emanating from your unit, it is decidedly not your responsibility to go door-to-door to find which one of your neighbors is the culprit, if that even is the case. It very well could be that the problem is coming from outside the building, which again would be something that the board and/or management should address with the assistance of a professional exterminator.

“With respect to your question about your rights, the answer will be somewhat specific based on your association’s governing documents; however, you absolutely should not have to live with what you describe as a “constant roach encroachment.” If contacting the board and management as suggested above does not lead to a resolution, you should put your concerns in writing to the board and management and ask for a formal response. You can also attend board meetings to address this issue at the public portion of the meeting and you can also request alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

“If none of these options prove effective, you should consult with an attorney to help you address this issue and, hopefully, receive a satisfactory resolution.”

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