I Can't Afford A Hotel While My Home Is Fumigated

Tom and his wife are facing a scary proposition: termites. In their home. They’re renters, so they called the landlords. That’s why people rent, right? So they have landlords who will take care of this stuff. And their landlords are happy to take care of it: by calling in exterminators to tent the house and kill any pests inside. That’s okay, but requires vacating the house for a few days. Tom and Mrs. Tom don’t have the money to cover a motel stay up front for the time they’ll be required to be out of the house. Sure, they could sleep in their car and hang out at the library or something when they’re not at work, but they have dogs. And they live in Florida. It’s August. Even the cheapest motels that allow dogs are too expensive. What should they do?

…So my wife and noticed a few flying insects about a month ago flying near our living room light. They were little and we Googled them to learn that they probably were flying termites. We had seen a few dead black insects in our converted garage and were suspect that we had a problem. We called our landlords, [redacted] Properties, and they sent over [redacted]. The guy was there five minutes – saw the few dead bugs and said ‘Yup you need to tent the house.’ Even after commenting that most of the dead insects in our converted garage room were actually ants.

We told our landlords that we didn’t really trust him and thought that they should get a second opinion. So they sent out “a friend of a friend used them company” called [redacted]. Five minutes after he was there – ‘Yup you need to have the house tented.’ We argued couldn’t there be an easier way? I mean it seemed to just be a few in the garage – don’t you people spray for this kind of thing? Apparently not. He said it wasn’t a big deal, our house was small enough they could do it in one night. I said so that means you come in the evening and you we get the house back in the morning? He said yes.

So now our landlords are hot to tent the house – we must vacate immediately for several nights and it must be done right away! However we have dogs and we live in this time of economic tightness like I think a lot of people do. I told them to slow down and give us a few weeks. I mean we’ve been there almost three years and I can’t imagine 3 or 4 weeks more would be a problem – besides I had to find accommodations for us and our dogs. After contacting every local hotel I could I found out that few accept pets at any decent rate and finally found one that would permit us with our dogs but was $200 a night. I called our landlord and told them and they said they were willing to pay $55 which is 1/30th of our rent which we could take out of next month’s rent – even though we obviously needed to pay all this up front. I told them that would not do and we’d have to keep looking.

We have considered staying in our car, tried to find a friend to stay with and even rent an empty house next door. We had settled a hotel for $100 day that we found and told the landlords they could do it on August 1st. The pest control company contacted us and told us they’d be arriving around noon and we couldn’t get back into our house until at least 6pm the next day. Well now that’s a problem – checkout is at 10am. The hotel told us we’ve have to pay for a second night to stay until 6pm. Even with a late checkout they couldn’t go past noon. And remember this is [south Florida]. In August. With two dogs. What were we supposed to go – go to PetSmart for about 6 hours and wait?

We tried to contact our landlords about this extra night but it turned into a shouting match. They happen to be lawyers for their day jobs and I was called many a bad thing for being inflexible and ‘the worst tenant they ever had.’ Really?

This kind of situation isn’t outlined in the lease at all – as far as myself as a layman reading it and it is definitely their problem NOT ours. So far the opinions I’ve heard are sue them for the two nights, don’t pay them the two nights in the next rent check and so forth. What do you guys think?

Those ants could be carpenter ants. Carpenter ants actually ate large portions of the house where I grew up, so it’s not like ants are always harmless.

Legally, Tom and Mrs. Tom don’t have any recourse. Bugs being a problem in Florida, the rules on this are specifically spelled out in landlord-tenant law, and they don’t say anything about the landlord covering the tenant’s alternate housing. Specifically:

(2)(a) Unless otherwise agreed in writing, in addition to the requirements of subsection (1), the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for:

1. The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs. When vacation of the premises is required for such extermination, the landlord shall not be liable for damages but shall abate the rent. The tenant shall be required to temporarily vacate the premises for a period of time not to exceed 4 days, on 7 days’ written notice, if necessary, for extermination pursuant to this subparagraph.

Waiving rent for the days they’re kicked out is, legally, the most they can expect.